Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Peak Under My Veil of Self-Blame/Doubt

Okay, so an unexpected setback (but perhaps a good thing?)  happened tonight. To make a long story short, I had a very emotional, unpleasant few hours, which led me to call the RAINN hotline for the first time ever and to post the message presented at the bottom of this blog entry on 
Pandora's Aquarium (online support forum).

I sat down to type out my experience with sexual assault sans self-blame and self-doubt per the suggestion of my therapist (click here to view the therapy session which led to this exercise), but a page and a half into typing, I realized that I was getting nowhere. In a way, attempting to remove these entities from my experience backfired, exposing a whole host of emotions that didn’t make sense to me. I did receive comfort and validation from the RAINN counselor to whom I spoke on the phone and from responses to my forum posting; however, the support I received did not lead me to compose the answer I set out to accomplish at the beginning of the night.

Simply stated, I cannot truly consider my experience within the parameters posed by my therapist because I cannot relinquish responsibility for what happened.

I’m not saying that it’s time for me to box up this whole experience until the next time bomb goes off, but I think for the time being, I will settle on referring to that night as my “sexual assault” (i.e., instead of “rape”). It’s just that I’m more at ease with this term right now, and the last few hours have helped me realize that I have been trying to push through the healing process a little too quickly. For example, I mistook a very brief acceptance of the R-word as an indication that I needed to start desensitizing myself to the word by utilizing it in every opportunity that presented itself; however, because I have yet to do the “dirty work,” repetitively typing out this word has merely served as an insufficient means to convince myself of something I’m not ready to accept.

Although I may appear on paper to have quite a handle on this whole healing-from-sexual-assault thing, my progress in therapy sessions (and my experience tonight) paints a much different picture. Already, three months have passed since I started targeting my assault in therapy, and I have yet to make a truly noteworthy peep about what’s going on in my mind. Three months ago, I went from being a talkative, almost bubbly participant of therapy to virtually a crying mute, a transformation which I’m afraid has led my therapist to feel like she has to handle me with kid gloves. Although I keep moving forward in my writing, I feel as though I’m at a complete standstill in therapy sessions.

So what does this mean? Well, I think it’s important that I allow my voice – my actual voice – to catch up with my writing. I am going to try harder to listen to the inner voice in my mind, not the one kicked in overdrive, but the one that is grounded in my emotions in addition to logic. I will try to slow down and allow this inner voice to identify what steps I need to take towards healing. I know that talking about sexual assault is difficult in itself, but I’m beginning to think that I’ve been skipping over small, but significant steps in the healing process that have further widened the gap between my mouth and mind. I keep plowing ahead on paper and further increasing the amount of pressure I put on myself to speak in therapy, which, of course, heightens my level of disappointment when I fail to achieve my speaking goal each session. In turn, to overcome the sense of disappointment I feel following each therapy session, I adapt a more rigorous healing approach in between sessions. Well, it’s time I take a chill pill.

I will be honest – when I first started writing this post, I was mainly attempting to turn my feelings of frustration and failure from earlier into something positive; however, I am beginning to truthfully view tonight not as a roadblock, but as a much-needed moment of truth, which will ultimately help me succeed in leaving my past behind.

So, to answer the question: “How does my experience with sexual assault look sans self-blame and self-doubt?”

Honestly? ;-)

Like a mess of emotions I have yet to give myself permission to feel. And you know what? That’s okay for now.

I’ve learned something about myself tonight – for me, self-blame and self-doubt do not make up a veil that can be easily lifted in one fell swoop, not even for the sake of completing this exercise. Instead, self-blame and self-doubt are built into the very foundation of my experience with sexual assault; they will have to be chipped away slowly and very carefully...with the help of my therapist...using my [gulp] voice.

I think I may have just carved out my healing journey – my journey to free myself from self-blame and self-doubt.
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Posted: 12/20/2011 10:56 PM
I thought that I had moved on from what happened when I was college student, but when I started graduate school a lot of raw emotions started bubbling up, and then I found that "the guy" lives in the city where my husband took a job (I will move there after I graduate in May), and the other town where my husband would get transferred is "the guy's" hometown. I think this coupled with the fact that I started receiving emails from "him" because he was the organizer of our high school's 10 year reunion and around that time I had a patient with the same name as him, triggered a lot of unresolved emotional garbage surrounding my college experience.

I finally realized that I needed to address this stuff in therapy (I haven't done much talking yet because I get so emotional), and up until tonight I thought that I had accurately labeled my experience as r*pe. I have a lot of issues with self-blame and self-doubt, so during my last therapy session, my therapist asked me to consider my assault experience upon removing self-blame/doubt. I was trying to write it out tonight, but I realized that I can't do so without self-blame because I haven't accepted what happened as r*pe. I was doing a little better and feeling a little stronger, but now that I have admitted to myself that I don't know what to label my experience, I am once again an emotional wreck.

can someone please help me define my experience?

here are the facts as concise as I can provide them:
- he was a friend I knew from high school; we just so happened to attend the same college as well.
- we dated in high school (he constantly ignored my boundaries, but i didn't drink in high school so I was always able to stop him; saying 'no' did not suffice - I would usually have to use my hands to stop him)
- we briefly dated again after i transferred to his college our sophomore year (like before, i had to be really firm about my boundaries; the weekend before "the night," he was in my dorm room and we kept ignored my boundaries, which prompted a long conversation about my desire to wait until marriage - something I had told him before. he replied that he didn't understand, and i stated that it didn't matter if he understood my rationale as long as he respected it; he ended up staying until 10 am just chatting)
- the following weekend, we met up at a mutual friend's holiday party. i got extremely intoxicated. he told me that he thought i was worth waiting for and that he'd even wait until after christmas break to do anything physical to prove it to me. he walked me home at the end of the night, and i was a drunken idiot. we didn't talk about my boundaries that night other than what I just mentioned b/c i didn't really think there was a reason to.
- simply stated, i didn't know what happened until it was too late. it was very fast. he went from aggressively "stimulating" me (i put that in quotations because it was painful and i kept complaining that it hurt; it didn't stop until i tried to lift my head and said, "seriously, that hurts. what are you doing?"; when my head hit the pillow, a different sensation started - one that wasn't as uncomfortable as what he was doing before (i thought he was still using his hands but more gently) - and within what had to have been less than a minute (though i can't say for certain because i was so drunk), he had ejaculated all over my stomach.)
- i immediately asked, "where you just INSIDE me?" and he responded, "no," and got up quickly, put his clothes on, and left, never speaking another word.
- during the entire interaction, he never looked at me, and i just have visual images of what his face looked like (the way he was angled above and away from me made it only possible for me to see his face unless i lifted my head.

this experience made me feel like a different person. made me feel hollow. i ended up having to leave school for a semester and had to spend a week-long honeymoon in the psychiatric ward (my emotional instability led to a diagnosis of bipolar). i can't believe I am still affected by this so many years later - it wasn't like i was beaten or verbally forced - i just didn't know what happened until it was too late. and he knew that I didn't want to have sex, but then i start to wonder if i did something to make him think that was okay - like my willingness to drink every drink he handed me plus more gave him the wrong impression.

please help me label this experience and please tell me if i am overreacting. sorry for this rambling post - it's been a rough night.

5 comments:

  1. Comment 1 of 4
    Although I may appear on paper to have quite a handle on this whole healing-from-sexual-assault thing, my progress in therapy sessions (and my experience tonight) paints a much different picture.
    Can I ask you what it is specifically that you think constitutes "ultimate progress" in therapy? Also what do you think the steps are that is needed to get there? How many of those steps have been accomplished?


    Although I keep moving forward in my writing, I feel as though I’m at a complete standstill in therapy sessions.
    What's the difference between personal healing (i.e. the healing you accomplish in your personal life), and the healing you need out of therapy? Let's assume for a second that you remain at a stand still in therapy, but continue on a healing path in your writing and personal life; wouldn't the same goal still be accomplished? Therapy isn't about breaking down some wall that will allow you to talk about what happened to you face to face with someone. It's about giving you the tools you need to deal with the emotions and pain on a personal level. You are dealing with these emotions on a personal level, NO AND IF OR BUTS about it, YOU ARE dealing with these emotions on a personal level. This blog is proof of that. You are going to have doubts at times and that's okay. You are going to feel that you aren't healing at times and that's okay too. If you step back from all of this a little, you will see the big picture like I do. You will see someone who although still has a few festering wounds, most of them have scabbed over. You might also see a woman who is so use to the feeling of self-blame that she picks at these healed wounds because pain and doubt is sometimes more comforting than truth.


    - we dated in high school (he constantly ignored my boundaries, but i didn't drink in high school so I was always able to stop him; saying 'no' did not suffice - I would usually have to use my hands to stop him)
    Anytime the word "NO" isn't enough and you have to fight them off using physical force (even if it was a small amount of physical force, it was an attempted rape. The word NO doesn't have a meaning that's open for debate. It is a clearly defined and understood word, and it is the first word 90% of the population learn the meaning of as small children. There's absolutely zero viable excuse for him to ignore the word NO and only snap out of his selfish state after physical force.

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  2. Comment 2 of 4
    - the following weekend, we met up at a mutual friend's holiday party. i got extremely intoxicated. he told me that he thought i was worth waiting for and that he'd even wait until after christmas break to do anything physical to prove it to me. he walked me home at the end of the night, and i was a drunken idiot. we didn't talk about my boundaries that night other than what I just mentioned b/c i didn't really think there was a reason to.
    I am all about tough love sometimes and this is going to be one of those moments. If you can't handle some tough love right at this second, then come back and read the rest of this later.

    "...he told me that he thought i was worth waiting for and that he'd even wait until after christmas break to do anything physical to prove it to me..."

    I have news for you, YOU WASN'T WORTH WAITING FOR, TO HIM. He lied to you. He was trying every tactic in the book to try and get you to GIVE IN. When he had the opportunity to satisfy his selfishness, HE DID, THAT'S WHEN HE RAPED YOU BECAUSE HE KNEW YOU WERE TOO DRUNK TO PUT UP A FIGHT. He was already very good at ignoring the word NO, and once he realized you were really, really drunk he decided that he could then ignore your will even further.

    I know what you are feeling right now. All the signs of the nature of "A's" personality are so obvious when looking back on it now, so you are blaming yourself and wondering why you chose to become that drunk around him or even why you chose to be friends with such a person. The simple and blunt answer is that as each day in life passes, we become wiser and more aware and set aside the ignorance of youth. He knew your boundaries and ignored them. He heard the word "NO" and ignored the meaning of that word several times. He knew how strongly you felt about waiting because of the MANY times you had to physically stop him.

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  3. Comment 3 of 4
    You clearly stated your desire to wait until marriage, he ignored it.

    You said "NO" several times, but he ignored it.

    You physically fought him off, but he didn't care.

    He lied to you and said that he though you were worth waiting for, but he didn't wait.

    He clearly walked you home that night with the intent to use your body while you were intoxicated.

    If you say "NO" and he still tries to, that is an attempted rape.
    If you have to physically stop him, that is an attempted rape.
    If he lied to you, that lends credit to premeditation.
    If he walked you home with the understanding that you were too drunk to fight back, that was PREMEDITATED RAPE.

    I have zero doubt of his intentions, ZZZEEEERRRRROOOOO. He had clearly defined paths in front of him, one led to respect, and the other led to rape. He chose the wrong, he did the wrong thing, he did you wrong, and he purposefully raped you with the intent of raping you. NO MATTER HOW POOR THE CHOICES YOU MADE BACK THEN WERE, none of it gave him a green light to violate you, none of it gave him the right to RAPE you.

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  4. Comment 4 of 4
    "please help me label this experience and please tell me if i am overreacting. sorry for this rambling post - it's been a rough night."
    I will give you some labels and I want you to not only read them but hear them.

    Betrayal
    Emotional Abuse
    Sexual Assault
    Rape
    Premeditated Sexual Assault
    Premeditated Rape

    Another thing that you will understandably find it hard to accept is that even if you wasn't intoxicated on that night and he didn't rape you, he still attempted to rape you each and every time you had to use physical force to say no.

    This will be even more difficult to accept. Even if you had never become drunk, even if you had never taken a drink of alcohol, you still would have been raped eventually. The type of person that will violate someone while they are drunk, is the type of person who will violate them while they are sober. The only difference is that he hadn't found the courage to do it until you were drunk and unable to fight back. I promise you this, eventually he would have found the courage to violate you and rape you while you were stone cold sober. It would have likely been vastly different and likely would have been very violent because you would have been fighting him.

    You don't actually think that he decided at that moment to rape you, or do you?

    He made that choice sometime prior to that night. He knew he wanted to have sex with you and he knew that he was willing to rape you to satisfy his urges. His actions were premeditated.

    I'm sorry this was such a long comment and I am sorry that I became so blunt, but sometimes it is needed.

    I really hope I didn't offend you. If I offended you even a little bit I want you to gain a clear understanding of how and why I offended you and let me know.

    None of this was your fault, it was all his WRONG choice.

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  5. Hi Jaime,

    I read over your comments and just wanted to provide a quick reply. I am under a time constraint at the moment and cannot adequately respond to your comments so I am going to postpone responding until later this evening. Until then, I just wanted to say thank you.

    I am not offended at all by your comments. Honestly, hearing things so bluntly was refreshing. I have so much uncertainty buzzing around my head these days that having someone present a black-and-white interpretation of the issues with which I am struggling was helpful and calming. Though it's hard for me to accept at the moment, your blunt perspective is validating to my feelings of being on some crazy emotional roller coaster.

    I cannot thank you enough for your unrelenting support. xxx

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