Soup part 2 of… ?
I had just opened up this post to start writing, wondering if I was ready to continue in on the “soup” topic from a couple weeks ago, when my son brought me this card for the game he is currently disorganizing:
I’ve changed some things from the original one I wrote as time has given me a better idea of how I want to organize this. I can’t write about my sexual assault recovery in one post, so I’m going to just focus on one aspect at a time.
To remind those of you who read my post from two weeks ago, I did not remember I had been assaulted for 3 years after the event occurred. One of the first questions I was asked as I confided in close family members and various counselors was when I remembered and what triggered the recall.
The memory came back to me early this last fall. The presidential election campaigns were in full swing, and all over the news that particular day were videos and audio recordings of Donald Trump joking with a celebrity about grabbing women (you all know what I’m talking about). When I first heard this recording, I felt sick. But it wasn’t a normal “that’s sickening” response, but rather a high anxiety moment of intense nausea and even fear. I wasn’t sure why the recording triggered an anxiety attack, but I chalked it up to my strong empathy and moved on.
P.S. This is not in any way a political post. This is simply the truth of what triggered my memory recall.
Later that day, after my husband was at work and while my son was napping, I was sitting on my bed scrolling through news articles trying to find something to listen to while I folded laundry (I do try to keep up on current events). Everything was saturated by this Trump scandal. As I scrolled a video with subtitles came up (you know how the videos automatically play as you scroll past them?) The subtitles highlighted the most graphic parts the audio, and as I saw the words across the screen I again felt that anxious nausea and intense fear.
I clicked the video and re-watched it, wanting to understand what about it bothered me that much. Afterwards I sat and pondered with a pit in my stomach. I thought of the stories of assault and disrespect that I had heard and read, and how fired up I always felt for those women. I thought of how it must feel to have been grabbed that way without consent, to be treated as a sexual object.
Then it slowly came over me… I DID know EXACTLY how it felt… and the thought popped into my head, “this happened to me.” I was surprised by the thought, and confused, until the memory came flooding back… it was foggy at first, and in fragments, but I soon remembered every unwanted touch, and overwhelmed by the recollection sat on my bed and sobbed, diving deep into a crippling anxiety attack.
My husband was the first person I told. I don’t know why, but for some reason I was so scared to tell him. I thought he would be upset with me. I later recognized this fear as victim shame, which comes from ourselves as well as from outward sources. My husband was angry (downright furious actually), but obviously not at me. He showed me an outpouring of affection and understanding, helping me take that first step towards healing. (He did quickly begin to let go of that anger, and I’m so grateful for how hard he worked to forgive and forget so that we could both move on together).
As difficult as it was to tell my husband what I had remembered, telling my parents was like a knife in the heart.
A few days after my recollection, I called my mom and asked to talk to her and my dad together over speaker phone, mostly because I didn’t know how to talk to just my dad alone about it. How do you tell your dad something like that?
Thankfully both my parents are experts at what they do, and despite hearing the pain in their voices and the tears over the receiver that proved how emotionally raw they were in that moment, they were able to say the perfect things and emphasized their love for me, their confidence in my strength and ability to overcome, and that what happened wasn’t my fault.
I cannot express enough how instrumental my husband and parents were in my healing. So many nights of my husband simply holding me while I cried. Many long conversations with my parents about rediscovering my identity. The incredible patience of my husband during the long process of redefining our intimacy.
Once this hole in my life experience had been explained, I understood so much better the struggles I had gone through the past 3 years. Despite not remembering what happened, my mind, body, and spirit suffered consequences.
Healing wasn’t just about overcoming the newly refreshed wounds of being touched without consent, it was about identifying the ways I had been effected, and unraveling my sense of identify from the deep rooted feelings of shame and unworthiness I didn’t know I had been harboring.
A strong support system was vital. And I’m grateful I had one readily available to me. Part of me wonders if that is why my mind kept this from me for three years. Perhaps it protected me until my relationship with my husband was matured enough to shoulder the weight of such a blow. I do not know the reasons, but I am grateful my husband and loving parents were and are there for me. They created a support system that not only carried me through the pain, but also lifted me higher to a place I’d never been before, leaving me stronger and much wiser.