To tell or not to tell
Last week I decided to share my story with someone and Iím not myself anymore since. Itís hard to describe what is happening with me right now and I donít know how to make it stop. Iím not much of a talker or a writer but right now this blog seems to be the only thing that can stop me from falling and hitting the ground. So here I am. Blogging.
ďA woman's whole life... in a single day. Just one day. And in that day... her whole lifeĒ (V.Woolf). Youíve been dreaming about this day for so long, havenít you? About the day when you can finally break the silence. Remember how many times you tried to imagine how it would be like to talk about it to someone? To cry it all out? To share your memories with someone who you hope will help you fight your demons. And finally the day has come. After all these years of being silent about what happened youíve finally found this special someone you think you can trust. And suddenly you start feeling better and worse at the same time. A freaking roller-coaster ride. You want to laugh and you want to cry. You donít know what to do. Because youíve already forgotten what it feels like to trust someone. And you donít know how to talk about it, which words to choose to describe it. So youíre scared. And you have all these questions running through your head: Can I trust him/her or do I just think I can? What if she/he wonít believe me? What if she/he says it was my fault? Will she/he understand? Will she/he judge me?
To tell or not to tell, thatís the question. Before you decide to share your story with someone think about it. Think about it twice... and again and again. And then once again. Donít hurry. Think. Your memories and your pain arenít going anywhere. Theyíve been there for years. So take your time. Because if youíre wrong you know exactly whatís gonna happen. Yes, youíre gonna get hurt. Again. Be careful. Secondary wounds can hurt as much as the original wound itself. So think. Are you ready to go through this again? Can you handle more pain? Words can be painful. Very painful. They can break you into a million pieces. They can knock you down on your knees. And who will help you to put yourself back together? Who will help you to get back on your feet again? Thatís right. No one. So be very careful. This decision is gonna change everything. Forever.
It has taken me 14 years to find her.
I had to travel the whole world from the Northern to the Southern Hemisphere to find my person. She was my mst therapist trying to figure out the cause of my lower back pain. The treatments triggered flashbacks and my body started to react weird to every touch. It was hard not to notice that something was wrong and she said:ĒYou know that one day youíll have to tell me whatís going onĒ Ė and I just thought ďYeah right, forget it.Ē But it just got worse and I started to feel like a liar. She was trying to help and I knew there was still one piece missing. This one little piece - the key to the whole thing. It wasnít fair and I knew it but I just couldnít bring myself to tell her. And then one day she said: ďIf itís something I should know just tell me.Ē And I did. Iíve had many different therapists before but Iíve never mentioned the incident(s) to anyone of them. It wasnít even an option. But this time it was different. I donít know why. Maybe because I was so sick and tired of my back pain driving me crazy every day or maybe because there was something about her imbuing me with strength and peace. Some inner quality that made everything in my world feel right. I trusted her.
Have I found what I was looking for? Has she reacted in a way I was hoping she would? While working as a translator for the police in Germany I talked to many rape survivors so I knew exactly what I didnít want to hear. And I was scared. I was scared to hear what all these girls I met had to hear.
But I was lucky.
A week ago I was sitting there right next to her staring at my feet, trying to find the right words and fighting the voice in my head screaming: Donít! And then I said it. I said ďI was rapedĒ. Three words. Just three little words like ďI love youĒ or ďhow are youĒ but so much more powerful and filled with so much pain. I let it out. I felt exhausted. I felt naked. I was scared.
And she was great. I think she has said and done everything just right. First of all she believed me. Or at least she said she did. But thatís enough for me. She listened. She actually really listened to me. Wow. People like her really do exist. And she didnít give me this oh-Iím-so-sorry-mercy-look I hate so much. Thank you K.
Finally she said that she was there for me if I wanted to talk, that if that helps sheís there. And in this very moment I felt like my heart was going to explode, I thought Iím gonna burst into tears. I could feel the tears brimming and sloshing in me like water in a glass that is unsteady and too full (S.Path). How could this happen? Iím a control freak so how was it even possible? I still donít understand it. Iíve built this wall, so strong that nobody could ever get through. It was bulletproof. It was perfect. All these years I tried to learn to control myself, I learned to hide my feelings so deeply inside that no-one would ever be able to find them. Unless theyíd dig deep enough. And she did. These words I was longing for all these years. These stupid words I was dying to hear: ďIím here for youĒ. ďIím here if you want to talkĒ. These few words so simple and so special. I hate them and I love them at the same time. I want to hear them and Iím so scared of them. They made me feel better, they made me feel worse, they made me feel weak. Yes, weak. Why? Because it took me so long to get back on my feet after being raped, to gain control of my life again. And suddenly I was ready to cut this wound open and let it bleed again. I wanted to tell this stranger everything, every single detail. I wanted her to hug me and say that everything is gonna be fine. I wanted her to hug me so I could cry my heart out. I wanted her to hold me in her arms and never let go. I felt like a little girl, hurt, helpless and so confused. Is it stupid to feel this way now when Iím almost 30? I mean it all happened so many years ago. Shouldnít I have got over it by now? Can you ever get over it? And then I realized. It hit me so hard that I couldnít breathe. Telling someone is not the worst part. Itís what happens after that. Telling your story is just the beginning. Itís a beginning of a very long journey through your painful past. After itís out it becomes real. You think about it day and night. You have to face it. You have to stop living in denial and admit that it really happened to you. But do you know how to do this? Are you prepared for this? No, youíre not. And you never will be.
When you touch me like this, And when you hold me like that, It's so hard to believe,
But it's all coming back to me
On my way home, after I left her clinic I almost got hit by a car and you know what? I didnít care. I didnít care at all. I yelled at the poor guy for no reason and it wasnít even his fault, but I was yelling at him like a crazy bitch, mad, furious. Angry that (and here comes the funny part) he didnít hit me! I was so close to shout it right into his face: Why didnít you hit me you f*cker?! Why? I needed to stop thinking, stop feeling, stop existing for a little while, that was all I wanted. So whoever you are blue-ford-falcon-guy - Iím sorry! And no, I will not have dinner with you. Thanks for asking though.
As the life of the people you told about it doesnít change a bit, your life is going to turn upside down. So did talking about it help me? No. It didnít. Itís been 9 days and all I know is that the disclosure has shattered everything I told myself for years to keep going on with my life. 9 very long days of feeling horrible, frustrated, depressed and very alone. 9 days and still counting. I knew itís not gonna be easy to confront the past. But I did think it would be easier. Itís not. It has left me devastated.
And by the way, how do you even know how much you should say? Should you just say ďI was rapedĒ? Or should you go into details? How do you know whatís better for you? How do you know what you want? How do you know what you need? And first of all how do you know if your person wants to hear all this? I still have mixed feelings about it. I feel like Iíve said too much but still havenít said enough. I havenít said it all. I feel like being stuck in the very middle between what I need and what I should or shouldnít. And right now I canít even look her in the eyes. What am I afraid to see there? Or am I afraid that when she looks in my eyes she'll see that there's nothing inside of me? Just an empty space.
Nevermind. No matter how much you decided to share, when you decided to tell your story whoís gonna be there for you? No one. Well Iím a grown up, so I have to suck it up right? I have to live through it because I have no other choice correct? I have to be strong for myself because no one else is going to be strong for me. I canít cry. Tears are a luxury. Even if sometimes they are the best words the heart can speak theyíre not for me, because ďyou should never give yourself a chance to fall apart because, when you do, it becomes a tendency and it happens over and over again. You must practice staying strong, instead." (E. Gilbert). So thatís what I have to do.I have to pull myself together. Get up. I have to open the door and go outside. Go and look life in the face. Remember The Hours and Virginia Woolf saying: ďTo look life in the face. Always to look life in the face and to know it for what it is. At last to know it. To love it for what it is, and then, to put it away.Ē Remember? I do. And although my whole life is one big fight with PTSD/RTS over the years Iíve learned to control it, IĎve learned to control my eating disorders, my obsessive-compulsive disorders, panic attacks, paranoia, flashbacks, hysteria, insomnia, workaholism, depression ... One day I woke up and said to myself: F*ck it. Enough. I was still hurting but the pain and the PTSD were manageable. Iíve been well trained to love my darkness.
But things change after you speak out. You lose this control. You have flashbacks 24/7 much more powerful than before reminding you of every second of the horror youíve been through. You feel pain, anger, hate and frustration. You are broken inside. And the worst part is, you have to learn to hide it from the world again. From your family, friends, from everyone. You have to go out there and play your social roles. You have to be a daughter, a wife, a boss, a friend. You know the song ďCrippled InsideĒ by John Lennon? He sings: ďYou can shine your shoes and wear a suit. You can comb your hair and look quite cute. You can hide your face behind a smile. One thing you can't hide-is when you're crippled insideĒ. Well, I donít agree. You can hide how badly crippled you are inside. Practice makes the master. So you go out there and you smile. You laugh. You know why we laugh? We laugh because it hurts and it's the only thing to make it stop hurting (R. A. Heinlein).
Oh, Mrs. Dalloway...always giving parties to cover the silence...
I remember Ed Harris saying in an interview: ďThatís what people are doing. They are facing the hours of the day. Every day.Ē Well isnít that what weíre doing? Facing the hours, days, months and years of our life trying to escape our new Ėselves and to become our old-selves again? Iím wondering, my life has been stolen from me when I was 15. Then again. And again. So can I be the same person I was before it happened? And which me exactly do I try to be? The 15-year-old teen full of beautiful dreams and hopes, always believing in the good in people? Or the 20-year-old woman always funny, happy and optimistic, with lots of friends, crazy in love and planning on having a family? Who am I? And who do I want to be today?
She asked me why I haven't told anyone. So why havenít I? Why have I been silent all these years? Was I ashamed? Was I scared? Or maybe because I got my mouth super-glued, and even though my lips healed perfectly they never stopped hurting constantly reminding me of my past. Or maybe I just wasnít ready to talk about it? Well I do know why I didnít tell my family. Because I didnít want to hurt them. One person hurting is enough. And by the way Iím a huge disappointment to my family anyway, but thatís a different story. I didnít tell my friends because since one friend called me a liar and my best friend (!!!) raped me I donít believe in friends. I donít have friends. I cut them all off, pushed them away because in the end everyone is going to hurt you anyway, right? And I donít need a certified counsellor. I donít need to learn how to trick my brain, I already know how to do that, but it doesnít help to relieve the pain. Will a counsellor be there for me to dry my eyes? Will a counsellor be there for me to hold me when I need warmth and compassion or when my wounds begin to bleed again? I bet he wonít. So what do we need? Who do we need? A well trained, certified counsellor who is a total stranger and has no idea who we really are or a good friend, a soul mate who can eventually betray us one day? And what if you canít or donít want to have either of them? What choice do you have then? Are we all alone? We are, arenít we? I am.
So when we say we want to be left alone, when we say that we donít need anything from anyone are we lying? Are we just pretending weíre ok? And if so, why are we doing that? I canít help but wonder, when it comes to getting help, what do we really want or expect? Do we want to show how tough and strong we are because we donít want people to pity us? Or do we need someone to look behind the mask and take care of us and heal our hurt souls and hearts? Could K. possibly break down my wall someday? Well, Iíll never find out. Professional boundaries.
So many questions but no answers.
My brother (passionate soldier) would say: ďWhat the f*ck sis? Get your lazy ass up and fight!Ē But after 14 years of fighting Iím tired. Maybe I shouldnít have said anything? Maybe I should have kept my mouth shut. How can I ever get up off my knees again? How am I supposed to get back to "normal"? I don't know. Looks like Iím not as strong as I thought I was or as I used to be. But there is still something I can do. I can put on my pink-blue racing flats and go for a run. I can run. I canít run away from myself. Everywhere I go I take myself with me. But I can run. Run the pain away...
So run Forrest! Run!
"I wish I could help you"- I whisper.
"You are" - she murmurs against my knee - "just donít leave me, okay? Everyone leaves me."
ó S. Elkeles