The Aftermath

WARNING – do not read if you have experienced sexual assault, suicide attempt, or someone close to you has attempted/committed suicide. I go into very triggering detail about all these things.

I told no one. I refused to believe what had happened. I fought my hardest. It didn’t make a difference. I told absolutely no one. Until after.

It wasn’t until day five of residential treatment that I wrote out what happened on a whim. I wanted to make sure, before anyone knew anything, that what I think happened really happened. I was shaking as I walked back into the treatment room, and one of the girls asked if I was okay.

“I think I’ve been raped.”

It took me a month to say those words. A month of suppressing the nightmares, needing both dogs in my bed before I could sleep, locking every door behind me, and not caring who I gave the right to touch me because my body was no longer mine. It was no longer clean. But being touched meant I was loved, I was still attractive, I meant something to somebody. It was an escape from the pain, a release, an addiction. My words to my rapist show how completely lost and how much I had given up. “If you’re not going to stop, you might as well get on top”. I had already started writing my letters, yet I had no date or plan in mind. I just wanted to be prepared.

My rapist held me during my panic attack after the rape. And every time someone tries to comfort me, I’m reminded of that. Being touched does not mean you are loved, it means there are ulterior motives. Sex does not equal love, it equals being used. Providing comfort does not mean you are loved, it means they want something from you. They don’t see you, they see what you can give them. You are nothing, you are trash. So, I hold people at arm’s length by telling them how broken I am, how defective my body and mind are. I dislocate, I can’t control my emotions, I throw up, I disassociate, I hallucinate, I am not worth being touched. I am not worth your time and effort.

“It’s okay, just breathe” he told me after he raped me. He got me a water bottle and walked me to my car. I don’t remember the drive home or what I did when I got home. I told myself I was just being dramatic.

I lived with this secret for a month. I did not mention it in my letters. I truly believed that what I was doing would be better for everyone. I wanted to stop being hospitalized, to stop seeing the pain in my mom’s eyes every time she looked at me. Because I wasn’t worth it. I am nothing, I am trash.

I’ve had suicide attempts before. But never like this. I didn’t think I was capable of this.

Handfuls and handfuls and handfuls. So many empty bottles. Crawling across the floor to turn on my fan. I miss the outlet and leave scratches on the wall. I crawl back into bed. Cuddle up to my dog. My chest felt funny. I felt my heart skip a beat. Then two. Then black.

I remember ripping the wires off my chest. Being angry. Then watching the boy I had been dating walk into the room. I remember feeling his fingers in my hair until I fell asleep.

I spent five days in the ICU, nine in the psych ward, and forty-nine in residential treatment in Arizona. But the real work starts now. I’m finally no longer numb to the world. I’m having to deal with my feelings. I’m fighting back.

But it’s not pretty. Recovering from a suicide attempt is not easy, nor is it a straight line. I’ve had suicidal thoughts since then. I’ve tried to self-harm since then. I’ve had to be held down to stop from scratching myself, and several times my meds have been locked up in a lockbox where my boyfriend is the only one with a key. But my therapist has impressed upon me, multiple times, that it does not make me a recovery failure. Instead of acting on my urges, I’ve reached out for help before I take any action shows how brave I am and displays my commitment to recovery.

I’ve started EMDR therapy. My therapist and I have uncovered a number of traumatic memories, from falling down the stairs at age six and no one hearing my cries to the two rapes. From big textbook trauma to the little life experiences that alter your view of the world for the worse, I’m going to be tackling all of them. In order to recover, I have to. Recovery isn’t about a path, you do this then you do this then you’re all better. It’s a state of constant flux, and balance is always a struggle to maintain. A preschooler’s dizzying line of scribbles depicts the path you will take to recovery. Its “oh look how well you’re doing, no suicidal thoughts in three months!” to “oh shit we need to go back to the hospital”. It’s easy to get disheartened. It’s easy to want to give up when you’re working your ass off and you’re making no progress. But you are making progress. With each group, each therapy session, each program meeting, you learn something new. And you learn to keep going.

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