Biography / Coping / Rape / Survival

In Shadow

In daily life, I’m doing alright. I have a pretty prestigious job, even if it doesn’t pay what I’d like. I recently earned a master’s degree in counseling. I came through a very stressful year that included a cancer scare, a layoff and six months unemployment to find myself on a whole new career track full of possibilities and truly unexpected privileges. It’s not a job in the field I studied, but I volunteer after work to keep my toes in that pond, too. I live with my girlfriend, who really is more than I deserve to have. She is my best friend, my true believer and my kick in the pants when I sorely need one. My parents have always been loving and I’ve never doubted their love.

Yes, I’m doing pretty well.

Except. Except…

I’m haunted by these things now, though I wasn’t always. I’m haunted now because the wall I’d so carefully built between them and my daily life is being chipped and pried apart. It’s crumbling now under the weight of the volunteer work I’ve been doing with other survivors of sexual assault, and the longer I work with them to find their ways out of the shadows, the harder it is for me to keep the wall from falling down around me.

As the wall falls, the haunting shadows merge with the daylight on my side of the wall. I’ve noticed changes. Things I tolerated before I can’t anymore. Things that never bothered me trigger me now. And I obsess…

Because I am a counselor, I’ve sought out the help of one. I’ve started speaking with her regularly about what I’ve been through, and what perhaps I will need to go through to make the hauntings end.

This blog is about all this. About what was and what I want to be, about how I got to this point and how I go forward. It’s about what rape is and what it does to a person. About how we learn to survive and how we hold ourselves back, sometimes even more effectively than others would hold us back. And it’s about the things that make me feel shame, because that is the one thing that threatens to keep me in the shadow more than anything else.

I’ve had enough of shame. Shame only flourishes in the dark and in secrecy. So be done with it.

This is how I begin.


4 thoughts on “In Shadow

  1. Wow. I just came across and read your entire blog and it’s haunting how much I can relate to all of it, but especially this post. I’ve recently started volunteering and sharing my experiences publicly and on my blog and it’s been very therapeutic to not have to feel like I have this big secret I can’t talk about and to feel like something I do might help someone else in some way, but it also stirs up a lot of fresh triggers for me. The triggers have been especially difficult recently with rape being a prevalent news topic during the recent elections. I know I’m better off not clicking on every article I come across about rape but I do it anyways. My husband calls it picking a scab and creating fresh wounds, but sometimes it helps me gain a better understanding of something I have a really difficult time putting together in a logical way. I can completely relate to your desire to understand why. I’ve daydreamed many times about asking them why and if I ever came across them again I think I would, if I could get past being completely paralyzed with fear.

    I’ve talked about walls a lot with my therapist as well. I’ve built some very thick ones and have always thought of myself as a very strong survivor type (after 3 rapes, 2 lung surgeries, 3 cancer surgeries, and a very difficult pregnancy I’m like a poster child for survivoring), but behind that wall is a big gaping hole of sadness. I’ve always tried really hard to push through the sadness because I’m naturally a very positive person, but sometimes it can help to just embrace it for what it is, because it is really, extremely sad. But I don’t want to be sad all the time so my walls protect me.

    It’s very comforting for me to read other peoples stories and know I’m not alone because decades of silence can be very lonely. This is why I share my story. We’re not alone. Knowing this is simultaneously both comforting and extremely sad, and now I look at every person I meet and wonder who else is living with silence and sadness behind their walls too.

    • I’m truly humbled and I hardly know what to say. I find great comfort in knowing that simply by telling our stories, we help each other to heal. I think there is enormous power in one woman speaking her truth. In telling our stories, I am connected to you, and you to me, even though we do not know who each other is. This, to me, is an amazing and wondrous thing, something that gives me courage and warmth. Thank you for reaching out to me.

  2. Pingback: There’s a whole army of warriors behind this wall

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