October 9, 2015, I penned these words into my journal:
Less than a month away from the 15th anniversary of the rape, just coming out of a traumatic court experience and then just learning how to parent again after my broken body was knitting back together…
…I was drowning.
As women, as mothers, as survivors of trauma, we are expected to “have it all together” to live this life of denial of hardship. I took this responsibility seriously.
And Silently. As one does.
Sitting in therapy, 2x a week I felt like I simply couldn’t breathe for more than 4 days unless I had a place to expel the build up fear, anxiety and trembling that built up in my soul. I experienced a full out panic attack.
A Panic Attack is the sensation of scalding water being poured up your spine spreading through all the capillaries of your lungs. Anxiety is the feeling of long spindly fingers grasping around your chest and squeezing gently, waiting for you to exhale, not allowing you to take the next breath while squeezing again. Fear is another set of hands grabbing your skull and forcing you to watch films in black and white of every horror film of your past, present, and future (whether it happened will happen or not.) Your heart starts to jump around like a caged animal, noticing all the chaos, trying to run from this terrible scene. Your mind mocks you the whole time telling you this is really happening, and you’re going to die.
“We need to have a plan”, she says.
I only partly hear her. I’m preoccupied with making sure Ethan is being parented expertly, and that I am the best and most capable wife and did I empty the dishwasher? I’m managing the memories of trauma that even most of my closest friends don’t know that pop up while I brush my teeth. I’m in the middle of analyzing whether or not Ethan will remember the few times that he triggered me enough into a trauma flashback that I reacted without knowing, enough to make me retreat into my room sobbing wondering if I should just pack my bags and leave because I’m sure there is a better mother out there who won’t react how I do when he throws his socks at me. I’m busy managing my rapist who is on the other side of the door, comforting the sexually abused girl in the courtroom I saw a few weeks before, my present and future failure as a wife and mother, and why I couldn’t get my act together enough to tell all those people off who gaslit me for so long when I was younger.
Do you think you need to get away for a while?” She asks. (The story I tell myself is that she is going to take me away from my family. Which made no sense given the circumstances, but Trauma is a liar. Depression is a liar. Fear is a liar. Anxiety is a liar.)
I start to plan my escape from this room. Can I leave? What would happen if I just walked out the door? I look at my purse, I slide my shoes on under the little ottoman and try to remember where I put my keys. She notices I’m looking at the door.
At this point, I recall she just stopped talking. This was an eerie thing because she typically has a lot to say, but likely she read that I was spinning everything she was saying into the web of doom. So she waits me out.
Slowly the hands around my ribs loosened.
“I’m scared,” I say. Likely the first authentic, raw thing I had said the whole session. “I think I need medication to get through this.”
And Afternoon says WHAT’S UP.