There is the version of what happened that I convinced myself of before I told anyone else about what happened. I did it in a desperate act of self preservation. If I convinced myself it wasn’t that bad, maybe it would just go away. I would forget about it. It wouldn’t affect me everyday.

You have either been to the Indy 500 or you have not. And until you’ve been you can’t fully comprehend the sights, and the smells, and how witnessing such an event changes every other sporting event or mention of car racing forever.

When I talk about my assault I talk about it in the same sense as calling the Indy 500 ‘just a car race.’ It’s safer that way. It keeps all the little things that happened, that hurt, in a safe little bubble where they can’t be reached.  Details like the door opening from the right or the sharp buzzing pain I felt when he cracked my head against the wall don’t come rushing back when I tell my version of the story. Basically I took all the awful parts, boxed them up and locked them away three levels deep where I could pretend they didn’t actually exist and hope they would just disappear.

spring @ the oldfields-lilly gardens. Indianapolis

I started listening to Tori Amos again for the first time in over 15 years. Tori was my life in high school, and if you would have told me that I would remember every single word from Under the Pink after not hearing the album for 15 years I would have thought you were crazy. But I do remember. I don’t know where I stored that information with everything that has gone on, but I remember. And in remembering the words I remember the life events that surrounded my obsession with Tori Amos. My favorite sweater, the boy who broke my heart, what it felt like driving my first car up Emigration Canyon with the windows down and nowhere to be.

I’m in therapy. And the person I’m working with is easily the reincarnation of every good and loving thing that has ever existed in my life, brought together to help work through everything that happened and everything I have tried to stuff down and ignore.

It hurts.

It’s scary.

It’s hard.

I’d rather not.

I was doing a really good job of ignoring it.

She said I had a magnificent gift of self preservation. That I was really good at putting up walls, defenses and coping mechanisms in place to protect myself. I said “Thank you.” she replied “It’s not a compliment.”

She explained my assault happened in a space and time where I had no defenses, no walls, no protection, no choice and that’s also where my recovery needs to happen as well. Not from the safe place I’ve created for myself since then.

Ugh. She’s right.

Just the thought of going back makes me nauseous. Blergh.

But it has to happen.

I like helping people. I like volunteering for stuff. Particularly when it comes to feeding people. Whenever sign-up sheets went around in church for a pitch-in, potluck, taking a meal to a family, or hosting the missionaries for dinner I always signed up. For me, feeding people is the easiest and best way to show someone you care about them.

sandwiches.

If someone needs something, and I have a something that I don’t particularly need or use? I’m happy to hand over that something. It’s easy for me. I like doing it. It’s just a thing I do. It’s not a big deal. (It’s kind of how society should work, isn’t it?)

At my peak of helping others was also the peak of my mental health. I WAS SOOOO GOOD! Just sailing along with little trips here and there.

Well, surprise! After last year helping people became hard. I still tried to do it, but I never bothered to take care of myself first so helping others simply exhausted me. What’s worse is it took away from what I was able to give my family as well. You’ve probably heard the announcement on airplanes “Put your own oxygen mask on before helping others?” Same applies to life in general. It’s not selfish, it’s common sense.

I also began to pull away from emotionally difficult relationships. I certainly didn’t need anyone else making me feel worse, I’m perfectly capable of making myself feel like garbage, thanks! Slowly things started to improve and with therapy I can actually feel the old me begin to bubble up. Several people have already mentioned how much happier I seem, and that means an awful lot to me.

This is where things get tricky. Pieces of the old me are starting to show up. I am happier. But I am still not strong enough to wade in the emotional struggles of others.  I am an empath. Always have been. Addie is one as well. For the last year I have actually hated being an empath because it has made me such a delicious target to awful people throughout my life. Being an empath isn’t a bad thing, but right now I really need to take care of myself so I’ve learned if I can’t improve a situation with a sandwich? Sorry, I’m out.

Our first trip to Cleveland won't be our last. We may even wait over an hour for fried grilled cheese sandwiches again. Special thanks to @mryjhnsn and her family for showing us around and making sure we left in love with her city. Thanks to all of you wh

The good news is I can fix a lot of things for a lot of different people with a sandwich.  So can you. There’s thousands of different sandwiches for thousands of different situations, and I’m happy to provide whatever sandwich is needed when I’m available.

Pastrami sandwich from Shapiro's deli in Indianapolis. Even better than it looks. Promise.

So if you’re an empath, or a giver, or a helper, or a doer, but it is really in your best interest to take care of yourself right now? Ask yourself if a situation can be improved with a sandwich. Sandwiches mean a lot to people. (So do cheeseburgers, burritos, gyros, and falafel.) If it’s not a situation that can be improved in any way with any form of sandwich? Maybe step away.

what I had for lunch.

Maybe have a sandwich yourself.

I’ve been processing what happened for over a year and half, I maybe haven’t been processing it in the most healthy and helpful way given I was doing it all by myself for the first year — but the fact is when I tell someone “I was sexually assaulted” the sting of those words has been numbed by time for me. I’ve come a long way in overcoming “the act” (referring to the actual physical assault) because it was physical, it was a thing that happened and it was a thing that ended. Much like a car accident, there’s the actual crash and in a matter of seconds the crash itself is over but in those few seconds your life can be changed forever.

You can even walk away from a car crash physically fine and those who love you will breathe a sigh of relief that you’re okay, but what isn’t taken into account (and sometimes not even realized by you until much later) is that you’re now scared to drive, you avoid certain scenarios, the sound of an accident can set off a whole set of anxious feelings and upset. They’re all triggers, and they all deserved to be recognized — the problem is unless someone else has also been in an accident most people won’t understand what you’re going through. “You’re fine! You lived! What do  you mean you don’t want to drive on snowy roads at night?” Obviously you can’t avoid snowy roads at night forever, but there will be a time when winter driving will be harder on you.

It’s all the emotional stuff that surrounds the act that is hard.

The shame, the embarrassment, the guilt. It’s gross and I hate it.

It’s why I didn’t tell Cody for over a year. I didn’t want him to think of me differently, or worse find out that he thought it was my fault and blame me for what happened.

Was it the right thing to do? Probably not, but you go ahead and watch any Shonda Rhimes show and point out a single time when her characters act in a completely logical way after something goes wrong. (I realize my life is not How To Get Away With Murder or Scandal, but it’s real easy to sit on a couch and holler “WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST ACT NORMAL?” when it’s not your life.)

The specifics of what happened to me have their own category on hardcore or “dark” porn sites. The thing that broke me is titillating to many. What has been my nightmare for a long time is a fantasy of others. That’s a very strange dichotomy to work through in the sexually saturated world we currently live in.

I’ve learned over the last year that there are two ways people generally deal with traumatic events similar to what happened to me.

The first is managing to make yourself so busy with so many other things, people, activities, and distractions that you simply don’t have time to think about anything else but running away from what happened. Hoping the pain will just fade or go away the busier you stay. I’ve seen a lot of people go on to do great and creative things while running away from terrible pasts, the problem is when they are alone or still for too long everything comes crashing down a hundred times worse.

The second is quite the opposite, and it is the one I have been stuck in for over a year.

I went into hiding.

If I didn’t leave the house or interact with anyone I couldn’t get hurt again. No one would be able to get close to me. I wouldn’t have to be vulnerable or feel scared or ever wonder if it will happen again. I once trusted people, a lot. I was kind and outgoing and was always the one championing the benefit of the doubt.

I used to go out in bright colors with my face towards the sun.

Now I go out fully covered with my eyes down so I don’t have triggers, flashbacks or worse — see him. Or someone that looks like him. Or someone who knows him. Or something that reminds me of him.

I stay quiet so I don’t draw attention to myself.

People have told me that by staying quiet and locked away I’m letting him win. That the best thing I could possibly do is pick myself up and become even stronger than before as a proverbial middle finger to him and what he did to me.

You will either understand this or you won’t — the idea of building myself back up gives me the same sense of dread as threatening to drop me in the middle of the ocean without so much as a life preserver.

My insides have been nothing but a knot of anxiety, fear, and sadness for over a year. I don’t remember the last time I was truly happy for any extended period of time.

I don’t say this because I want sympathy, and the truth is I am trying to get better.

In fact, I am fighting like hell and I’m fucking exhausted.

I say this because I never thought I would be here. That I would be so damaged from the actions of another that I would consider myself completely broken. A pile of pieces slugging through a life I once knew and only participate in out of habit.

It’s hard to go forward without really knowing what happened.

Last year I was sexually assaulted.

What has been worse for me than the physical trauma of the act has been the deep psychological damage. The best way I have been able to describe it to anyone is that an electric mixer was put to my brain and instead of a smooth, solid brain with wiggles and curves I have what resembles a pile of burnt scrambled eggs.

I didn’t tell Cody  about what happened until a few months ago. Together we began telling those closest to us and responses ranged from “You need to go back to church and pray harder” to complete apathy, like I should be over it already. For anyone who has ever been through rape or sexual assault, you’ll know victim shaming and blaming is a very real thing and the reason so many people stay quiet.

So now those of you who have been around for awhile know why I broke, and why I didn’t talk about it.

I don’t want to be an uplifting voice for violence against women. I don’t want to be some hero survivor inspiration story.

I just want my fucking life back.

 

 

It has been exactly two years since everyone in my life lost the version of me I had worked so hard to bring to life.

Many good people have stuck by me. New friends claim I’m perfect the way I am and that they are honored to know me now, as someone who has gone through shit and still standing.

The issue is while I am standing I have done nothing more than merely exist for a very long time.

It’s hard to explain what happened, as so many little things hurt me and imperceptibly molded me into a version of myself I don’t recognize — or have at least caused me to forget what I used to be like.

It’s as though I’ve collapsed around my heart, fiercely protecting it from everyone and everything because I simply do not trust anyone else with it.

If you’re here looking for the old me, know that I’m looking for her too. In the process I hope to take better care of who I am now, so I can nurture her back to being the optimistic, witty, laugh-hard, love-harder version of myself Cody fell in love with years ago.  And maybe I can learn to let people in again. And maybe help someone who has lost themselves as well.

It’s a terrible feeling, losing oneself and trying to start over before all the rubble has been cleared.

I know writing has always been a part of me, and hopefully by bringing it back it will serve as breadcrumbs for the rest of me to follow.

 

*clears cobwebs*

COUGH COUGH

Oh, hello. You’re still here? Bless you.

The past few months have been tricky. Not particularly hard but very hard to put into words.

Vivi will most likely grow up to become either a serial killer or the next Ke$sha, regardless, there is a freezer full of glittery dead hobos in her future.

Addie? Well. Addie had a really rough August. She has started to show signs of chemical depression and anxiety and it hurts me more than I can even comprehend to know this may be a struggle she faces for the rest of her life.

Cody is hunky as ever with his big strong man hands and fear of bugs.

Me? I’m okay. I really am.

I’d like to be back here. I want to be back here.

This is the first step to doing just that.

Racing stuffs.

A special thanks to Walgreens for sponsoring this post.

I’m pretty relaxed about the gross things kids do. Sure! Eat that tomato that fell on the floor! Five second rule! Playing at the playground and you just licked the monkey bars? Gross, but you’ll live. Hey! LEAVE THE POTTY STOOL IN THE BATHROOM (WHY is this one so hard for toddlers?)

It’s not until I’m sick that I realize every living breathing human around me is leaving behind DNA, mucous, air, and germs everywhere they go. I begin to wonder “How did I get sick? Was it that dollar bill I found on the ground? Was it from hugging my friend that had ‘allergies’? HOW DO I KEEP ALL THESE PEOPLE IN MY HOUSE FROM GETTING SICK TOO?” It’s terrible. I go from not caring to OCD-hand-washing-ninja in under a minute.

[Read more...]