What They Probably Haven’t Told You

Potentially triggering moments ahead, mentions of assaults, exams, and memories, so here is a picture of Gilda Catner if you need to stop here.

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It has been over a year since I was last assaulted. That alone for me is remarkable. In that year a lot has happened. I’ve been seeing a therapist regularly. I’ve been working the same job consistently. I’ve been to Harry Potter World (and isn’t that all that matters?). I’ve also been diagnosed with endometriosis. I’ve had surgery. I’ve had flashbacks. I’ve healed. I’ve learned, and in a lot of ways I’ve found tools to get out from under the pain of traumas.

To that end my therapist has celebrated with me as I’ve moved into what is genuinely a relatively stable place. I’m not healed. I’m not cured. But I am better. I can confidently tell you that I am constantly getting better. Flashbacks are fewer.

This all, to me, is incredible.

Now that society-at-large is starting to talk about sexual harassment and trauma, let’s talk about what no one is talking about. Hell, I haven’t been talking about it, because I didn’t know it was a thing. So let me tell you what I’ve learned to be a thing.

Mental and emotional damage is a big side effect of sexual assault. Lasting damage, and I am so glad we’ve reached the stage where people are getting the platform and space to speak about that. It’s important, and while heartbreaking, it is beautiful.

It’s safe to assume that some physical damage also comes with sexual assault. Bruises, tears, and some times worse, but often it’s relatively superficial physical damage. Or so I believed.

After months of searching, I finally found a new gynecologist. I was given the most thorough exam I’ve ever received, and with it some of the most needed patience. He explained every he did before he did. I was with him for at least 45 minutes, before he told me that he believed I had both bladder damage and damage to my hip muscle from the assaults, likely one within the last year based on how my pain has changed.

He sent me to a physical therapist who specializes in the pelvic floor, again something I did not know existed. When they handed me the pamphlet for it, it was described as for pre and post-natal treatment. The nurse told me that’s just what they call it, so don’t be intimidated.

A little over a month ago I started seeing my physical therapist, for what I refer to as “vag therapy.” She’s patient. She’s calm. She shows as much care to how my mind is doing as my brain therapist. If I don’t feel up to an internal treatment, she doesn’t even give it a second thought. If I don’t feel up to her touching me, she walks me through stretches that I do myself. This experience has been incredibly healing, but there’s something I really need you to understand.

When I first did my rape kit back in April of 2017, the nurse pointed out that I had hemorrhoids. Those were new. She noticed some mild damage, but she also explained that the same cell structure in your mouth that heals so quickly, is the same cell structure in vaginas, which is why they also heal quickly. Perhaps if I’d gone in the minute after it happened, she’d have seen other damage, but she didn’t tell me about the possibility of future problems. She didn’t even mention it.

When I went to see my physical therapist, she told me there wasn’t just damage, there’s a tear in one of the muscles in my pelvic floor that controls my hip. Not a strain. Not a kink. A tear. That tear then changes how I use my hip which pinches the nerves in my hip. This affects so much more of my life than I realized. It dictates whether or not it hurts to poop, or if I can poop. It can mean I pee more or less because of pain. It changes how I walk, because it’s not just about that muscle. Since it involves my nerves, sometimes there’s a searing pain in my foot, when I’ve done nothing differently. Sometimes I collapse in the middle of a grocery because I’ve been walking too long. Sometimes my head lilts to one side because the nerves are all bound up.

When I say it hurts, I’m understating. I’ll burn myself sitting on and resting under heating pads. I’ll lose sleep. I’ll cry uncontrollably to my boyfriend because I think the way this may be affecting his life is incredibly unfair to him. It determines whether or not I can attend something I was looking forward to. It can genuinely bring me to my knees.

The first time I met with my physical therapist, I got in the car and lost it. I started sobbing. I had, no, I have made so much progress in the last eight years, and in this last one specifically. I’m incredibly proud of how hard I’ve worked, how far I’ve come. I’ve cut out people who were detrimental to my growth, and in many ways deliberately working to undermine it. I’ve given myself tools to get through bad days. I’ve had less bad days. And yet, here I am.

I felt like I’d lost, again. In many ways, I still do. (For corn’s sake, it’s only been a month). These monsters have gone on with their lives, many feeling like they’ve done nothing wrong, some despite conversations. While I’ve begun to feel like every few months I have to start fighting this battle all over again. Like getting to the end of your five-hundredth meter in the pool and remembering just before your feet reach the bottom of the pool that you’re doing the 1,000. Just as you start to breathe relief, your splashed with the reality that this race is not over. It’s both exhausting and heartbreaking.

Hear me though. I am not telling you this for pity or sympathy or anything else. I don’t think I’m telling you for my own sake. Know that your friends who have suffered and survived, may not just be trying to get through mental blocks, and trust me that’s hard enough. Their bodies may also be fighting. Their bodies maybe fighting fights that the mind is not yet aware of.

It’s a long struggle. I know that, and I’ve seen people come and go with time as it weighs on them too. That seems like a dark place to leave, but as of this moment, I don’t know what all comes next. Just do me a favor, check on your survivor friends. Keep growing.

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Affirmation 4/24/18

What I know is that not everyone will be excited to see you growing and healing. I know that not everyone is going to be on your side. You have to keep fighting and growing anyway. They don’t like it because they don’t understand how you can continue to survive. Your survival is your own. Your survival cannot be dictated by anyone else. Each breath is your choice. Choose it for you.

I’m glad you’re here.

Affirmation 2/5/18

Friend, it’s okay to have a bad day, even a bunch of them. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed. You can’t demand consistency for yourself. Humanity is inconsistent. Be gracious with yourself. You’re so gracious with others. Remember that you too have value. Remember that you too are worthy of grace. Be patient with yourself. Healing takes time.

I’m glad you’re here.

Affirmation 2/1/18

Friend, you’ve come so far. You’ve grown. You’ve learned. You’ve healed. People will not always be happy for you for this. You’ve put in the work. You continue to work. Remember, you aren’t healing for them. You’re doing this because you want to, because you know you need to. That’s incredible.

I’m glad you’re here.

Affirmation 1/5/18

Friend, take all of the time you need. Your body is healing. Your heart is healing. Your mind is healing. They are also always learning and growing and changing. You are constantly moving in beautiful ways. You’re incredible.

I’m glad you’re here.

Adventure in Breaking/Mending

Eight weeks ago something happened. Six weeks ago something worse happened. One week ago more brush was shoved on the fire.

It’s not a new topic for me, especially in the last couple of years, but try as I might, try as others might, I won’t stop talking about it.

Eight weeks ago, between eating lunch and picking up a comic to take to his next city, I stopped at the home of a person I know. Someone I had spoken with regularly. Someone I considered a friend. In the course of less than half an hour, everything changed.

I was able to take myself out of the situation before it became desperate. But “no” wasn’t a viable answer. “This isn’t why I came over,” was also unaccepted. “I don’t want to redo my makeup” was a good reason. “I’m on my period” granted me enough space to get up and leave, but not enough space to have control to stop things.

I picked up the comic and went about my weekend.

Six weeks ago, I was feeling good. I met up with someone and lost complete control of the situation. I’ll continue to spare you details. I got home in the middle of the night, uncontrollably sobbing. I knew the right things to do. I knew to call the police. I knew not to shower. I knew those are the things you’re supposed to do. Another thing you should do, if you’re able, is take care of yourself, whatever that looks like. So I did. I showered. I took my clothes off. In that order.

I did something I haven’t done before though. I reached out to people immediately. Everyone was asleep, but in the morning so many people were affirming. So many people kept my mind safe. My dear friend, who is far away, encouraged me to go to the Sexual Assault Treatment Center. My dear friend, who is down the street, hugged me while I sobbed on him.

I called the Sexual Assault Treatment Center, because I didn’t know how it worked. She said to come in immediately. I asked, “Can I wait an hour? I have a job interview in 15 minutes.” She called me a toughie.

Throughout an hour-long job interview, I held it together. I needed this job. She asked how I handle stressful situations. I refrained from saying, “I haven’t cried once or given pause that something is wrong in this interview, have I?”

My dear friend, who hurried back from out of town, met me at the Sexual Assault Treatment Center. I met with a forensic nurse, a police detective, and a woman from victims assistance. I had a full exam done. I only cried once. She was kind. She was patient. She took my time, not hers. Some times when we interact with people who need kindness and patience, we offer them patience on our own time. She did not do this. She gave me time to breathe. She waited until I said okay. I know it’s her job to act this kindly with victims. We could all stand to work this kindly with everyone.

My dear friend waited in the lobby for two hours. Her phone died. She read every pamphlet. She waited on my time. She was kind. She is kind.

Another friend far away shared my assailants picture. He told the story. He checked with me and then told anyone who would listen. Profiles were removed. People were talking, in the best ways. He shared the truth, not the easy parts.

The next day I had a gynecological exam to get checked for my tumorous cysts. The nurse was kind. She talked to me about her own trial. The RN was not kind. She was cold and shaming. I scheduled another appointment for an ultrasound, because the RN didn’t believe me. It was five weeks later.

I stayed open. I kept talking. I asked for help, for company. I was granted this more times than I can explain. Food was brought to my home. Kindness after kindness.

Two weeks later I had a second interview for the same job. I hadn’t slept in four days. I was certain I wouldn’t get it. It was a terrible interview. I was exhausted. I was beaten. I was destroyed.

The next day I received a call from my doctor’s office. It wasn’t just my fears. Other unwanted news came. Nothing uncommon, just unpleasant.

Three weeks went by, and it became a problem for some people. This made me stronger. My survival and my means of survival were problematic for some people. I vowed to become immortal out of spite.

At four weeks, I wanted nothing, but hugs. I also wanted to never be touched. I was watching as people I knew were having pretty serious allegations brought up against them. I was watching and being pulled in. People were contacting me, as if I’m an authority on consequences. The only consequences I understand are my own, the ones I face every day. I watched possible (albeit likely) assailants keep friends, which is a type of affirmation of those actions. While I was losing people for being dramatic, for causing problems.

Do you know why someone talking about rape seems dramatic? I do. Because trauma is dramatic. Because tragedy is drama. Because truth is dramatic.

This only made me louder.
“I wish I could talk my way out of being raped the way rapists talk their way out of trouble.”
“So we’re clear. A rapist hears the word ‘no’ and expects that to mean ‘yes.’ But when accused the rapist is like ‘I didn’t rape her.’ Apparently only his ‘no’ means ‘no.'”

I started to feel more isolated. It was silly. Weeks prior I was surrounded, literally and figuratively. Friends from all over were reaching out to me. Nonetheless, I began to fear I had worn out my welcome on asking for favors. I’m not quick to ask for help, but this time as a means of survival I knew I needed to. Coming up the stairs at home and collapsing to my knees sobbing, I knew I needed help. I had reached out to someone I was told was a therapist. They proved to be a crazy person that would only escalate my issues.

I felt alone. I was not alone. I felt alone. I felt empty. I felt lost. I felt alone.

Loud noises began to affect me. My parents’ dogs barking made me terrified and panicked. Thunder made me panicked. A dear friend brought me earplugs and other kindnesses.

At a show, I wore my “please-don’t-rape-me” jeans that I bought eight weeks ago. I told my friends not to touch me and to make sure no one else did. I did not keep it together. I left in the middle of the show. Broken. I had stayed because I couldn’t be alone, but the music was loud, the voices were loud.

Week five I was fine again. The dogs and I were fine. I could cuddle my dog again.

Creative 30 for 30 started again, and I could force myself to put some of the things in my head to good use. I started baking again. I didn’t start passively baking. I have no one to give baked things to. I started baking to heal. I started baking more than just that one cupcake Kristen Wiig made for herself in Bridesmaids. I started making full pies. I made pies for healing. I recorded recipes. I made the same pie twice. I improved on pie. I improved on pie to improve myself. I taught myself new skills to show myself I can do more. I watched Moana eight times.

I went to my ultrasound. The tech was kind. The tech took my time. She made six marks on the image of my single ovary. She paused. She asked if I wanted children. I turned my face as tears grew in my eyes. I’ve been in pain again for a couple of months. When I finally saw my doctor she explained I had several cysts in my ovary. They ranged in size from 0.5 cm to 1.3 cm. She explained that they would likely dissipate. She explained that in my case they needed to be monitored closely because of my history. She said it was Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. It explained so much about my last year. It explained so much. It still scared me so much. It still does. Of course, it does.

I also made it one whole year writing affirmations. It’s not been a full year since I moved them to this platform, but I’d brought myself a full year on the strength of my own mind. I’ve continued. I will continue.

At five weeks I also found out I got that new job. I found out I’d be working in an incredibly life-giving, safe, and affirming space. I could walk to work again. I could pay my bills again. I could be motivated to fight PCOS simply by doing my daily work.

Six weeks/eight weeks later I started my new job. I love my new job. I’ve been doing research on diet options to make PCOS more manageable. I’ve continued to reach out to people. I’ve broken my own heart this week. I’ve had my heart broken. I’ve cried on the phone with someone I haven’t heard from since I told them what happened because I felt abandoned. This crying went unnoticed.

In eight weeks my nightmares have come back. In eight weeks several people have taken themselves out of my life because I’ve been too much. In eight weeks I’ve cycled through peace and pain. In eight weeks I’ve screamed and cried. I’ve gone silent. I’ve pushed myself. I’ve been pushed. I’m not healed. I’m not cured. I am still moving. I am healing. I am mending. Pieces of me are coming back together. (please, ignore that Ashley Simpson reference. I can’t take it out now, but I don’t want it there either).

Some times for no provoked reason, I still fill with all manner of sadness and pain. It doesn’t take new provocation. There’s a lasting provocation lodged inside of me. A provocation I can only hope to learn to cope with. It will live beside me. I will be bigger than it. Some days, I’ll get to a place where I will feed it too much. It must be fed. If it’s starved it will get loud and angry. It must be fed and acknowledged. It is my constant companion. It is my monster. It is not me.

Thank you to everyone who has helped carry me over the last two months and over the last 30 years.

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Adventure in Lists, Day 6

Here is another set of two days’ lists. Again another throw-away list and one I actually more carefully considered

Top Ten Favorite Superpowers

We’re going to start off by noting things that people like Peter Petrelli and Rogue carry around are stupid. If I could just absorb anyone’s ability, then I’m not special. I’m a parasite.

10. Super-strength/Super-speed
This feels like it would only be convenient for being unnecessarily impressive or for life-threatening situations. I assume that I can control it, so I don’t smash a ton of pickle jars or anything. So unless someone is trapped under a car, or I need to hold up a building for reasons, I’m not sold. And speed just seems mostly useless. I can get to you way quick? Great, but I imagine I’d still get tired like I do now.

9. Flight
Flight is sort of overrated I think. I mean, in theory it’s nice, but I assume I don’t have super strength, so I can’t bring other people with me. I am still bound by atmosphere and air pressure changes. So it’s convenient for getting from a to b, but mostly it’s just a little faster

8. Healing/Rapid-cellular Regeneration
This seems better to me than being invincible. Invincibility sort of takes away some of the parts that still make me human, so I’d prefer to still be able to feel pain and then be able to come back from that. Also, if it’s possible that my power can somehow benefit more people, so much the better.

7. Precognition
My brain tells me I would like this because I like to be able to prepare for all circumstances, but odds are I’d end up hating it. Unless, I’m able to control when I do or do not get to take on visions. Otherwise, I’m going to be pretty mad it made it this high on the list.

6. Omni-linguism/Polyglotism
This just feels practical. To naturally be able to understand and speak all languages.

5. Teleportation
This one plays to my laziness, but it would also just be good to be able to see the people I love whenever I want. That would be so nice. Not that I don’t value the time spent alone or with one or more close friends, but to get to immediately be with people. That’d be wonderful.

4. Telekinesis
I’ll be honest. This sounds great because I’m a very lazy person. To be able to reach for something across the room and have it in my hand. Yes, please.

3. Telepathy
For communication only. I think I’d hate every moment I could read another person’s uncontrolled thoughts. I think they’d constantly break my heart, but to be able to communicate with someone silently in an instant. That sounds great

2. Waterbreathing
Again, assuming pressure holds, but still to be able to be underwater for an indefinite amount of time, not by holding my breath but maintaining it. That would be ideal. I’d never leave the water, though I assume I must at some point. I would think that my skin would still absorb water as well, and that I would be susceptible to at the very least a severe form of water log, if not drowning.

1. Muscle Mimicry
Honestly, and to me this isn’t like absorbing powers. It’s the ability to see something done and be capable of doing it. I would say this doesn’t apply to superpowers. That it would only be things ordinary people could do, but to be able to acquire any skill would be amazing. To be able to see a gymnast and then replicate a routine or paint or dance. There are so many things I’ll never be able to do, but some times when I see people do things my brain convinces me I can. I can’t. I want to.

I won’t take the time to justify all of these. There are a lot of opinions out there, I’m sure. I’ll just add a quick note to a few, but probably just Harry Potter

Top Ten Favorite Children’s Books

10. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

9. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

8. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume

7. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Surprised this isn’t nearer to number 1? Surprised this one and not other ones? Not nearer the top because there are things that speak to my heart more frequently, better, and longer. And why this one? Because this is the one that brings you in, and this is the one, in my opinion, that maintains itself as a children’s book. After this one they become adolescent lit.

5. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

4. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

3. Matilda by Roald Dahl

2. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

1. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Adventure in Healing

I am now five weeks out from surgery. Well, five weeks and one day. After nearly five whole weeks of sleeping in a recliner…restlessly sleeping in a recliner, I finally found myself two nights ago giving in. I put  four pillows at the head of my bed and essentially found myself laying slightly flatter than the chair, but not much. Two nights now I’ve been able to painfully sleep in my bed.

I started physical theraphy on Wednesday. Something quite cool was decreed. I think it’s cool anyway. It filled me with quite a bit of pride.

As she read the surgeons report of what I had done she said,
“To have needed this done you must have been in the worst pain. The mere fact that you were walking around for months needing this surgery, but also working? You must have the highest tolerance of pain of anyone I’ve ever met.”
“Yeah it did hurt a whole bunch. Complaining doesn’t make it better though.”

Later as she worked on the other bits of my shoulder and neck that are sore in the muscles she tried to work out some knots. One knot in particular was so tight that she had to use the full weight of herself just to make any progress on it. To which she said, “Why aren’t you just weeping? You’re a hero of pain.”

So it’s going to be a while; I’m off for at least 3 more weeks, but that works out because I start Harry Potter class again in a week. Can. Not. Wait.