Sunday, 22 April 2012


This blog has been inspired by two things that I separately realised recently that have coalesced to cause me to need to write.  When I need to write, it’s to get something out that’s been on my mind, that I need to be done with, to get out, which by getting out, gives me some peace.  Unfortunately both are about work.  But also not about work.

Control is important to me, it always has been.  I’ve always referred to myself as a control freak, writing my lists and ensuring that the outcomes of endeavours were always as I set out for them to be.  It made me a conscientious student and worker, it gave me a feeling of comfort, knowing that I was succeeding, knowing I was in charge of that, in control of my destiny. 

I play around with control, to an extent, in my private life.  It’s a relief, sometimes, to let go, to totally acquiesce control to someone else, within certain agreed parameters, for a moment in time – and this is the critical thing - on my terms.  It takes a certain special type of person, of relationship, of trust, that we’ve built up over time between us, for me to give over that control.  But when I can, it’s a beautiful thing.  And brings so much peace.  The world becomes still, calm, tranquil.

Aside from those few times, not being in control has always made me feel stress.  It always has, whether at school, at work, at home, wherever.  The need to be in control, and the effects of not being in control, they haven’t really changed. Except, that now, when I feel stress I feel out of control, to the extent that I feel panic.  Lately at work, I have been feeling the kind of stress where I feel panicked.  And when everyday, day to day, stress tips into panic, that’s a problem. 

I’ve already connected the need not to feel stress to ensuring that I don’t suffer post-traumatic nightmares which then result in insomnia (because I am afraid of falling asleep in case I get the nightmares), which then result in tiredness, leading to inability to stave off depression on a downward spiral I always struggle to break free of.  But, this week, I had a ‘doh’ lightbulb moment.  I am feeling panicked because I am somehow connecting the feelings of being out of control to how I felt when that control was wrested from me against my will.  Simply put, any stress is causing me to feel panicked because my brain is taking me back to the rape.  It might just be work, it might be entirely safe, but my brain at its basest level isn’t making the distinction and isn’t processing that the two are very different.

This makes me extremely angry.  The rape has effectively, if only for a period, I hope this will get better, made me unable to do my job to the best of my ability.  Back when it was only about a year afterwards, I lost my job, because of the rape.  My boss at the time said it was because the rape had made me lose my resilience, and she couldn’t rely on me anymore.  I successfully negotiated better leaving terms because she had no right to discriminate against me based on what had happened to me, but I’ve often wondered if she was right.  I’m not as resilient.  Not at the stuff that matters at work, like coping with a normal amount of stress. 

[I think in life terms, I’m incredibly resilient.  I continue to live, to get up each day, and when I fall, to put myself back together.  But that’s not what other people see.  Professionally, that’s not what matters, it’s not what people see].

The other thing that happened is that a friend mentioned that it was my choice to work this weekend.  I’ve been very much resenting work, that this week I’d vowed to myself that I would get my life back in balance – and I couldn’t achieve it.  I didn’t think it was my choice to work this weekend, I felt very much that the work needed doing, that if I didn’t do it, I would feel the stress again – and I realised this morning, that I was getting stressed about getting stressed…  Winding myself up into having to work in an attempt to avoid being stressed later. 

So, I’ve done a little work, but not a lot.  I know that tomorrow I will feel out of control, I will feel stressed, I will feel panicked.  I hope I’ll catch myself in time, before the panic sets in, and remind myself that it’s just work and it’s not the place where I was 4 years ago. 

But I am starting to wonder if perhaps I shouldn’t go back to therapy, not to talk about rape, but to talk about stress, and control, and how I manage both.  Therapy of course scares me, because the point of therapy is to wrest control…  And the danger of therapy is that it brings everything back so much closer to the surface and makes maintaining the illusion of sanity that much harder to negotiate everyday.  So, I’m not saying I’m going to do it tomorrow.  I’ve learnt over the last few years that some therapy works, some doesn’t and the right person is very important, more so than the type of therapy.  But I promise you, I’ll give it some thought and I’ll find the right person.  It may have been 4 years, but there’s a long way to go.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Four Years Ago

It was four years ago.  Why do I have to remember the date?  It’s like a fearful milestone looming, I get worked up in advance, anticipating something horrible.  It’s only a date, another day.  And it’s not like it’s the only day in the year when I remember, I wish it were.  If I ever get to the point when I only remember on the anniversary of it happening, that will be so wonderful.  But, it’s something that I think of every day.  Every day.  Every. Day.  Sometimes I wake up and it’s my first thought of the day.  Sometimes, it’s been in my dreams, my nightmares.  Sometimes, I’m lucky, and I won’t remember until I’m on the train to work, or even in a meeting.  I really don’t think, in all the 4 years, the 1,461 days since it happened, I don’t think I’ve ever got past lunchtime without thinking about it.  So, why does the anniversary matter so much?  Why does the date it happened still have so much power?

Some people say, don’t mark it, don’t make it into a big deal.  But those are the lucky people who don’t know.  Other people, the unlucky ones who do know, they understand.  It’s a big deal because it’s impossible for it not to be.  This year I decided to let it be what it wanted to be, and not try to be anything else.  Previous years, I have tried to ignore it, to keep going.  And the pressure of that, of being around people, being part of the world, it’s taken its toll.  Two years ago, I took a lot of drugs and drank a lot, just to get through the night.  Last year I got so worked up in advance, felt numb during the day and compensated by spending most of the summer months coping by cutting.  Last year there were other factors too, but this year I am not allowing myself to break – I’ve felt broken so many times, that I am simply so tired of putting myself back together.  So, I’m giving myself today, this week if needs be, and then I will be OK again.  I hope.

And I have been thinking about why it’s important, anyway, to mark the date.  If a loved one dies, you remember.  You pause, you remember the person who you lost, what they meant to you, and you honour them.  The rape changed me.  I am unrecognisable to myself in so many ways now that I was then.  Of course, some of that is just the passing of time, of being 4 years older.  But it isn’t just me that changed.  The world changed too.  There was me before the rape.  There was a different world before the rape.  I think back on the girl then and I try to remember her, to find again some of that spirit, that positivity, that pure belief that I used to have that everything was going to be alright in the end.  I won’t say part of me died.  But I did change.  There’s a picture of me hanging above my bed, it was taken about 6 months before.   I keep her there, not because I’m narcissistic and I like having a half-naked picture of myself hanging above my bed (although I do), I keep her there because she’s a stranger to me now, she’s smiling with such promise, such saucy innocence, I like to remember that she used to be me, I used to be her.

Today I’m not cutting, I’m not doing drugs.  I’m eating probably more than is healthy and there’s a litre of chocolate milk that isn’t going to last much longer, and I might open a bottle of wine tonight.  But, the point is, I’m doing better this year, I’ve been doing better.  A friend (who unfortunately knows) tells me that one day there will be a day when I won’t think of it, and I know I’m getting better.  I’ve survived for four years.  1,461 days have passed and I am still here.  It’s not an exaggeration to say there were times when that didn’t seem likely.   Some days are harder than others, I need to learn how to manage stress better because stress of any kind seems to be a trigger for nightmares, insomnia, panic attacks.  But I’m getting better at coping during those times, learning how to take the time out to heal myself, and those times are getting fewer and further between. 

Slowly, one day at a time, sometimes a step forward and two steps back, but overall, a forward trajectory, slowly, I am getting stronger, I am learning to cope.  I’m rebuilding.  And quite honestly, when I’m done, you won’t be clicking on a link to some blog written through tears, you’ll hear my voice, loud and clear, shouting it from the rooftops.  Rape happens and it shouldn’t.  The fact it is taboo to talk about it stinks.  The fact that I am fearful of people at work knowing, in case they judge me, and think it was my fault, or that I am weak.  When it wasn’t my fault, because rape can only ever be the rapist’s fault.  And I’m not weak, because I am still here.  But, I’m a hypocrite, and rape makes me angry and I want to yell and scream about it, personally force society and everyone in it to readdress their misconceptions about rape and rape victims, but I don’t.  I stay quiet, in the real world, where it matters.  When I am done rebuilding, I won’t be quiet.  And you will hear me.