As you can probably guess, there’s a ton of triggers in this post. For those who don’t believe me or think that it couldn’t possible be that bad, it probably is. You’ve been warned.
People have a strange fascination with survivors. There’s something so…extreme about us. Of knowing that we survived in the face of events that most people can’t even imagine.
This June, the Carnival of Aces prompt is Mental Health. I’ve been really struggling with this one. I must have at least 5 drafts of different things I could say about mental health, the intersectionality of my sexuality and my experiences, and being a survivor of multiple sexual assaults and childhood abuse.
I could discuss how it took years before I could look at myself in the mirror without wanting to punch my reflection. I could talk about how I had an eating disorder and that I’ve suffered two nervous breakdowns since I was 15. Perhaps I could talk about my suicide attempts and how being pregnant and then giving my son up for adoption was the worst kind of hell I’ve ever experienced.
I could talk about those things, but I’m not going to.
Because I’ve talked about them before. To friends, to family, to strangers. I’ve talked about it —screamed about it— until I was nothing more than a bloody mess inside my mind. I’ve begged for help. I’ve discussed things rationally. I’ve offered solutions and told people what I need. I’ve yelled, and ranted, and explained, and discussed for So. Very. Long.
Right now, I’m 24. In my life, I’ve been raped by 3 different people, molested by 4 more, and fought off more advances than I care to think about. And no one believes it. People look at me, with my smiles, and jokes, and my child-like face, and they think, ‘Nah…not her. It couldn’t possibly happen to her.’
And I’m not going to talk about it anymore.
I’m not going to talk about how my heart thuds so impossibly fast every time someone yells around me because They used to yell and hit me.
I’m not going to talk about how there’s this ugly side of me that dares me to tell well-meaning allies every gory detail of my assaults when one of them asks me —yet again— what it was like and that I was so brave and that I’m so normal now it’s hard to believe I went through that! Oh, and do I have any proof??
I’m not going to talk about how I feel like a piece of disgusting garbage every time I have sex. I’m not going to talk about how I can’t look at people’s faces when I have sex because sometimes, not always but sometimes, I see the faces of my attackers looking back at me.
I’m not going to talk about how “What was your first time like?” is a loaded question. I’m not going to talk about how it felt to live every day like you didn’t belong, like you were damned for just breathing. I’m not going to talk about being called a whore or a slut when I tried to tell people I was raped. I’m not going to talk about how I prayed that I’d just make things easier for everyone and die.
And most of all, I’m not going to talk about the nightmares. I’m not going to talk about the times when I wake up screaming, or paralyzed with fear and self-loathing. I’m not going to talk about how I bite my lip so hard that it bleeds just so that my dad doesn’t realize that I had another bad dream.
I can’t talk about it because, sometimes, letting go is the only thing you can do. Because as much as I would like to help, I can’t go back to that place; relive those memories; regress to that person. I can’t and I’m not going to.
Should there be discussion about sexual assault, rape culture, and survivors? Yes. To the thousand power, yes.
Am I going to be someone who can talk about it? No. No, I’m not.
Some might think that’s a chicken-shit answer, and perhaps it is, but I’m protecting myself when I say that. I’m protecting myself from the memories and the darkness and the nightmares. I’m protecting myself from the video in my mind that plays over and over again with different faces and names, but the same result. I’m protecting myself the way I couldn’t protect myself during the assault, rather than cutting my inner self to ribbons.
And, in this discussion of mental health, asexuals, rape, and the intersectionality of it all, that should be okay too.