This Is Trauma…

I’ve been reeling inside my head all day since my therapy session this morning. It was a lot of the same conversation we’ve been having. “You’re not a liar…what would you be gaining from this…I believe you, I don’t think you are making this up,” and the same physical reactions from me…I hear hard things, get asked questions I’m too scared to answer, go into frozen, can’t talk mode, my foot bounces with anxiety, and the tears start streaming down my face. Today I couldn’t turn them off. Not like I usually can. I was frustrated that I couldn’t stop crying. In fact, the tears have mysteriously begun falling right this second as I begin to process my thoughts.

This is trauma. Right? These reactions are the way the body speaks about what happened when words can’t be found. I’m sitting with that today, and when I think about it I begin to panic. I feel trapped in a situation that does not allow for any good outcome. If I accept these memories as real…accept that I am not lying, being overdramatic, over sensitive, reading into things too deeply, and they’re actually not real memories, what happens to me? This is what I’m ruminating over in my head…I’m negotiating the consequence of my acceptance. If I move through life and accept it all, tell my story, maybe share what I’ve learned, and it’s all wrong…I’m a fraud. I’m a liar. God detests liars. What will He do to me when judgment time comes? Will I be sent away from Him? Will I be punished? Will He turn His face away in disgust? Will He reject me? I’ve realized today that this is my fear. What are the consequences…how will I be hurt? How will I be used? How will I be abandoned this time?

This is trauma. Right? Expecting the worst in every situation. Weighing the pros and cons of every move and decision you make because you fear for your safety and your life. You don’t want to ruin anything good you might have. This is how someone thinks when they have been abused over and over and over and over again. This is how that person lives their days. Every day. Afraid of everything. Afraid to disagree with their abusers or the voices in their head for fear that they would be found or hurt or tortured yet again. To go out and live on your own and walk your own path is very dangerous. It’s walking away from a normal that should have never been. It’s an enormous fear of the unknown, even if the unknown is promised to offer freedom from pain and hurt. When all you know and have adapted to for the entirety of your life is the opposite of free and safe, you can’t imagine a life with hope. It is change. Change brings hurts. Surprises lead to torture and torment and death. Why would you willingly walk into change? Why set yourself up for the damage and chaos you’ve known to come with every walk you thought you were making into something better?

This is trauma. Right? The inability to trust. Anyone. At any time. When the ones who were supposed to model love and trust and security are the ones who turned you into an open door for exploitation, humiliation, degradation. They handed out the key to your body and your heart for themselves and others to go in and take a piece for themselves…to steal your soul…and leave you empty and worn, scarred, and stained…worthless. Why would you trust a God who says, “Come, follow me. I have something better for you. I will give you love. I will give you comfort. I will protect you.” All that was learned up until now was that these calls to follow…to take a hand in trust…lead to very dark, scary, impossible situations that had no means of escape. How do you even begin to trust? How do you risk even one more time? Why would you? So you stay in your prison cell of fear. Because at least you know that. At least you know how to cope with that. At least…

This is trauma. Right?

Abused.

Used.

Thrown.

Smashed.

Hit.

Tortured.

Burned.

Hair pulled.

Trapped.

Tied.

Bound.

Isolated.

Ridiculed.

Drugged.

Slapped.

Silenced.

Secrets.

Let down.

Rejected.

Chased.

Special.

Penetrated.

Suffocated.

Sodomized.

Afraid.

Confused.

Terrorized.

Chosen.

Raped.

Abandoned.

Voiceless.

Empty.

This is trauma. Right? This is me. All of it. And more. I see it. I feel it. I understand it. I know it. I want to look at it. I want to fight it. But I fear it. I fear for my safety. I fear for my sanity. I fear for my future. I fear the unknown. I fear acceptance. I fear being wrong. I fear the consequence if I am. I am the animal in the cage…afraid to walk out the open door. Too afraid to take one more risk. Too afraid to trust again. Too afraid to believe I can have something better than this. Too afraid to believe God can redeem something so ugly. Too afraid to speak my truth because speaking truth has always been a very bad, bad choice to make. This is trauma. This is trauma. This is trauma. This is trauma…

This is me. Afraid to move. But what if…no. Don’t hope. Don’t go there. Stay still and quiet. It is safer here.

This is trauma. Right?

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The Battle…

I have a tug of war happening inside of my head…inside my entire being, actually. One part of me sees and feels myself in horrible, horrific, tortuous, exploitative situations. Another part of me screams, “This DID NOT happen…you are making this up…this did NOT happen!” I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to go from here.

I was sitting with my therapist last week and for the second session in a row he presented the “facts” that I have laid in front of him about some of my past in an attempt to help me verbalize that I have been abused. I can’t do it. I can’t say the words. I can’t accept it as real. It doesn’t feel right. I can’t connect with the things I see in my head. They don’t feel real. It just feels wrong. Nothing feels good about it or accepting it as my truth. All this time I have been trying to prove it’s wrong…but it never. goes. away. ever.

He asked me directly again if I had been sexually abused as a child. I sat quietly for a while and then answered that I had been thinking about what the definition was for sexual abuse. If I could connect that to memories that I KNOW are true, then I could give him the answer “yes” that I knew he was hoping to hear me say. I said that “yes” out loud. I was, technically.

My parents openly had sex in our home when my siblings and I were children. We heard them and saw them all the time…sometimes they did it in the same room as us when they assumed we were asleep and would not wake up, but we did. There were Playboy magazines throughout the house for our little eyes to find. My Dad watched pornography on HBO and Cinemax while we sat behind the couch or played quietly in the next room, pretending we had no idea what he was watching.

When I was around 9 yrs. old, my older sister convinced me to engage in sexual activity with her. She would have been 13 or 14 yrs. old at the time. She made me sit on top of her. She unbuttoned her shirt and exposed her breasts to me where she then instructed me to touch her and kiss her in ways I did not want to do, but I did anyways, because, I don’t know…I just did.

These things all fall into the definition of sexual abuse. I know they happened. I connected immediately to these memories when they resurfaced two years ago. Some of the memories I have always remembered periodically throughout my life. So yes, I was sexually abused. My therapist just looked at me though, clearly not satisfied with my rationale. So he changed his question to something like this…

“Have you been sexually exploited and used by your Father and other men?”

 I don’t know. I can’t say yes. It doesn’t feel right…I don’t know if it actually happened…and I froze and went silent, filled with excruciating anxiety and fear and guilt and torment. I cannot say yes. I cannot talk.

He reminded me of the stories that I have told him, the physical reactions I expressed when I told them, and all the evidence we have that this in fact is not something I could just “make up.” I argued. The voices in my head were loud and clear. You are lying. You are just looking for attention. Do not speak. You are wrong. This did not happen. They will find you. They WILL find you. They will kill you. Leave right now. No don’t…they’re probably waiting for you right outside that door. You are not safe. You are wrong. You are being overdramatic. STOP.

 And then he triggered me. He repeatedly said the nickname my Dad used to call me when I was little during his rebuttals against the voices in my head, and for some reason in that moment it sent me to a place I had not been to yet in excruciatingly vivid detail. I was a little girl sound asleep in my bed, maybe 5 years old. I was awakened by my father whispering that nickname into my ear as he put his hand on my leg, and moved it up my thigh under my nightgown. I remember the nightgown very clearly. It was a Christmas gift from my grandparents. It was white flannel with puffy gathered sleeves, with a ruffle around the neck and the bottom hem. There were stripes of pink flowers and lace around the neckline. My hair was short. I remember looking at the wallpaper where it met the white ceiling…it was floral on the wall behind my head and a pink gingham check pattern on the other wall along the side of my bed. I stared at the angle in the ceiling as my Dad’s head went down between my legs…

My therapist is getting pretty good at reading me, or I’m losing my ability to mask what’s going on inside of me. It’s hard to hide from him lately. He must have seen something shift in me because he stopped talking and asked what I was thinking about. I couldn’t talk. I kept asking myself, “If this isn’t true, then why are you thinking about this? Why do you remember so much about what you were wearing and the patterns on the wall? Everything is so clear. Where did this come from? It all just appeared…” I wanted with every fiber of my being to tell him what was going on in my head but my tongue was tied. I could not speak. So I stuffed it away and tried to pull myself together.

That incident has stuck with me for almost a week now. Even when I saw him again yesterday, I could not get it out. I wanted to tell him everything about it. I planned on telling him about it, but I froze as soon as I tried. I don’t know what I’m fighting against. I’m terrified though. I’m terrified I’m being watched and followed. I’ve had a few very uncomfortable run in’s with strange people over the last several months that have left me reeling. I have had symbols and triggers of my past show up in places I had considered safe that have left me feeling like everyone in my life is part of the tribe, the cult, the whatever it was I was used in, in my childhood. Are they trying to access me to keep me silent? Is their control so powerful that all they have to do is leave a random vase of flowers for me to see somewhere to shut me back down and keep me quiet?

This all sounds so ridiculous and outrageous to me, every last bit of it. But I can’t shut it down. The fear is so real and the images won’t go away. It’s burned into my brain. And there’s so much more that I haven’t even verbalized because I don’t even know how to put words to it all. I don’t know what it is. It’s like a horror movie. It doesn’t make sense. I can’t make sense of it or reconcile myself to any of it. It follows me everywhere.

What if I’m wrong? What if I’m crazy? What if I claim this as my truth, my reality, and I go through the rest of my life living a lie, exploiting God for His “healing power” on the other side of this for my own gain? Then I am a liar, slamming the character of my Father and Mother who have always told me how much they have sacrificed for me. How is that honoring them? The guilt I feel for this is so heavy and crushing. Would I be feeling this guilt if it were true? What if the guilt and the fear and the unsettled state of my being is God telling me, “NO, this is not your reality!” And honestly, I don’t think anyone would ever believe me if I spoke the things I see out loud. I have no credibility. They have all the power. They will hurt me even more if this becomes exposed. Why won’t God rescue me from this? Why won’t He give me the answers and the certainty I need?

I don’t know what to do. I’m trapped. I’m backed into a corner. I’m afraid to keep going. My head is spinning and I’m tired of the push and pull and I don’t feel safe. I feel empty and drained. I feel unsure and afraid. I feel numb and confused. And the tug of war, the battle inside…it continues.