Thursday, July 24, 2014

Him

I was walking in a downtown area when I saw him.   First, just out of the corner of my eye, when a sense of dread started bubbling up.  And then I saw him face to face.  I immediately recognized this man as the man of my worst nightmares.  The man who was the sadistic leader of the group who attacked me and Daphne.   Of course, it wasn’t the same man.  The person I saw was in his 20s and the attack was decades ago.   Still, he looked just like him on the day.  

I am documenting this event here for a number of reasons.  

First, because I find it strange that after years of therapy and hours and hours of being drilled about the details of that day, I have never been able to remember what these men looked like.  The sound of their voices have stayed with me always, as do their mocking and hateful words.   I can describe the clothing of some of them.   But I have never been able to describe, more than very generic hair color and weight, what they looked like.  All my memories were faceless.  Until I saw this man.  And then those memories came flooding back.

Second, because even with those most painful and terrifying memories rocketing through my head, I was able to stay in control in that moment.   In what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only seconds, I was able to go from heart racing sweatiness to a logical assessment of what was happening and stay in the present.  

This is a major accomplishment for me.  It wasn’t all that long ago that something like this would have put me in a high anxiety state, rocking in a fetal position, for days.   For years Lauren, my therapist, put me through hours of anxiety reducing exercises and I practiced and practiced and practiced until I could indeed have some control over outside triggers.  

This incident was however, a new and important milestone for me in that I did not conscientiously go to my exercises for control.  My mind/body seemed to just do it automatically.  Stressful trigger - recognize and understand the trigger - just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.  I consider this a huge success.

Unfortunately, this has not quite carried over to my sleeping self and I am having a little difficulty with nightmares.  But even the effects of these are significantly reduced.   There was a time when the rape nightmare would have me waking, drenched in sweat and crazed with terror and often punching and kicking the crap out of Martha.   Seeing this man has unleashed the nightmare again but the impact is much less and when it wakes me, it only takes a moment to realize where I am and that I was dreaming.

So today I am feeling accomplished and more confident than I ever have.   Even after having some therapeutic success with PTSD I am still always waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I know there are still a lot of memories about that day that my mind has mercifully hidden from me.  But it is definitely a confidence builder to have a shoe drop and be able to slap it away.  

Someday I will have the courage to go back through this blog and read the story of my progress in processing trauma and living with PTSD.   I know how I used to be and how far I have come.  I don’t know if there is a finish line, but I am feeling stronger and more secure in my ability to handle whatever comes at me.   

And I am so very thankful for all those people who stayed with me through the hard times, those who taught me there could be not only a tolerable life, but a joyful life after trauma, and everyone who has supported me on this path of healing.  

11 comments:

  1. I had to see my abuser every day for years. Now I never see him but he still haunts me, awake or asleep. My therapist also has me keeping a journal and I am seeing some progress but not as big as yours. I wonder if I will ever feel confident around men or be able to trust people. I am happy for you, you have worked very hard for this happiness and you deserve it.

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    1. Thank you Kim, it's nice to see you back.

      I had a lot of doubts about writing about this journey, but I can't deny the positive results. I hope it will be helpful to you too. But as you know, it has been a very, very long journey for me, filled with small victories and many setbacks. My advice to you is to keep at it as best you can. You never know when something will click. Lots of love and healing energy to you.

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  2. I'm not sure you ever have to go back and read through any of what you've gone through, unless you think it's necessary for measuring your progress or inherent additional value for your journey of healing. You've already got a yardstick of your tangible and REAL progress in your ability to deal with this particular situation and the confidence you feel in being able to handle anything that comes your way.

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    1. Yes, you are right. I can definitely see and feel my progress every day and it is a wonderful thing.

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  3. Wow. Good for you, 8. I am so impressed with your determination to keep living your own true life. And so thankful that Lauren gave you the tools to carry on.

    When talking about the recurrence of trauma memories, my therapist said that it's like layers. A layer peels off and everything is raw again but you learn to recognize the triggers and reestablish your even keel. Years can go by and another layer can peel off... and the cycle goes around. But, I find that each time a layer is peeled off, I am better, or quicker, at getting my self back. So, that's progress, right? It sounds like progress for you, too.

    I'm so sorry that you saw the young man who peeled off that layer. Thank you for not killing him. Thank you for continuing to make progress on your journey.

    Love to you, my friend, and strong empathetic hugs...
    xoxoxoxxoxoxo

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    1. I can't even express how much I miss Lauren and how sad I am that she didn't get to see the fruits of all her labor.

      I love the analogy of the onion peeling. And yes, with each layer I get better at handling this crap. But damn, how many more effing layers are there?

      And thanks for making me laugh with your "thank you for not killing him" comment. Honestly, the thought never crossed my mind . . now or then.

      Love to you,e

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  4. i know this: you are a remarkable courageous gutsy appreciative fun woman who is open to astonishment. scars are scars, but to know that a burglar alarm is not based on PRESENT danger is huge.

    i am glad and honored to get to know you.

    love
    kj

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    1. I am glad and honored to get to know you too kj. But in reality I am a painfully shy, kind of boring woman although yes, appreciative and open to astonishment. And always working to stay in the present because frankly, the present has been very generous to me.

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  5. I don't have the words to appropriately respond to this post so I will fall back on a quote:

    The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are.
    - Marcus Aurelius

    It seems that through hard work and sheer determination, you have succeeded at both.

    Well done, dear one.

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    1. Thanks Sue, I love the quote.

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  6. How awesome!!! It should be very reassuring that you can use what you have learned and lived to help you through it. You should be proud!!!

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