Among the Silence Hides the Loneliness

Today was such a reminder to me of  how much of a difference it makes when we become transparent and open with our struggles.  The truth is that there are many different people out there who may have experienced something similar, but so often it is so quiet!

I am a survivor of multiple sexual assaults and in the past 2 years or so I’ve become more open and started telling my story in bits and pieces. I started out with RAINN’s (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network)  speaker’s bureau. I had an opportunity to speak at Cal State Northridge during Sexual Assault Awareness Month in 2012 and that sparked the fire within me. In that experience I had multiple people who told me their story. The one that had impacted me the most was a volunteer for campus’ rape crisis program.  Although she was thoroughly involved in the program she had never told anyone before that she was raped. So many people who have survived rape are so confused/unsure of what happened.  When this girl heard my story it was like her mind clicked and understood that it really was rape.  I can’t even tell you how often my mind  fumbled around the idea of rape.  I would constantly ask myself that question -“Was I really Raped?” after the question a series of “buts” followed. “But I didn’t really fight, But he was my BF, But it wasn’t really violent, But I probably could of gotten away? It took me a long time to come to terms that it was actually rape; it took me 1.5 years to be exact for the first sexual assault. After my brain began to accept the idea I was dying to hear someone  confirm that idea or thought.  I wanted someone to hear my story and say “that was rape”. When I heard those words I felt relieved, because that meant I wasn’t crazy.  This girl I had met finally felt safe to tell her story and secretly ask that question “was I raped?”.  It is terrifying to tell your story, because although I have had positive experiences from sharing I have seen the negative too.   One of the first few people I told about being raped told me ” Are you sure your not just saying that because your not a virgin?”   The initial people are so pivotal in recovery.

When I was in  my period of confusion I was dying to hear, read  or meet someone who had a story similar to mine. I felt so alone, but reality was that there were many others who have walked similar roads that were around me personally.  I’ve learned that my openness has given permission to many people to share their story, and when I’ve met fellow survivors it is a great comfort.  I know that the thoughts that I have are common or shared in some way. When I wrestle with thoughts and feel crazy now I’m often so hesitant to talk about it. I’ve found that to be such a disservice to myself for when I finally talk about it to a fellow survivor  the reaction is usually ” Wow! I feel the same way. I’m not crazy” or an array of other reactions.  Where I struggle most now is that there are times where I have felt that I have gotten past what happened and get frustrated when things still come up.  I use to obsess over the word “recovered”, when I had a set back I would feel that I will never be free or recovered.  Time has taught me that being recovered does not mean I don’t struggle or have set backs, but when they do come I have the tools to handle them and not stay stuck there. The truth is I will have battles with depression and I do experience post traumatic stress symptoms, but that doesn’t mean I’m back at square one.  It simply means I have survived things that were traumatic and I’m learning to deal with the trauma as it affects me. Healing isn’t some timeline; it is messy and often out of order.  The  value in all is that I will always feel alone and crazy if I always keep it to myself and so will the survivors around me.  We are not meant to journey this world alone. God has placed people in my life that encourage me and lift me up and for me to encourage, but it is up to me to stop being so silent.

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5 thoughts on “Among the Silence Hides the Loneliness

  1. It is very powerful to be validated. I obviously still struggle with that myself. And the memory issues I have surrounding PTSD clouds things even further. I want to be involved with advocacy, just not sure how to go about it. How was it for you? My concern is that I’m going to be triggered constantly.

    • I’m definitely still triggered at times, but is usually by unusual things or simply having hyper vigilance at times. I’m actually a victim advocate now and it was super intimidating, because sometimes I feel as if I’m not together enough to be doing it. I’ve learned that being able to understand where they are coming from at times helps tremendously, and the joy I get from supporting them definitely is huge. There has been times that something I hear makes me flashback and I honestly have to make it chore evaluating my feelings and write or find someone I trust who I can talk to. That is huge. I luckily have another advocate that I can be really open with. It takes some self-evaluation to do it. I would suggest getting involved in baby steps to get started to see how you do.

      • That’s what I’m thinking…baby steps. I have an chance right now where I don’t have to work that much…and I see that as a window for getting into this type of work.

  2. Speaking out and being believed is one of the toughest parts of dealing with rape. I *still* doubt myself 10 years on. I doubt myself less now than ever though. Knowing I’m not alone has been a massive empowerment for me, knowing I’m not actually crazy and others in a similar situation have felt, thought, acted in the same way as me, makes me feel more normal. It never goes away, you just get better at either dealing with your emotions or at best understanding why you have those emotions. xx

    • You have such a valid point even as time passes where you think you should be in a certain place or shouldn’t have doubts they still happen. When I met people who felt the same thing it was huge for me. It is definitely a journey and you learn along the way and there is no magic potion, but finding others can be so valuable to travel the journey with you.

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