I wish I could explain to my anxiety that a day is just a day and it would go away. I wish I could reason that just because March 6th starts in an hour doesn’t mean I have to be tormented with flashbacks all day long just for breathing. But it doesn’t work that way. I’m already shaking when I should just be sleeping and the shivering tension in my muscles has me sick with anticipatory soreness and I already wish tomorrow was over and I hate myself for still remembering that it’s the anniversary seven years later. Alas, if it listened to logic it wouldn’t be a disorder, would it?
I want to have something to share that would really resonate with people today more so than ever because I desperately want to feel anyone but the rapist near me. But I feel him gripping, squeezing, tearing at my brain and if anyone can hear me I just can’t tell. If I even know how to talk to anyone else I just don’t know. Maybe I should just be grateful that at least this particular manifestation is predictable, versus the usually out-of-nowhere attacks I get to deal with while I’m at work, or on the subway, or trying to sleep, or hanging out with acquaintances, or being intimate with my boyfriend. I believe gratitude is an incredibly powerful tool to change perspective. It’s helped me many times before.
But what can I be grateful for when it comes to this? This isn’t even a rhetorical question – if you’re reading this and have an idea I’d love to know. The best I can come up with is I’m grateful for my ability to tell my story and strive for change, but I’m not grateful to have a story and besides, sharing it has not actually made change nor does it appear it will. I’m grateful for the connections I’ve been able to make with strong, inspiring survivors, but the truth is I’m not grateful that I can understand what they’ve been through. I envy those who can’t, those who can turn a blind eye at their convenience. I’m grateful that finally after years of confusion I believe I understand about as much of the truth about my rapist as I ever will, but I’m not grateful that the truth is so terrible. I’m grateful that conquering my eating disorder has given me a freedom from a normalized obsession with weight so many women face their entire lives, but I am not grateful I suffered so intensely and that food cannot be entirely un-complicated. I am grateful for my therapist, but I’m not grateful my therapy has to be largely devoted to dealing with my rape. I’m trying my best here, trying to focus on the positives, but I can’t turn off this rape-centric channel in my mind, and I don’t think there is an honest way to practice gratitude towards being raped and abused by someone who was so important to me for the entirety of my adolescence. I maybe should be glad it wasn’t worse; after all, he didn’t kill me. The truth is, I wish he had. It feels like he did.
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Aside from gratitude, acceptance is a method of coping that my therapist is constantly reminding me to practice. After rereading what I wrote up until this point I realized maybe that’s what I need to do here. There’s a concept called “radical acceptance” that she has taught me about and I’m working on incorporating into my life. I know I need it. Whenever I remember it I find it helpful. But usually I don’t remember it, and if I hadn’t started writing this I wouldn’t have now. Of all the days to put it to the test, the anniversary of the first time I was raped seems like a good one.
I don’t have it in me to write more even though I feel desperate to. It’s a hard day for me. I want to share this anyway because I think if nothing else, it’s a decent demonstration on how a freewrite can be self-reflective in a beneficial way. In addition, I think radical acceptance is an incredibly valuable skill that I’d like to share. Though this moment is not the right time for me to explain it, I’m going to link some articles about it my therapist sent to me that I have found helpful myself.
After rereading this article, I realize that the fact that I was raped and that my rapist got away with it is not okay, and though it brings me all kinds of pain, that is what happened, and I can’t change it. Acknowledging that this is not something I control brings me peace to relinquish responsibility.
Rereading this article reminds me that yes, this is not how things ‘should have gone,’ but it is how they have gone. Perhaps by trying to twist it into something I can be grateful for is a way of denying its inherent badness; rather than trying to convince myself to have gratitude for it I should focus on how I handle it now, in this moment. It happened as it did. It caused me much pain. That simply sucks. Life has gone on, and it will continue to do so. It’s okay that it hurt, it’s okay that it still hurts, and it’s okay that it will hurt. It won’t and doesn’t hurt all the time. Feel the pain when it does. Feel the feelings that aren’t pain when I have them, notice when there’s no pain.
Rereading this article has reminded me that grief can only truly begin once I’ve accepted reality as it is. I recognize that I am not 100% there yet as far as acceptance goes, and that is part of why this still hurts me so badly. I see how far I have come towards acceptance – but also the progress that is yet to be realized; this helps me to believe that just because I’ve been in this tunnel for seven years doesn’t mean there’s no light at the end of it. I’ve been walking through it a long time. The scenery is getting old, but I’m still moving through. I will come out on the other side, and each step I take brings me closer to that.
This pain is still here. I didn’t choose it. It is what it is. I don’t agree with it, but I accept it.
This pain will end.