Twenty years is a very long time to live with and hide a pain that never seems to heal or go away. You think you can bury it, just pretend it didn’t happen but it always seems to dig it’s way out and manifest in so many other ways and in so many other aspects of your life. Twenty years ago someone I loved hurt me, deeply. It wasn’t the first time he’d hurt me, he would hit me quite often. He’d tell me how fat I was, how disgusting I was, how repulsive I was and how no one would ever love me, it’s amazing what you learn to live with. So for the last twenty years I’ve been learning to deal with it, hide it, bury it whatever I could do to just survive the day and after awhile I felt like I was doing it. I had good days where it never even crossed my mind and then some not so good days where it would rear it’s ugly head. Then the bad days would hit, days where I couldn’t stop crying or couldn’t even get out of bed. Every time I looked in the mirror I saw everything he said I was. There was a very fat, unhappy severely depressed woman who just wanted death to come steal her away in the night. The harder I tried to be strong the weaker I became. I let this event shape who I was even though I swore I wouldn’t let it.
I have been in therapy on and off for almost 10 yrs, but consistently over the last 3 and half of those years. I’ve mentioned this event to my therapist but followed it up with a stern “I do not want to talk about it” so instead we discussed my daily life, my daily issue’s, my anxiety disorder and my depression. We’d talk about my manic days and my calm days. We’d discuss my suicidal thoughts and my anger in great lengths but never never the rape. Then one day a few weeks ago (after a couple of manic days followed by a deeper depression that left me exhausted) I walked into her office and said “After 3 1/2 years here I shouldn’t still be feeling like this…going through this.” Her eye’s widened and she said to me “Shannon.. I’ve been waiting for you to say that. To get to that point that you were tired enough of running and burying and denying that you were at a point where you could finally see you have to deal with this. You are exhausted mentally and physically and you need to stop running from it”. I couldn’t argue with her because what she was saying was the truth. I was exhausted. I am exhausted. My body is running down because of it and it was time. So I agreed to start intensive therapy with her, meaning a meeting every week until God only knows when. I was so anxious about it that I broke out in several fever blisters, I lost sleep, hell I even threw up in the Target parking lot that day after I left her office. I have become so used to running from this the mere thought of actually facing it and talking about it I just lost it.
The day arrived for my first session on August 12 of this year. She asked some deep questions that I had a very hard time answering. Questions about myself and my early childhood. Things that would help her and me to see why I ended up in a situation where this happened to me. My first homework assignment was to write a letter explaining why I thought this traumatic experience happened to me and how it affected me in my daily life now. This was extremely hard to write because I had to really look into who I was to answer these questions. I’m going to copy and paste excerpts out of my letter truly laying my most private and internal thoughts on the table for all to see. I’m doing this because I’m hoping that maybe some day someone will read this and it will help them.
“My homework is to write why I think this traumatic even occurred. Well, there are a number of reasons why I think this occurred, but which one is correct? I guess that’s what I’m here to find out. I remember growing up and always feeling angry, left out. Like the world was playing a joke on me and I was the only one who didn’t know it. I honestly don’t know why I’ve always felt this way, or when it even started. I was born into an average family, the youngest of 4. We had the same mom and dad and they were married, so it wasn’t as if I came from a “broken” home. Yet, I still always felt tarnished, dirty, unworthy.”
“Bill and his friend Tony were in there shooting pool and the instant I saw him something inside me woke up. I don’t know what it was about him; he wasn’t the greatest looking guy I’d ever seen. He wasn’t wealthy or even really educated. He was as common as common could be. From the moment we got together there was such a deep and intense connection for me to him, something I had never had before. It was like everything that I had ever looked for to fill those voids in me were in him.”
“On that fateful day in July I came home from an evening tryst with Mike to find Bill actually at home. He’d been gone that time for a week or so, so it was completely shocking to find him home. I remember walking in and seeing him and instantly feeling several things. I was shocked to see him, suddenly feeling guilty for cheating on him, scared to death I was going to be found out and almost empowered by my secret. I muttered something to him as I walked into the kitchen. I didn’t want to face him for fear my expression would give away my lies. I felt him walk up behind me when he asked me “What were you out doing”. It was in this moment that I made the wrong choice… I knew what I was about to say would set him off, but honestly part of me (a big part) wanted to set him off. I had been hurt for so long by him I wanted to hurt him. He was supposed to love me till death do us part, not a month then decide he was repulsed by me after that. He was supposed to protect me, not hurt me, to be my friend, not my enemy. He was none of the things he was supposed to be to me and I wanted to hurt him for it. I wanted validation to leave him, even though looking back I can see I had validation months before this point. I don’t know what kept me there for so long. I could have left at any moment but I always felt as though I had to stay. If I walked away it would be my fault that my marriage failed and not only would I be fat and repulsive but a failure to boot. So I replied “The exact same thing YOU go out and do all the time”. That set off a rage in him I had never seen before. … One I would grow to be scarred from both physically and mentally for the rest of my life.”
“What have I been thinking about this event.. I think that if I had not been so insecure and stubborn none of this would have happened. Maybe if I had (or would feel) like I deserved better in this life the outcome would have been and would be so different now. I know that this particular event has affected every aspect of my life, from relationships to self-worth. I find myself believing that I do not deserve happiness. That my life has been cursed and because I am fat and repulsive I am never meant to find happiness, peace… acceptance. I am in constant fear of being viewed as weak that I won’t let myself be open to anyone. I have built walls around my heart so that no one can hurt me. Maybe this is why I’ve never felt the same way about anyone else? Always keeping them at arm’s length away so that they don’t see the true Shannon, the one who is ugly from the inside out. I find that I cannot trust anyone 100%, I’m lucky if I trust them 50%.”
I was supposed to write about how it affects different things in my life like control. On this particular point I cannot copy and post it because it has things in it that are dealing with my current husband and in respect to him I will not post it. I will say that because of this I fight constantly for complete control of every aspect of my life, from my kids to money to sex to everything.
“Safety. Well some would say that even with all that I’ve been through I still have no regard for my personal safety. If someone threatens me I will never NEVER back down. Do your worst, I’ve already lived through hell. Now saying that I don’t agree with them because I won’t purposely put myself in harm’s way anymore. I find that the older I am getting the less I will do things on my own. I used to love getting in my car and taking long un-routed drives on Sundays. Go where ever the wind blows me and find new things to see or do, but now I find that I find reasons to not go. I’m becoming to worried and scared to go on my own. I won’t even go to the mall by myself at night because of it. It’s like I went from being 10 feet tall and bullet proof to 80 years old with brittle bones fearing the slightest fall. “
“Intimacy. This is a tough one for me. I have never been faithful to any person I’ve ever been with. Ever. For some reason I’ve always had to have a “fall back guy”. Of course it was usually the same guy up until he died a few years ago, if that makes any difference, I don’t know. I find that I crave sex, I honestly can’t get enough of it. But rarely do I feel satisfied and often feel like even more is missing afterwards. With my husband now it is different than it has been; or rather I should say it was different. But lately with his issue’s and my issue’s I’m finding that I’m back to wanting something different. I have to fight the urge to find someone on the side almost daily now. There has always been emptiness within me that no matter how hard I have tried I cannot fill it with sex. I thought that finally finding someone to love and who loves me (and I do believe in my heart he does love me) that would change. But it hasn’t. I don’t’ know why I always feel the need to have “approval” of other men and why the approval of the one is never enough. It drives me insane sometimes trying to figure it all out. I also find that sometimes, even though I am completely aroused and wanting sex the minute it starts I am instantly out of the mood and do not want it. I kinda check out mentally until it is over. I don’t’ let on to my husband about this but I know there have been times he’s felt that I really wasn’t there.”
This was the letter I had to write… and then I had to face the real me. It’s hard to read these things about me. It’s hard to walk around feeling like a failure every day of my life and honestly I just don’t want to anymore. I am planning on writing about every session.. and hopefully when I get to the other side of this journey… I’ll have a better understanding of me, and a true acceptance of who I am. Hopefully by going through this I will at last find peace and happiness.
I also wanted to say that rape is not just a stranger who decides to violate someone else. It’s not only a friend who decided to show his/her true colors. It doesn’t only happen if you sit your drink down and someone puts a drug in it. Sometimes its your husband or your wife. Sometimes it’s the person who was supposed to love you most in this world. All rape is a horrendous crime but when it’s someone you live with, someone who can do it whenever they feel like it because they feel you are their spouse and they own you and no isn’t really no, it makes life so unbearable that death begins to sound better.
Here is the number to the National Sexual Assault Hotline..
National Sexual Assault Hotline – 1.800.656.HOPE
If you have been sexually assaulted, even if your not sure because you might have started it, or your married to your attacker and by being married you think it’s not rape.. please call them. There is help.. and even if you are married… NO MEANS NO!