The ‘R’ Word – Or Rather, Two Of Them

Rape. It’s a really scary word when you start applying it to your own experience. Using it to describe what happened to you means you acknowledge the lack of control you had, the domination another person had over you.

Before my therapy session with E yesterday, I sent her my blog post about the road trip, or more precisely, about the flashback. I thought it would be much easier to have her read it before I got there; otherwise I probably could have spent the entire session simply trying to spit the words out.

So when I arrive, she already knows. Good thing, because I find I cannot say anything. “I like the way you wrote it up,” she tells me. “But now what you write about. It’s horrific.”

I think I mumble something and look away. It feels like I’m naked. I get up from the chair, pick up the blanket on her couch, lie down on the floor and cover myself with the blank and pull the pillow to my chest. That feels more protected.

We talk. I’m mostly there but not entirely. We talk about sharing some of this with my husband, so I can have the benefit of his support. We talk about all the physical sensation that I’m feeling so intensely now. E says, “Use the physical stuff to do some deep listening to what you need. Take action on the symptoms to bring yourself comfort, to soothe yourself.”

I write this down because I don’t think I will remember anything otherwise. I tell her I want to to let this pain be, to experience it. Because if I push it down, I know it will just come up again. I might as well ride it out now. Maybe then I can be done with it. Maybe.

E also suggests I gather things together that I can break, thin plates or old Christmas ornaments or whatever. At some point then I can honor the impulse to smash things if I want.

Only after I leave her office does the word “rape” actually sink in. I text her when I reach my car.

I actually never thought of it as a rape before.

Sounds like the definition

Ohhhhhh.

I want to throw up. But I drive home, shaking. After dinner, I decide, fuck it, I cannot tell him but why should I keep hiding everything. I give my husband a pdf version of my blog post. While he reads it, I go outside and pull weeds. He’s a slow reader, so I had a big pile of weeds by the time he was done.

What does he say at first? I can’t remember exactly. Something about how selfish Miguel was. He’s sorry this happened to me back then. And how it didn’t affect how he saw me at all. I don’t know. It is fine but it doesn’t touch my growing distress. After a few minutes he changes the subject to tell me about how Iceland played in some European soccer championship. A few minutes later I leave the room and text E again. I feel guilty to bother her after I just had a session but I’m exploding inside.

I gave B the blog post too.

But he doesn’t get how bad it feels, how it can seem to be happening right now. His reaction is more like “Miguel is not a good guy. I’m sorry this happened to you a bizillion years ago.” 

But a bizillion years ago and yesterday are the same thing to my body. I think that’s what he doesn’t see. And I’m not going to explain it bc it was a big enough effort to share the post. I am just done for now.

Celebrate your courage at shring the post. His reaction will fuide you in clarifying what you want and don’t want from him when you tell him more at some other time.

Somehow his not understanding what it feels like brings me very quickly to my second “r” word..

Rage. Rage is a resident of my emotional house who doesn’t show up very often. She might be wandering the back corridors or something, but I seldom see her. I think I spend years telling her there was no place for her, that I am a nice girl, so I don’t get angry.

But now she’s right there in the common room, and she’s hot. She wants to break things. She wants to hurt Miguel. She wants to scream. She wants to protest to her husband; doesn’t he see this is not just a bad day from years ago?

This is my husband though, you know, the good guy. It’s not long before he’s followed me into the bedroom.

“You’re not okay, are you?” he asks.

“Um. No, actually.” I am kind of pouting and being unreasonable. He’s not really the one I’m angry with, but he’s the one who is there.

“I love you,” he tells me.

“I know that.” I say. “But you don’t get it.”

“I see that. I’m trying though. I want to get it.” (I know, he’s great, right?)

“It doesn’t feel like this happened to me ‘back then.’ It doesn’t feel like old history. It feels like it happened yesterday. It is fresh! It is burning me! It is making me sick!”

I’m glad he has come to me, glad he is trying to learn what it feels like. But now Rage is here, and she’s powerful. And Humiliation and Self-Loathing and Revulsion, they are all here too. They take turns with me. And okay, they all have a place here. But it’s hard to go to work. It’s hard to concentrate on anything but them.

The intensity will pass. It will. I will survive this, even though in the moment it takes my breath away. I want to use all my coping skills and get through this.

The part that scares me is that I have already done this many times, thinking, okay, this is the end of it. And then there is another memory that surfaces. Tonight I feel afraid that this isn’tthe end of it.

6 thoughts on “The ‘R’ Word – Or Rather, Two Of Them

  1. I am feeling so much compassion for you. Defining sexual assault as rape must be absolutely terrifying. I have an experience or two that could potentially maybe be classified that way but I’m nowhere near willing to examine it or really delve into it. I can’t come close to using that word in relation to myself. I once vaguely understood that an incident fell under “sexual abuse” and immediately had an extremely strong reaction to just that vague understanding (I ate cartons of ice cream and threw up).

    Feeling rage is so legitimate and smashing things is sometimes an ever-so-slightly comforting outlet.

    I’m glad that your husband wants to understand and support you – but that doesn’t erase any of the pain and rage. It is wonderful that and E are able to message each other. Sometimes I just so desperately need to message T because he understands and lends gentle empathy. It sounds like E responds so well when you reach out to her. I imagine that is comforting.

    I do, of course, want to drown Miguel. But I sense this isn’t really such a helpful reaction. I am so sorry that this happened to you.

    I was thinking about you and I’m glad that you’re posting again. I’m sending so much compassion and empathy to you and I wish I could alleviate some of your pain. You are absolutely fantastic.

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  2. Oh, Q. This stuff is so so hard. I hate that any of it happened to anybody. Miguel is a Fucking asshole. I’m so sorry. I understand the thing about it not being in the distant past an people not getting that it feels like it is happening now. That is so frustrating. Take good care of yourself and that emotional house of yours. I’m thinking of about you.

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  3. It is lovely that your husband is trying to understand. He sounds like a wonderful man. But sometimes you really need the person to just get it. I’m so sorry that he didn’t. There can be a real sense of betrayal in that – I TRUSTED you and now I hurt worse. I am glad you were able to reach out to E at least, because there is a lot of aloneness in somebody you love not understanding your experience. And such an awful experience. I’m so sorry that it happened, and is happening, and may keep happening.

    I want to echo E, too – celebrate your courage in choosing to share this with him.

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  4. I don’t like either ‘R’. That full feeling after leaving therapy can be so intense. It’s crazy actually and I usually write afterwards because it’s all so surfaced and so real. And yes, I won’t remember. I love how you wrap yourself in a blanket on the floor, it’s a beautiful image.

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  5. Being raped leaves such a powerless, demoralizing imprint. The rage makes sense as a direct reaction to being forced against your will to do something – the powerlessness of being unable to stop something from happening warrants absolute fury over that betrayal. Your husband is wonderful, and it is okay to be mad at him. Because I know you know it isn’t really about him and his response, but what it reminds you of – the utter disregard for your needs that your last husband showed you. So it is okay to be mad at him, even if it isn’t really “logical.” It is logical when you put it into context, that you have some wickedly painful and difficult memories surfacing, and you are coping as very best you can. The people who love us will not leave us for doing our best.

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  6. you sent your story to E. You talked with husband about it and then communicated further with both of them. That is beyond brave. I can’t even think of the right words to express how impressive this is. With that said. I am sorry that was your experience then and how painful it is now.

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