Panic Days

Part of getting better, I suppose, is learning to manage our disadvantages better, our disability, our adversity, our weakness, sickness, humanity. For the most part of my recovery, I’ve thought that I will be better when I stop waking up from nightmares, having flashbacks or panic attacks.

Truth is, “better” may be learning to manage the bad moments better, not their absence.

Once a counselor at an online hotline told me that there will always be triggers you can’t predict. The true recovery lies in recognizing that fact and learning to manage them better.

Oh boy, was she right.

*

It all started again last week.

Dancing ballet and trying to get out in the world and socialize again, it has been bringing up issues more often than I would like to admit. 2 years back I would let that defeat me, I would think, clearly I’m not strong enough to handle this. But I like ballet too much, and I’m not giving it up, even after such moments. But there has been more than one class which I miss because I panic, which I only watch because I’m so freaking out that I can’t feel my legs, in which I ran in the bathroom to put water on my face in an attempt to remember where I am and that there is nothing threatening about it. But I’m scared, my god, I haven’t been so scared in a while, dancing is exposing me, and I’ve done such a good act out of hiding.

And so it starts again on Sunday. Continue reading

Recovery Updates: Finding My Way Forward

I’ve said this many times, and I’ll say it again. Recovery is a process, with ups and downs. It’s a messy process.

I’ve had huge jumps forward lately. I’m finally getting out of my apartment more, trying to meet more people. I’m finally starting to be more stable in my finances, and fix holes in my budget (and wardrobe) that have needed fixing in years. I’m finally starting to want to be more attractive again, and not like in university, where since I was raped, I kept myself steadily thinking I’m fine with combination of being drunk when I go out, or being too exhausted and too busy the rest of the time. It’s a process though. Since I started getting depressed the may-june of 2012 after finally admitting myself what happened, I’ve done a whole circle around.

For most things I’m going better, but when it comes to my body issues I go back and forth. While I was depressed I started wearing simple things. Then I gained weight, I started wearing darker things and going out very little. I spend a lot of time wishing I could go back to the weight I had, and planning the clothes I was going to wear when I could afford them.

But I’m not the same person anymore. It’s ridiculous to think I can go from wearing sweaters, sneakers and wide pants to short skirts, high heels and so on. I’m not the same. There is no moving forward until I see that. And I have never really been the short skirt type that much, but I was just starting to warm up to the idea of more attractive and sexy clothes- right before I had a breakdown.

Most of the time I feel older than I am. Most of the times, I’m only hoping to one day go back to who I was. But I am not the same person. Continue reading

Happiness and Recovery

I’m traveling with the bus tonight, smiling widely, my heart overflowing with happiness. I have had a great day, devoid of the shadows of the past and filled with nice new memories. I don’t mind the gloomy tired people sitting next to me on the bus, or the cold. It’s been a while since I’ve been walking and smiling like this. Nothing can get to me. The city is dark blue, and orange from the street lights, filled with urban smells, and stressed out people, but it’s beautiful and it’s alive. Parts of my past are still here, in my family, in this city and I have dreaded them- but I’ve been stronger than them. I feel beautiful and free and strong and happy and loved. Untouchable. The air is filled with endless possibilities of great days and grand adventures in the future.

At that moment the sadness cuts through me and my heart shatters to pieces.

And I think of that moment 3 years back when that guy had his hand on my mouth and I couldn’t move however I tried. And my heart hurts, shatters.

*

To all of you who have been through something big and life- changing, something huge and sad that broke your heart, I’m sure you know what I mean. It’s that vague inexplicable feeling of getting sad every time you allow yourself true happiness and freedom. That feeling when you feel free, and alive, and strong and happy despite of anything, those moments when you barely remember anyone ever hurt you- those moments used to be your birthright. And then something happened- or someone- and you think you can never again let yourself feel so, because if you do, crashing on the ground next time will be much, much harder.

I’ve fought this feeling, thinking that if I refuse the sadness to overtake me, it will go away.

Instead, avoiding it closed my heart, and made me afraid of having a good time.

Stop running. May be a friend of yours died. May be you were in a car crash. May be you got your heart broken by someone you trusted. May be you lost a friend. I was raped. And I felt that exact same way, we all do when something like this happens.

Like your life was cut open, turned around. Like someone exposed you to the world and left you alone, vulnerable, betrayed, and somehow worse than you were before. And you think, if you let yourself feel sadness when you finally drag your way up to happiness again, may be you weren’t truly happy and may be you won’t ever be so.

But I think I was wrong in this.

I think it’s okay to be sad. I have lost something, when this guy attacked me all those years back. It’s okay to be sad in the midst of happiness. Doesn’t mean you aren’t happy. It means, you’re letting emotions out. Be happy. Be free. Be afraid of that, sad, heartbroken that despite all your “good sense” your heart has decided to take the fall again and be free, taking the risk of everything and nothing. Be happy. Be delirious. Cry if you feel like it, and then, let it go.

It’s natural to feel that way. Let it be. You went through something hard- be good to yourself. Be happy. Let the sadness run through you, and run out. Feel it, and let it be.

And then smile again.

Because it’s okay.

To feel, again.

To live, again.

To be happy, again.

To trust, even if you get hurt again.

It’s okay.

Let it be.

Suicidal thoughts from my past and surviving sexual abuse

I’ve read about people wanting to commit suicide after going through certain amount of things. I always told myself that wasn’t me. And it’s true, I never attempted anything. But in full honesty yes, the thought has crossed my mind. Of course it has…doesn’t that happen to all of us at one point or another?

*

It was 4 years ago (in my mind I’m still stuck on 2 years- 4 years seems like longer than what it feels) and it was evening or afternoon. It was summer and the air smelled of sea and cigarettes. I stumbled out of my house in a haze. I don’t remember much.

It was THAT night. After what happened, the first time it happened anyway. I remember I had just showered and I still felt dirty and like I have a sign on my forehead showing how awful I was. Every muscle I had hurt. I walked around without an aim or idea, and frankly I don’t remember much of where I went. I just wanted to be out of the house (I was living in the same house as the guy that raped me). I remember the smell of the air and feeling how crystal cut and vivid everything felt, and how I felt nothing towards it. I had no feelings. Or so I thought.

Everything inside me was numb. Why was I there? Why had I crossed half of the world? It couldn’t be for this right? What was the point of being smart? I couldn’t get out of this. What was the point of being talented or pretty if someone will just use it against me? What was the point of education? I would never feel anything, ever again, so who cares if I have a good job? What’s the point of putting all that effort into things that don’t have any meaning after everything? The world isn’t grand, it isn’t worth seeing, it isn’t worth this pain at all. What’s the point of trying to hold onto concepts I don’t believe into anymore?
I just…I just wish I could feel.

I’m walking, crossing the street. There is a car fast approaching and beeping. The beeping comes muted like it’s under water. I look at the fast approaching red car like it’s a Christmas ornament. I should move away, but I can’t remember why anymore. I look at it frozen while it approaches. What would happen if I didn’t move and it ran through me? I felt curious to find out. What was left of my old world anyway? I move away at the last second, run off to the other end of the street, while the driver swears at the distance. My heart beats fast. For a second I’m alive again, and all I feel is my beating heart. But then that’s done, and the aching spreads between my legs and through my whole body. It hurts too much to feel anything.

And since I now know I can feel, I do it again. I walk towards cars and run off at the last moment. I do it again and again until it gets dark and I finally stumble into my own house (rented room, but anyway) like a thief, avoiding seeing him. I get to my room and to my bed and I lock the door like my life depends on it. I think it will be hard to fall asleep, but that is my last thought. After that, darkness pulls me under.

Next thing I know, it’s light outside, my alarm is ringing and I have no idea why my body hurts so bad and why I feel so worn out.

*

Anyway, many times after, I have thought life isn’t worth living, but I pushed myself to keep going and find a reason. That was the only night where I had no reason. I only kept going because the thrill of the cars rushing past me was better than thinking, thinking that would lead me to knowing that this guy has taken me without a problem and consequently my life had no meaning or value. That’s as close as I got to suicide. I still don’t know why I moved out of the way of that first car, I’m just glad that I did. My brain was hazy and not in much condition for logical decisions anyway.

Dance and Recovery from Rape pt. 1

I’ve been going to dance for about 5 months now, and I have been writing and drawing again. I can honestly say that letting myself create something, participate in something expressive, is sometimes harder than remembering the bad memories I have. Recovery has been an odd timeline, and I’ve been progressing, as best as I can. I’ve slowly gotten back to the “regular” life -sort of- I live with my boyfriend, I’m seeing friends, I’m working regularly (from home, but nevertheless). Dance however has been a whole new challenge. It’s making me see, and I see more than I can bare sometimes. Here is some ways in which dance has changed me in these past months:

Creating and Drawing

In the past months, I’ve been regularly stretching and practicing for dance classes. Sometimes going there is the best part of my day, and sometimes it freaks the hell out of me. But I keep going. I’ve thought that I’ve left parts of my life, the unwilling victims of my bad past- like drawing. For me, it’s hard to draw when I’m in tremendous pain, or when I’m so torn inside. I know drawing is an expression, and therefore I should be able to use it to express the bad too…but I am not certain I can let myself do that. Every time I try, even since I can remember, to draw in a bad moment, I close up. For all you know, I’ve got no feelings, I’m so freakin’ bottled up.

But dance cuts open through the walls in my life, and I have to either let it happen, or let it go. As it is, I let it inside. And lately, a new/old instinct is coming back to me. The instinct to draw, now even more unrestricted and better. I sketch with no aim at all, for the enjoyment of it. I make a landscape drawing with no idea at all, just dabbing into the tempera colors and enjoying the mixture of bright colors, mixing them and painting like a child. It’s not really about the result- I’m like a kid in a candy store, and I’m making every minute matter. It’s unbelievably fun and enjoyable- and as it turns out, my drawings end up just as good as before, if not better. I’m in love with doing that- and it breaks my heart at the same time. The moment I finish I’m elevated, and then suddenly- I want to cry. My chest feels like it will break. I realize I’ve settled til now. I’ve settled for a good life- but not a great life. I’ve settled for safe life. I’ve left drawing and passions behind me, because they make me feel, and I think it will break me. Truth is, bottling up everything within me, it won’t break me, but it’s much more unhealthy. I’m like an emotional time bomb that explodes at the slightest touch.

And that’s what dance is for me, every time. It’s so beautiful and elegant, so out of the dark corners of what happened to me, that I feel something breaking in me every time I go there. It’s the most powerful thing I’ve found lately. Dance is a language, and I can not express anything into it, if I cripple all emotions in me. I’m new there and for now I’m just concentrating on even getting the ability to do the moves- and even so, I feel the walls in me falling down. I feel, more than I would like to admit. It hurts sometimes, and I don’t want to ever hurt again- but I have to let myself feel things, if I want to dance or draw or do any art. Or else, I have to settle for a safe life. It’s not a bad thing, truly, there’s nothing bad about a safe life- but dance has let me see a bit further than that, and I don’t want to give that up…even when it hurts.

Body-control

I’m learning ballet. I’m over 20 years old and I’m learning ballet for a first time in my life. I’ve let go of the idea that I control my body a long time ago. May be even before I was raped I wasn’t always in control, I can’t be sure. I have a friend that asked me once if I feel like I’m weaker and more vulnerable because of what happened. It feels like a cruel question, because I don’t know the answer. Sometimes I feel that I survived what happened- and I have recovered a lot lately- so I am stronger. I’m pretty sure 2 years before, if anything like that had happened, I would have felt like I want to die. But whether I am stronger or not is a valid question- I’m stronger, yet at times much more breakable, shaky, uncertain. I think it will be a long while more before I get out of that. But ballet doesn’t let compromises. It needs you to be 100% in.

I’ve never been 100% in anything…but, I need this. It’s a struggle, every time, but after the first few classes, I already see some changes, tiny muscles in my body, agreeing a little more with what we are doing in class, parts of me following the movements in class in ways in which I wasn’t able to before. I’m improving, and that isn’t just a thing. That is saving my life. Being in a dance where every muscle in your body is involved and your control is a test- and it makes me a failure from start. I can see already that I’m behind most people there. Even if we disregard the fact that most of them are teenagers and this is somewhat easier on their bodies- a year of depression and laying in bed has made me weak and inflexible. My body just refuses to follow things, even easy things. But slowly, I learn to. I stretch out of class, try things on my own, and slowly my body starts to obey me again. I’d given up on that long time ago. I’d given up on that while I was lying under that guy being unable to move an inch. I’d given up then.

But now…now my body is becoming mine again. Sometimes when we try to do a certain move, it’s not even that I can’t move that way, but that I don’t feel my body there, like that guy removed all feeling I had in me. I’ve closed myself a long time ago, and ballet just needs me to open up. There’s no way around it. Slowly I begin feeling my back, my toes, the arches of my feet. Slowly I begin reconciling with my body again. It had betrayed me long time ago, when I couldn’t stop that guy from forcing me to sleep with him. I have betrayed my body my laying and eating junk and hiding myself ever since. Now we are finally reconciling.

To see my body do things I couldn’t do before the rape even, it’s the best recovery tool.

It shows me that I can still grow.

(to be continued)