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.