Somewhere along the way, I decided this blog needed to be perfect. The writing needed to be flawless. But maybe it’s okay just to be real, to tell things how they are. Someone inside is saying it doesn’t matter how you tell it, just tell it, because the isolation that comes from holding the story inside creates it’s own kind of agony.
It takes monumental effort, commitment and resilience to work through trauma whilst also functioning in the world. I am tired all of the time. Right now, I’m so tired and in so much pain, my kid is having a meltdown about his homework, and the dishes need washing and I have a ton of work to prepare for next week. But I need to keep telling about what happened to me, even if the telling is not a piece of literary art.
That’s okay, is it? To just tell?
I couldn’t sleep last night. But that’s nothing new.
I got up early to make packed lunches. Tested kids on their spellings. Dropped them off at school and had a coffee with a school mum friend. I bought a sandwich for a homeless guy, replied to a couple of work messages and searched in vain for a shop that sold mangos. Nowhere had them. I settled for kiwis. I wish there had been mangos though… they are a much happier fruit. They are the colour of sunshine for a start. And they taste fizzy like lemonade.
I need to stop starting sentences with “And”.
I took the kiwis to therapy to share with my therapy lady after the memory work.
Memory work is fucking awful.
Today I was working through a frozen image I’ve had in my mind of a blanket tent on a bed on a swelteringly hot day. The image won’t shift or move. It’s sat stubbornly at the front of my thoughts for weeks like a unwanted and ominous gift waiting to be opened. What’s inside is never, ever good.
I reluctantly make myself start describing what I see. And for the next hour I am drawn back inside the secret second life of my childhood. What I see is painful and humiliating; I am photographed for an endless amount of time, in an endless series of uncomfortable and degrading positions. I’m confused because this all seems quite run of the mill. We’ve done so many memories involving pornography… why does this one matter so much right now?
And that does happen. I wish it didn’t. But I’ve started categorising my abuse this way: into really bad and not so bad. I heard myself telling a helpline lady the other day that the rape I experienced as 21 wasn’t really that bad because there was only one man involved, it was vaginal, nobody was watching and he didn’t have any weapons or cameras.
My fucking life!!!
It’s all bad. It’s all really, really horrendously bad.
My therapy lady realised I had a piece of missing time in the memory so we asked if anyone else inside knew what happened.
A part came forward and told how one of our photographers had got over excited, and anally raped us so violently I tore. The blood ruined the bed sheets. My fault. In an effort to stop the bleeding they tried forcing hand towels inside me, then some kind of cream that burned.
In the memory I am watching from the ceiling…. the body is empty. Just lying there. Eyes dead.
I’m brought back into my skin and there are hands around my throat, screaming in my ears. To punish me for the bleeding they sit me under thick blankets. It was the middle of the afternoon during a summer heatwave. The heat of the sun shining directly on the bed made the room spin. I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t dare move. I vomited on myself, before passing out.
So. Much. Shame.
I was 5 years old.
They said I had magic surgery to fix the bleeding and if I ever told anyone it would start bleeding again and never stop. Of course I believed them.
All of us understand the trick now.
But telling the story and understanding the tricks and lies is not enough. You have to allow the dissociated pain and trauma to be remembered and relived. After that, the experienced becomes part of your story. It looses its power.
You’re collecting up the shattered pieces of your self and piecing them back together.
And I so very much want to be whole….
Re-experiencing what it felt like to slowly suffocate under the blanket was terrifying. I thought I was going to die. But our therapy lady just kept saying calmly “you didn’t die then. So you won’t die now”
And I didn’t.
When the shaking stoped we ate the kiwis.
Then I picked up the children and said “hi” at the school gates to our friend from coffee this morning who asked how my day was. It was great, I say. Great. Nice to have a day off work.
I did some grocery shopping with the kids, answered some more work emails and hung up a small mountain of wet washing.
My body aches. Especially my insides; the parts that got hurt that day. It would be so good to curl up on the sofa with a hot water bottle. Somewhere inside I hear a child crying. But my kid really needs help with his homework, and nobody has eaten dinner yet.
I’ve got to build flat pack furniture tomorrow. I hate flat pack furniture. I can’t follow instructions. But it was cheap, and I can’t live any longer without any shelves.
There is no room for grief, or pain, or anger.
There is nobody to tell.
There’s not even a good way to even end this blog post.
It ends, I suppose, simply with me sitting on the sofa yelling at kids to stop fighting so I can finish some “work”, and that dinner will be ready soon.
It’s getting dark outside. I’d better go and chop the onions.