Sunday, April 27, 2014

How Do You Survive Rape?

Lately my blog posts have been driven by conversations I have with other survivors who are reaching out to me.  Whether its a common struggle or a question they ask of me, it's all so pertinent to the story of a survivor.  Tonight as I was settling in for one last episode of The Mentalist with my Dutchie before crashing, my phone buzzed about an alert for the From Victim to Survivor FB page about a message.  After a really rough week emotionally I learned that I have to make the conscious choice to put my phone down for chunks of time, because after the first 5-6 days of the blog (aka 24/7 rape) I was overwhelmed and had night terrors for the first time in ages.  All that is unimportant except that it puts an emphasis on why I broke my rule about late night rape discussions to answer this woman; her message was short, her question simple, but it rocked me.  It comes down to one of the most core points of my recovery and my message I'm sharing with all of you.  She asked, "how do I survive rape?"

Below is part of my response to her, I hope it helps some of you.

For me, it took me acknowledging both to myself and to my therapist that I had been assaulted and raped.  Over the years I have gone through different levels of surviving.  At first, the focus was getting over the more extreme symptoms of my PTSD (high startle reflex, nightmares, fear, etc)- the kind of things that most anyone could easily see and were obviously disruptive to my ability to function on any basic level.  Then I started dealing with the more underlying issues, sometimes it would be 1 step forward and 2 steps back type times but the overall trend was always moving forward.  I found my motivation to keep going in my determination to not let my attackers take more of my life from me than they already had.  In a sense, I got angry; instead of internalizing my anger and falling into the deep depressions as I had done in the past, I let myself be angry.  Now, by no means am I saying turn into a cynical or bitter angry woman, but you have a right to be angry about what you have been through, so let yourself be angry!  The key for me was having a therapist, I have had the privilege to work with some great ones, and they have each contributed to different parts of my recovery.  Some helped me find peace in times where I was so scared and angry and upset that I was falling apart into massive panic attacks for seemingly no reason, others helped me remember that I am a strong woman, and sometimes they were just there to listen to me.  Every so often I'll hit a plateau in my recovery, sometimes it lasts for a couple months, other times a year or more, but at some point during that leveling out period, I start to see the things that I need to tackle next, and when I feel like I'm ready then my therapist is there to walk down the rough road with me.  The first step is to look at the situation as something that sucks but making the conscious choice to fight it and overcome it, rather than focusing on a more victim mindset.  Yes, legally and in every other sense you are a "victim", but don't let yourself become one mentally.  IT IS HARD.  I won't deny it or sugarcoat it, but it is so very worth it.  Now, I'm not ashamed of what has been done to me, I'm open about it, and I know when my boyfriend says "I love you" I know he loves the "real" me and not the "completely perfect illusion" me.  He knows about my "rough" past, and he knows how it can periodically interfere with our lives, and I know he still loves me.  The greatest thing about making yourself a survivor is that you stop feeling like you're hiding who you are, you may not want to announce it on Facebook, but those close to you will love you regardless of night terrors, anxiety attacks, strange little triggers, etc.  And then you will find your relationships are more meaningful because they are based on more than just surface issues, and you know they aren't going to leave.  I guess that's a silver lining in a way.  Alright well, now my dog is attempting to finish this blog for me so I think it's time to call it a night.  

Survivors, Supporters, feel free to reach out to me anytime day or night :) If I'm awake I'm usually available.