Sometime toward the end of last year I saw my therapist for a routine visit. We started chatting about two things things I still have issues with - control and memory. As she always told me, she is not an expert in PTSD or sexual trauma, but had come across a woman I might be interested in talking to. And so I made an appointment with Leah. I use her name here because I think I will be writing about her a lot.
She asked if I wanted/could share my story and I very simply and calmly told her. Then I sat there. Amazed. It took me quite a while and then explained to her that I had never been able to so easily verbalize that experience. Then I waited for some kind of congratulations because I recognized what a huge leap this was for me. It didn’t come. I was kind of disappointed.
Instead she said “and what did you do with all the anger?” And like a deer in headlights I just stared at her. “Anger? What anger?” “After everything you just told me - raped multiple times, witnessing the torture of your lover, and enduring her subsequent death - you felt no anger?”
Hmmm. That would make sense, wouldn’t it. But I don’t remember anger. I remember sadness. I remember numb. But I’m sure she is right. I know that my reactions don’t always match the circumstances and some things are still playing out in little niggly ways.
So anger is going to be added to the list.
1. Anger. What did I do with that anger? How do I still have issues with it?
2. How to reduce my need for control. This is something that Martha has asked me to work on. I thought I had pretty much conquered control issues until she kept pointing them out. It can be very helpful to have an outside observer make you aware of behaviors that have become so routine that they don’t really register.
3. And memory issues. I can remember things that happened, but I can’t remember when things happened. Or the order they happened. For example at work, someone will ask me when a certain development was built. I have no idea whether it was just last year or 20 years ago. It all feels the same to me. Even when someone asked me when the attack happened, I couldn’t put my finger on it. I had to start doing the math in my head to try to narrow it down - it was after I graduated college, so it was after this year, I was working but taking grad courses, but it was before I moved so it was before this year . . . it is a very frustrating struggle. I do remember Lauren, my original therapist, telling me that trauma can wreak havoc with memory, often permanent, but it is something I would like to try to improve, if possible.
So I am back in therapy but feeling very different about it. I am no longer the simpering, whimpering patient terrified of taking every step. I am now able to calmly and logically (well, most of the time) examine the cause and effect of sexual trauma. I am deeply interested in the physical and emotional changes that happen in the brain and if they are reversible by training, or can at least be managed better than I do now.
I am no longer on the inside struggling to get out but rather on the outside examining me from a whole different perspective. I am my own case study.
I am becoming a student. And I think I have found a pretty good teacher.
I’m pretty excited about it.