By April M.D. Resnik 12/9/18
How many times have I said these words to people, “You are never fully healed from sexual trauma. It never goes away. Your brain has been changed, and the biological change is not something that can be undone. But, you work with it and integrate it, mitigate the symptoms, and learn to live, hopefully well, with it.” I thought I believed this, I really and truly did. I thought I was living that. How arrogant and wrong I was. Because somewhere deep in my internal recesses, my unconscious had bought the curative hype. Some unspoken part of me thought I’d healed, thought I’d been cured, or pretty damn close to it. I wrote and spoke with confidence about the hardest parts of my childhood because some part of me not only felt healed, but believed I had found the key, had set my demons free, and was once and for all better. I hadn’t, I didn’t, I wasn’t. But I didn’t realize I had bought into these false confidences until my world cracked open and swallowed me whole.
He was my boyfriend at 16, we married at 22, we had a child at 30.
I’ve been facing the reverberations from being abused and raped at 8 years old, since I was in college. I’ve been consciously working on myself since I was 20, I am now 43. That work has shape-shifted and evolved over the years from cognitive behavioral therapy, to self-help books, to Jungian therapy. From meditation, to getting my master’s degree in meditation, to teaching meditation. From writing and art therapy, to creating my own blog, to writing poetry and publishing articles about my abuse. But through it all was one constant…my significant other. He was my boyfriend at 16, we married at 22, we had a child at 30. He has always known about my abuse, I told him when we were teenagers. He took it in stride and was unashamed. He was patient, my friend, my rock. He let me explore, explored with me, faced the intimacy challenges and worked to overcome them with me…until he stopped. I remember the day, years ago, I had a flashback during a particularly rough GYN exam. I called him afterwards shaking and crying. He coldly told me he was busy at work and would call me back. He never did. He texted to say he was headed home from work. He had totally forgotten that I had even called. I spent that afternoon sobbing on the floor with my dog. That day I knew, some part of me knew. My partner was gone. And still, the other part of me held on to what I thought was “unconditional love” as a cure-all, a backstop, a bedrock of my own healing. I see that now, all of it. The truth and the illusion. I did not see it fully then.
And everything I thought I knew about my healing…evaporated and was swallowed whole by grief
It took years for him to finally say the whole truth; that he was leaving me. That he’d found a new partner and was done being mine. On New Years Eve 2018, the truth came out of his mouth. No more us. (It took another few months for him to reveal he’d found a new partner, one who was a trusted family friend and coworker.) And in the many tear-soaked conversations we had about the dissolution of us, he laid his own issues, and his leaving, square at my feet. I believe his exact words were, “I became codependent and dysfunctional at 16, the day you told me about your abuse.” And everything I thought I knew about my healing, my ability to connect with another, my trust in myself and in love, in my own body, even in my voice…equally evaporated and was swallowed whole by grief. And that’s when I realized that I had bought into the curative fantasy. To spite my intelligence and my self-awareness. I had allowed myself to hold onto the love of another, as a huge part of my own healing and integration process. Only when my abandonment issues recently re-ravaged my body and brain did I realize I had truly, but foolhardily, believed that those demons had been exorcised. And I had believed they had been exorcised by someone else’s love. They hadn’t been banished, but only tamed and caged, by the false reliance on another. Not only had I believed that another person’s strength was my own, but that strength I had relied on, even if unconsciously, had itself been an illusion. I had relied on his love to redeem humanity, my past, and myself. It is time to see things clearly.
I am not going anywhere.
I am not healed, I am not cured, and I don’t need to be. I am simply integrating and moving with the trauma from being raped at 8 years old. I know this as a lived experience now. And I am finally learning to do it for myself, with myself, as myself…I hope. I am still in the midst of the divorce, and while the process is not over, his leaving is over. He can’t leave anymore than he already has, and yet I am still here. I am sometimes a mess of issues, of both mind and body. I know now down to my bones that will always be the case, perhaps to greater and lesser degrees given the day, and that is ok. There is no cure. I have PTSD and abandonment issues, and they will always need to be managed. I have no idea what any of that looks like moving forward. But I am also learning now that I won’t leave me. His strength was not my own, my strength is my own. His love did not save me, my own love for myself and that 8-year-old little girl, will save me. As much as anyone can be saved. Perhaps even that is inviting the curative fantasy back in. Rephrase: my own strength and love for myself and that 8-year-old little girl will hold me. That is the most I can do, and the MOST I can do. On those days ahead when my demons come to the surface screaming and sobbing, I will hold myself, I will learn to like myself, I will let go of my own shame instead looking to another to do so, and I will tell myself that I am here. And, I am not going anywhere.