Anniversaries are especially strange when they serve as permanent reminders for a part of you that you otherwise wish never existed.
Every time this month of the year rolls around, I know that it marks another tick for the past, and even with being able to genuinely say that I am getting better, it still doesn't depart from you. The date reminds me of the night specifically, but the year, the year is filled with constant triggers, reminding you that one night was not just one time.
After leaving a serious relationship and finally finding the interest to start dating again, I was hit with a new wave of how to deal with my PTSD. It's not easy trying to tell your partner that what happened to you eight years ago, trying to explain to them that something you had put so far back in your mental closet was brought to the surface by another, different man, and trying to explain how you are working on forgiveness while still dealing with the unexpected upset in your healing process. It's even harder to explain to someone, that for years, you spent them living in denial, pretending that that night had never even happened, and that it did not have any genuine affect on you as a person.
I stopped telling my partners about it and some never knew, ever, while some I waited for the right time to bring it up. Sometimes I have told them right off the bat so as not to waste either of our times. But most of the time, there never is a right time, it is sort of this awkward conversation where you're trying to explain something without seeking sympathy for it. Most reactions are as you'd expect: a loss of words, them wishing they could take it all back as if, and everything ending in swarming thoughts of, "how do I act around her now?" There's a misplaced pressure that ends up being endowed to the point that I have had to ask myself why it is that I feel the need to share this part of my past with them.
I think that it is part of my way of coming to reality with it all; it serves as the explanation for why I am still easily surprised and visibly "jumpy", for why I absolutely freak out in closed stairwells, for why I cannot find it in me to be intimate as often, for why I lock every door right behind me. It's the explanation for the bad days and the even worse nightmares. It's hard to say that I do not expect anything from gaining this knowledge, however I think that my reason for sharing it makes me want to know that they understand me fully. Even as I write this, I am still coming to the honest terms as to why I feel like I need to share this.
The part about the PTSD that I loathe the most is the jump to distrust that I place on males. Some of the first thoughts that fire away when triggered are 1) how am I going to escape, 2) what is this man capable of, and 3) what are his intentions. My anxiety spikes and I find myself trapped, freezing in the hopes that in that moment I will know what to do this time around. A man's size has stopped intimidating me, it is the looks that come from their eyes that shake my whole body. I pray that I'll find my voice before it's too late and that someone will hear and come help; I fear that someone will hear my scream and look the other direction.
While staying in a hotel room for an extended period of time, I noticed every week that there was a new crew of traveling road workers coming through. The interactions consist of them wanting to pet my dog, asking me vague questions that I have felt to be otherwise harmless, and taking long smoke breaks. The most recent group to come through has been the most off putting; at one point, one man asked me how I was doing every time he saw me, to which he would always respond to my response with, "praise jesus" and a grinning face. I have been eyed by a few others from their hotel window room and in the hallway from their doorways. Living in a key-card locked hotel room with two interior locks, I will admit that I feel safe once inside, but not until the top lock is set. One evening, I became so worried that I almost didn't leave the room, fearing that upon my return, something bad was going to take place. My mind races horribly in all the wrong directions, assuming these men are seeking something so awful, but I am reminded that my hair is long, my body is that of a woman's, and I do not give most people the sense of having much strength: natural, easy appeal.
Sometimes I want to convince myself that I am being irrational in the attempt to no longer justify my panic. But I am a hardcore believer in gut feelings and it is in moments like these that I am literally begging for it to be wrong. I hate assuming the worst in people because it alters the kindness that you can give to them that they honestly probably deserve.
I do wonder if there will be day, a day where that part of me goes silent for good. Does it come from self healing? Does it come in the form of a significant other who can learn how to love you? Does it happen if you can push it back into its closet and lock the doors? Is it going to be among the last memories that I feel before I leave this world? Will it follow me beyond this life? Why did this even happen....
I am not convinced that talking about it makes it better, but I do know that it at least doesn't make it worse. It's like the little scar that will be there forever, fading with time but stitched into your makeup forever.
I am not an activist, I do not try to dedicate my life to addressing this epidemic, because it will never go away. You see it in children, who throw fits when they do not get their way, when teenagers get into vicious fights over relationships, when adults can't understand when "it's over" means that it is over. Humans are powered by a natural desire that overcome rationality through actions; there will never be a time where rape does not exist. Someone will always want their way. I hate that our society has "rape culture" even built into it, it makes it feel glamorized, when women in other countries are being sexually mutilated and even sentenced to death for being a victim of rape. I hate that we are a first world country and we cannot get more control over how victims are handled, how their cases are investigated, how many rapists are still running around freely, like D.F.. while there are people rotting in jail for pot possession charges. It feels like it's making national attention but nothing is actually being done about it; we are just more aware of how often it occurs now and how often it had been occurring.
To D.F., I hope that your peace of mind is struck with the burden of the memory we unfortunately share. I hope that whatever woman ended up with you in life, that you know not to treat her the way that you treated me as a stranger. Most importantly, I hope that no other woman has had to suffer under the strength of your desires. It is my biggest regret that I internalized this instead of turning you in like you deserved. God I hope you carry some part of this with you every day, I hope something in you dies a little and that you don't know why, so that maybe you can begin to feel the burden of what you did to me. I have been reminded countless of times of how powerful forgiving you can be and there are moments where I do feel that I have started to let you go, but the memories that flood me, the nightmares you've given me, it's too hard to forgive you. Forgiveness towards you feels like accepting that what you did was okay.