I will admit this, I have struggled greatly in my recovery process so far. I have had a lot of set backs, slip ups and regrets. But I am still here today, and I am actively asking for help and working as hard as I can to get better. And that is a lot more than I can say I did in the past.
I suffer from a number of symptoms that fall under the category of PTSD. My “side-effects” (as I have come to call them) include: self injury, eating disorders, sleep issues, generalized anxiety, depression and a history of drug abuse. For the longest time I refused to admit any of these behaviors were real problems and I was even more adamant in refusing to admit that they were problems that stemmed from the abuse I had experienced. It is rare for me to admit this because I am a very private person and because I am so ashamed of my past. But I feel like it is really important in my recovery process to talk about these things. I also think it is really important for the sexual assault community to discuss the after effects of trauma as well.
To me, admitting that I was struggling with cutting or EDs was admitting defeat. I felt weak, that he had won because 7 years after being assaulted I was still hurting. As I began talking more about my trauma I realized I still deal with it every day in the forms of my “side-effects”. I finally decided that it is time for me to be honest, open and willing to get the help I need to move on with my life.
Two years ago I went to a therapist for the first time. Her name was Amy and she was a counselor at the university I was attending at the time. She was wonderful, kind and gentle. She gave me a safe and nonjudgmental place to share my emotions. I was as honest as I could be and she helped me as best she could. I left my university shortly thereafter and fell back into a very dark place, a place that I didn’t think I would ever have the strength to get out of, I got to a point where I didn’t even want to get better. My sadness and hurt defined who I was and I didn’t want to give that up. Because if I wasn’t the victim, who was I? I felt like my hurt was too big and too much to overcome, and anyone who thought otherwise didn’t “get me”.
A little over a year ago I realized how wrong I was, I met an incredible group of extraordinary people who guided me to an internal strength I never knew I had. With an honest and tough but loving approach, I was given the opportunities to grow and shift my thinking. I am currently back in therapy with an amazing therapist and I spend a lot of time working on exactly what I need to get better. Now I can’t say I haven’t slipped up since making this shift to recovery. I have cut- more recently than I’d like to admit. I have felt desperate and angry at myself, but the difference between now and a year ago is a know that that hurt isn’t going to last. I have the tools to feel better, but I only became aware of that after I asked for help.
Being raped, assaulted or traumatized in any sense doesn’t end when the assault is over. Not only do we need to engage in a conversation about sexual violence, I truly believe we must also have a conversation about the “side-effects” of assault as well. The results of trauma can be severe and long-lasting; they are insidious. But, believe me, there is comfort in this new “post-rape” reality. I have been able to integrate my experience into my life and have taken advantage of the hope it has given me.
And I am so grateful.