I’m only happy when it rains. You wanna hear about my new obsession? I’m riding high upon a deep depression. I’m only happy when it rains.I’m Only Happy When It Rains – Garbage
Tuesday, I had a therapy session that sparked a small revelation for me. I probably sound like a broken record but the experience of running into JJ has really knocked me off balance and since then I haven’t quite been able to shake the shame, guilt, and feeling of punishment surrounding the assault. It’s bringing up a lot of other emotions around past experiences as well.
My therapist brought up an interesting analogy to help me work through this situation. But before I get into explaining the analogy, I have to give you all some background. Hang on with me, this is going to be a long, heavy post but there is an incredible point at the end of it all!
Story #1: The assault with JJ was my second sexual assault experience (I may have briefly mentioned that before). The first experience happened my first semester of my freshman year of college. I had just dealt with the devastation of first love heartbreak – a relationship totally destroyed by alcohol on both our parts. My solution was to continue to drink heavily, I started hurting myself, and I was splitting my time up between three different guys. Safe to say, my reputation wasn’t the best and my self esteem was nonexistent. I wasn’t handling heartbreak very well and I liked the attention.
In the midst of my irrational behavior, I met Aaron through a mutual friend and we quickly developed crushes on each other. But, he was an extremely possessive, controlling and jealous friend. We fought a lot because of it and it was a main reason why I never wanted to pursue a relationship with him. One minute, he would tell me all the reasons why I shouldn’t be hanging out with a certain friend or telling me what outfits I didn’t look good in to flirting with me, complimenting me, and joking around with me the next minute. I never knew which version of Aaron I was going to get on any given day. If he was that jealous, controlling and possessive as a friend then I couldn’t imagine how he would be as a boyfriend. But, I minimized a lot of his behavior because I knew my own behavior wasn’t exactly the best.
One night he and his best friend came to hang out with me and my best friend in my dorm room. We were all having a good time but that night he was being more touchy feely then I was comfortable with. His friend “decided to head out” and my friend said she felt weird like a third wheel and wanted to leave despite me begging her to stay so that Aaron would leave instead.
Being alone in my dorm with Aaron, I wasn’t comfortable but he was my friend and even though our friendship was complicated, I didn’t think I was in danger. That is, until us talking turned into him kissing me. I moved back slightly and I told him I wasn’t sure how I felt about what was happening. He told me that everything was ok and kissed me again. When the kissing and touching became more aggressive, I told him I really didn’t feel comfortable and that I wanted him to stop. Again, he told me everything was ok. I tried to get up off the bed. I told him no, that I didn’t want to go any further with him. He grabbed me by the arm so tight that he left marks. The experience that followed was forceful and degrading. Afterwards, I was laying down facing away from him, tears in my eyes. I asked him to turn off all the lights before he left and I was expecting to hear the door shut behind him but he didn’t leave. Instead, he laid down on the bed next to me, gently rolled me over and held me. He told me again that everything was ok. It didn’t feel ok. I didn’t feel ok. I was confused, upset, hurt, and unsure of what it all meant. I woke up the next morning and he was gone.
After that night, he was plain cruel to me whenever I saw him. We never talked about it with each other although rumors spread and my reputation totally tanked. When I did finally tell someone, they told me it was my fault because I had a crush on him which led him on. They said it was my fault that I stayed in the room instead of leaving myself or kicking him out and I believed them.
Story #2: My dad died at 26 two months after my first birthday and from the age of 5 and 1/2 on, I was not raised by the woman who gave birth to me. She took me to live with my dad’s mom (who I’ve called mom my entire life and who is the mom I mention in this blog). My mother told her “you take her, I can’t deal with this anymore.” Nice, right? I haven’t mentioned her before but this relationship is important to the revelation I had with my therapist so here we go. My Mother (yes, I know, very Bates Motel) is not a nice person. She is manipulative, selfish, delusional, and a pathological liar. My entire life until I was in my early 20s, we had an extremely strained and complicated relationship.
Living with her wasn’t a safe or an appropriate environment for a child. Right from the word go, things were wrong. I was unplanned, my mother was 19/20 and not ready to be a parent (hell, she’s almost 50 and still not ready to be a parent). I was born 4 months early, weighing only 1 pound 4 1/2 ounces. I was born addicted as she drank, smoked, and did drugs during her pregnancy (gives a little more insight into my propensity to have an issue with alcohol right?). Most of my organs were underdeveloped and if it hadn’t been for surgery, I would be completely blind in my right eye and partially blind in my left eye. Despite the insane and tremendous difficulties I faced in infancy, I beat the odds and survived.
But living with my mother wasn’t easy. She used to tell me my memories were not real. She would tell me I made them up, dreamed them up, or got them confused. She would ask me things like “Why would you say that? You don’t want to hurt mommy, do you?” Seriously psychologically fucked up shit. I saw her in sexual situations and she would tell me about her sexual experiences when I was as young as 3 years old because according to her, I understood her. Suffice to say, I had a very warped idea of sex and sexuality up until quite recently. She told me that my dad’s side of my family brainwashed me and that my father, who I never had the opportunity to know before he died, didn’t love or care about me. There are many more fucked up aspects of the insanity I experienced with her but you get the picture. Good news is around 2012, I cut all communication with her although she still tries sometimes. I swear someday, I will write a book about it all.
So, the reason why I brought up these two people is because of the conversation I had with my therapist. I’ve had this reoccurring message my whole life that I’m wrong/a bad person, and that I deserved all of the bad experiences that happened. Logically, I know that’s not true but emotionally it’s more complicated. My body holds onto these emotions and feelings as truth. I was discussing this with my therapist and she presented me with the two doors.
Behind the first door is the chaos from the assault with JJ, the assault with Aaron, and the relationship with my mother (there’s more but these are the main focus at the moment). Through that door I hear things like:
There was something wrong with me because my mother didn’t care for me or keep me safe.
My mother abandoned me because she “couldn’t do this anymore”. She couldn’t deal with me.
She didn’t want me but had another child later on so there must be something wrong with me.
She literally told me my memories aren’t real, that I made them up and that I was wrong.
I did have a crush on Aaron, so I guess I did lead him on.
Aaron kept telling me everything was ok so I must be wrong. I must have misunderstood or overreacted. I shouldn’t have been so stupid.
I handled situations poorly and immaturely in the past before the assault with JJ. So, it finally caught up to me.
I got punished. I deserved what happened with JJ because I was wrong.
Now, behind the second door, I hear answers to the question, what do I know to be true?
My mother’s inability to care for me or keep me safe is no reflection of me. It’s a reflection of her character.
My mother had her own struggles and difficulties. I was a child. If she couldn’t deal with the responsibility of being a parent then that was on her.
There is nothing I did or didn’t do that had any influence on her decisions. The fact that she left and had another child had nothing to do with me.
My memories are real. Her saying they aren’t or saying things like “you don’t want to hurt mommy, do you?” is manipulative.
Just because I had a crush on Aaron, doesn’t mean I owed him anything.
I told Aaron I wanted him to stop. I told him no. No is a complete sentence and what he did was wrong.
JJ was wrong. His decision to rape me was his decision and has nothing to do with how much I drank or how I handled situations especially those that never had anything to do with him.
There is no justification for JJ’s actions. He took advantage of me, manipulated me, bullied me, and used guilt and shame against me.
Writing all of this down helps tremendously and was an extremely eye opening exercise for me. But I still have a lot of work to do. I’m still wavering. Rose, my incredible acupuncturist, asked me a question during our session the other day. She’s been reading a book called, The Tao of Trauma by Alaine Dunkin and a question asked of a person who experienced trauma is “do you know you survived?” This question hit me like a damn train. Digging deeper, another question to ask myself is “do you know that you deserved to survive?” Well, right now, I can’t answer either question fully or with certainty. There’s more exploring to do within myself and the only way I will be able to answer those questions is through some serious healing work.
Healing, for me, is more scary than the dark chaos I am trying to heal from because it means venturing into the unknown and leaving the comfortable and familiar chaos. Going back to the door analogy, door #2 is where healing is found. Through that door is a world full of possibility, clarity, strength, hope, healing and light. It’s what I know to be true about myself and my life now. It’s safe, grounded, and stable. Whereas, door number one is basically trying to make sense out of situations that don’t make sense. I’m Only Happy When It Rains by Garbage plays on repeat and piled up sky high like trash in a hoarders home is nothing but hurt, pain, twisted lies, negative thoughts, and chaos.
However, healing is also extremely empowering! I have to remind myself constantly that I am kicking ass in one of the biggest healing experiences of my life – sobriety. Hell, if I wasn’t sober there would be no way on Earth I would be discussing all of this. I certaintly wouldn’t be asking myself, what do I know to be true? And when I think about the growth I’ve experienced already due to sobriety, I truly feel unstoppable. I smashed through door #2 like the damn kool-aid man when it came to figuring out sobriety and what I knew to be true about my drinking. So, I know that I can do the same thing with other areas of my life. I know I need to be patient with myself and tackle the tunnel of trauma piece by piece. I know that I am capable, strong, and determined. And I know that all of it is going to be worth it in the end.