I am not healed…and that’s ok

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.

Yes, I am angry…but YOU are dangerous.

Trauma and Meditation: An Open Letter to the Community

Warning: May contain triggers for survivors of childhood sexual abuse

Dear “Awakened” Communities,

Yes I mean YOU, Buddhist and Non-Buddhist alike. I am angry with you. Yes angry, oops am I not supposed to be angry? Well buckle up, you may not like this ride, or just jump off and avoid all these “negative emotions” if you can. You are good at that…unless of course you are wielding them at others while they are all dressed up as truth and passive aggressive compassion.

Yes, I am angry…but YOU are dangerous.

I am angry because I was raped when I was an eight year old little girl. You are dangerous because you tell me that I should live as if this didn’t actually happen.

Through my meditation practice I have learned to let go of my shame, and because of this I have learned to be open and honest about being raped and molested as an eight year old child. I have found the courage to sit with and write about the flashbacks, the anxiety, and the PTSD that has resulted from that traumatizing year of my life. Sitting still and silent has not made these things go away. Philosophy and critical thinking have not made these things go away. Cognitive behavioral therapy and other forms of counseling have not made these things go away. Alcohol, self-injury, exercise, and diet have not made these things go away. Prayer, and begging, and bargaining have not made these things go away. You know why? Because these things do not go away. Full stop.

Trauma can be ignored and lied about. But it does not go away

Trauma can be folded into daily life, it can be set safely in the background, it can be worked with, and looked at, and talked about. It can also be ignored, dissociated from, and lied about. But it does not go away. We know that trauma changes brain chemistry, especially childhood trauma. So until I undergo a lobotomy or brain death, these changes will not go away. I can maybe mitigate them with diligent self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self compassion. But, no amount of ephemeral “no-self” or “emptiness” is going to change the fact that the rape occurred, that these physical brain changes occurred, that PTSD is the result. To offer “no-self and emptiness” to rape survivors as some illusory way out is a dangerous, arrogant, and self-serving game. It serves only to deny the reality of what happened. It serves only to continue to silence us. It serves only to leave survivors feeling alone and like failures when inevitably these memories come charging back in the form of PTSD. It serves only to allow YOU to feel more comfortable with what we represent…the loud, chaotic, unpredictable, and cruel nature of this world.

We believe in the healing power of stories

You want to talk about present moment, real present moment? At any given moment I can be unconsciously triggered into a flashback, into anxiety, into my PTSD symptoms. I can be sweating, heart racing, nauseous, short of breath, and physically incapacitated. I can be back in that bed feeling crushed by that man while he inserts himself into my mouth, my vagina, my brain. I can be once again looking out that window while it is happening praying for help, praying for my mother to come home, praying for God, someone, anyone to save me. These things happen exactly IN that “empty present moment” and they are anything but an empty illusion. But, do you know what I do? I stop and sit still and silent WITH them. I watch them occur, I feel them, I let these things wash through me and over me and I notice what that means, and I notice that I do not die…to spite every fiber of my being that tells me otherwise. I shake, and I cry, and I experience the present moment of PTSD. Then I get up and experience the other present moments during the day when the reverberations of PTSD and rape remain in my body. When these things pass, I live with and experience that relief as well. I am fully aware that both of these things will happen, and I let myself experience both the pain and the relief. This is my practice. Present moment isn’t supposed to always be easy, blissful, and peaceful. Present moment is simply what it is when it shows up, and the real practice, the real bravery, comes in letting it be what it is, making real contact with what that is, for better or worse.

And you say “emptiness?” And you say “no-self?” And you say “let it go, it is an illusion, it is imaginary?” Why does what you say sound EXACTLY like what my abuser said to me in order to keep me silent, in order to keep me trapped, in order to continue raping me with impunity?

You may not understand this if you have not been through it.

You will hold tightly to your belief that there is some simple on/off switch that can make the past disappear, that can make future flashbacks never happen. Oh how I wish that was true, just as you do. Believe me, I have tried to find that easy switch in nearly every way possible. That on/off switch does not exist, in any form, from any religion or belief system, and to pretend like it does is no different than selling snake oil to a terminally ill patient. It is no different than turning your back on a rape-in-progress. It is no different than telling the victim, and the perpetrator, not to worry it will all be over soon and when it is over it will all be imaginary anyway. Your “emptiness” denies the violence of the act as equally as it denies justice or responsibility for the act. Your “emptiness” denies the humanity of the person raped and the intentional cruel action of the person raping. Your “emptiness” denies a harsh reality. Oh how I wish I could deny it too, but I cannot.

You want to see my anger, my struggle, my vigilance, my embodiment, and my honesty as some sort of proof that I am not “awakened, realized, saved.” But oh how wrong you are. I spent most of my life trying to escape this human form, dissociated from it, and guess what…that didn’t work. Now I am in it, feeling it, allowing it, and I don’t know if this works either. Hell, I don’t know what “works” is supposed to mean anyway. But, I do know that I am done trying to be something I am not. I am no longer ashamed to be human, I am no longer afraid to speak openly about sexual assault or any other part of my humanity, and I am no longer looking out that window waiting for someone else to save me. Not even you.

Sincerely, angrily, unashamed, and still sitting,
April Resnick

April Resnick Gravity Network Open Letter     

Me when I was 8 years old

Originally published in May 2015

Ivy

Last month, I traveled outside of the country for the first time. I was so excited. I have always wanted to travel, explore somewhere new, and I was finally given that chance. We went to Germany, for a wedding, right outside of Munich. It was a beautiful country, honestly, and I had a wonderful time. The wedding was beautiful. We did a bike tour of Munich, and another of Salzburg. We went and looked at castles. I stared up in awe at the Alps, and went into old cathedrals, and just took in the beauty of it all in total awe. The pictures don’t do it justice.

My family left on a Tuesday, and my flight left on a Thursday, so I had some extra time to explore. I decided to devote a day to check out Dachau, a concentration camp not far from the city. It was something my parents had done early in the trip, while I took my sister to the aquarium, that I had decided was especially important to see.

Continue reading “Ivy”

Stronger in the Broken Places

I have spoken before about how my abuse as a child has caused me to have moments in life that lead to me shutting down. I’m learning that this often happens as a self- defense mechanism.

A survival tool I was never aware I had built into my skill set. A direct response to a threat.

What I neglected to mention and what is equally if not more important, is that each time I resurface from these dark corners of doubt I come back ten times stronger for having been there.

The resilience and the sheer will it takes to face past experiences head on and to continue to claw out of the hurt and keep going holds transforming power. Power that can only be gained from experiencing a specific type of pain.

Continue reading “Stronger in the Broken Places”

Sweeping It Under the Rug

For most of my life I have been an open book. I like swapping “war stories” with friends/strangers and hearing other people’s life mistakes and successes, and how they have grown and learned from each experience. I’m proud of where I am and who I have become, so I like telling stories about my past experiences and reflecting on where I have been, where I could have ended up, and how far I have come. I guess it’s not a surprise that I’ve come to share this experience, but it is not something I thought I would ever do. This was one experience in my life that I didn’t know how to talk about. Continue reading “Sweeping It Under the Rug”

Weighing Forgiveness

It seems hard to conceive. Forgiveness? Why should I give him forgiveness? In my case, he’s not around to apologize. He’s not even alive to benefit from it. Why should I bother, when he hurt me without my consent, and left my family alone to pick up the mess?
The concept of forgiveness isn’t new to me. Back in college, during my happiness seminar, we were supposed to work on letters of forgiveness. She told us not to forgive our level ten pain, but instead to choose a five or six. I didn’t have a level five or six pain. I had a level ten. That day in class, I was antsy, my heart raced, as I prepared to sit down and work through things I hadn’t worked through in years. A classmate decided she wanted to work outside, and a bunch of us joined her. We talked about anything other than forgiveness, and fulfilled a different class objective. I dodged my bullet.

Continue reading “Weighing Forgiveness”

He Was My Older Brother and I Trusted Him

Warning: May contain triggers for survivors of childhood sexual abuse

Starting at a very young age , my brother would show me my dad’s adult magazine collection. One story, told by my father, places me around the age of 3 when my brother was caught showing the neighborhood boys that month’s Playboy edition, which he had cleverly hidden in a Boy’s Life magazine. He is 6 years older than me. My brother had found the key to a locked cabinet in my fathers sock drawer and would retrieve it as soon as the coast was clear and my parents weren’t around. This key unlocked a treasure chest of porn magazines and videos. I remember my brother was allowed to start baby sitting me, he showed me the hidden cabinet. I was around 6-7 years old. I remember knowing that we were being sneaky and I couldn’t tell mom and dad, but I don’t think I really know we were doing.

Continue reading “He Was My Older Brother and I Trusted Him”

Gone. But never forgotten.

When I received a phone call informing me my abuser had died, I can’t remember if sorrow or relief won as my initial emotion.

I would like to say it was sorrow. Maybe to make myself appear as if I’m not completely desensitized to the death of someone I loved. I honestly believe it was relief that flooded me first though. Relief and then anger. Sorrow coming in a distant third.

Anger because there would never be any closure for the death of my childhood. No apologies for what was taken from me. How do you mourn the murder of innocence? Put to rest the death of what I could have been?

Continue reading “Gone. But never forgotten.”

An Open Letter to My Abuser’s Former Victims

I’ve oftentimes wondered if you exist. I find myself sometimes, combing through the young women in his life, wondering if he ever did the same things to you. Maybe you don’t exist. Maybe you’re just my imagination running wild, my yearning to find someone else who gets it, creating stories in my head. Sometimes I imagine you coming to me, and whispering in my ear, “Me too,” and I would instantly get it. Sometimes I imagine a message sent from miles away because it is just too painful to say out loud. Whether you exist or not, I have a few things I want you to know. Continue reading “An Open Letter to My Abuser’s Former Victims”