Saturday, November 11th, 2017

And for me, it’s all basically taken a little longer than I expected/wanted it to take…

This is something I’ve been wanting to talk about for sort of a while now. When I was first dealing with being assaulted, I had a few different people tall me about women they knew who went through the same thing, and the general consensus was, “Oh, it takes about a year.”

“Yeah, I had a friend who seemed to sort of fall off the face of the planet. And then a year later, poof. Just there she was again. She took a year away from everybody and everything, and then she was as good as new.”

That was kind of a general thread I heard more than once – that everybody takes a year.

And when my year anniversary came and went, and I wasn’t magically better, I was stressed about it. “It’s supposed to take a year. It’s been a year. Why isn’t my healing over?”

And then, about a year after I started therapy, I had a giant bump, and was able to return to general normalcy. And my therapist said, for her, she’s found it usually takes about a year for people once they start therapy.

But even that doesn’t work for everyone. For some people, it takes two years. For some, even longer.

I kept having these sort of arbitrary goals. “I’ll be done blogging so extensively about this a year from when I started blogging extensively about this.” But then I saw people marking the 1-year anniversary of the Access Hollywood tape, and that was what spurred me to really start talking about all of this publicly. And I wasn’t done talking about all of this.

I kept thinking this random date or that random date is when this or that random thing will happen. And the thing is, for the most part, everything has kind of just happened when it happened.

And I think that’s okay. (Or at least, it kind of has to be, because that’s how it’s been/how it is.)

Milestones may not have come right when I wanted them, but they came. And I think they still will. (The biggest example that comes to mind is that I still don’t take the subway alone. That will probably change someday. Maybe not. So, there are milestones to happen, but plenty already have.)

I cried in my office for longer than I hoped. But I don’t do that anymore.
I cried during sex for longer than I hoped (or that seemed super reasonable to me), but I don’t do that anymore.
And on and on and on.

I believe if you keep working at the things that are really important to you, and you show yourself some patience, your milestones will come (or at least that’s what I like to think)… It just kind of takes as long as it takes.

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

Well, well, well. Here we are. I’ve been saving friendships as pretty much the last-ish thing that I plan to talk about in the sexual assault chapter of this blog. And here we are.

I feel like my feelings on my friendships, and how they’ve been affected over the last year and a half or so, are sort of complex. So, I’m not going to be able to fit this into one post. I’m breaking up my feelings over the next 4 or so days. It’s gonna be this one (which is gonna cover weirdness and some anger (which takes up tomorrow too)), then after that we’ll have embarrassment, then there’s going to be an apology post from me. And lastly, a thank you.

So, without further ado, let’s get into it with this one.

I’ll admit, I don’t think that I would’ve really known how to be a good friend to someone going through this stuff. I think I would’ve fallen into doing a number of the things my friends did. So, I am not above them. I don’t know what I’m doing… But I think potentially there are maybe some lessons here. So, I’m gonna talk about how I feel about various things that happened with my friends over this past year and a half.

(I would open this with thank you (Well, first! Let me say people were great because…). But as I said, we’ll get to that post! So, for now, I’ll just say…)

I love my friends. I think they always have the best intentions at heart. But there were some things that were hard for me:

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Attitudes that were hard to deal with:

(1 & 2 have sort of been covered on the blog before, in case you want to skip to number 3.)

  • 1) “Yeah. Well, you know how men are.”(Or any such version of that sentence.) I’ve talked about this before. So, I’ll try not to drill this point into the ground. But, please. I don’t want to hear any version (from men or women) about how “men are just abusive” (even if those aren’t the exact words you use). That’s hurtful. Not just to me, but also to great men (whom apparently we should expect more of).
  • 2) “One of these days another women is going to come along, and she’s gonna know how to deal with them. What these men need is good women to shape them up.”I heard some version of this more than once (and from more than one person).

    I’ve also talked about this before. But I’m mentioning again, but it really hurt and felt really pretty harmful. I really never want to hear another woman be blamed for her own abuse/mistreatment. It’s not about a “good woman” changing an abusive man. The culture needs to shift. The man needs to shift. I’m sure the woman is not a perfect person, and has things she needs to work on – but trying to figure out how to magically make a man not abusive toward her is not one of them.

    (p.s. random thought/side note – I only hear this thought from (mainly) New Yorkers (or, I guess maybe a coupe of midwesterners). Never from people in Southern California. So, I don’t know if parts of America have different views on what relationships are, or how men treat women, or what. But in SoCal – or at least in my circles – we didn’t expect the men to be like that, and nobody even insinuated that if only I’d “put him in his place,” or “put my foot down,” or “reigned him in” or whatever that he would’ve stopped abusing me.

  • 3) This is one I don’t think I’ve talked about a whole lot. But one thing that felt really really hard was the frustration my friends would express along the lines of “You’re Aurora! You’re not gonna just melt down because of a guy! That’s not you! Stop it. Why are you being like this?! I’ve known you for [some people can fill in this thing with like a decade]. And I’ve never seen you act like this! Get over it! Snap out of it!”And it’s like, “Okay, if this is the first time you’ve seen my act like this in a decade, then maybe instead of being annoyed, take that to mean something is really (really!) wrong, and let’s figure out what to do about that. If you need a break from me, okay. But telling me how frustrated you isn’t helping. Don’t you understand I’m frustrated too, and that if I could “snap out of it,” I would? (This one was the hardest one to deal with, for me.)

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Stories of good friendship:

Some people got it so right – which is how I know it can be done. So, here are some stories of my friends who got it right

  • 1) Stand firm in your position.For me, I was making a billion excuses for my rapist all the time. “Maybe he didn’t mean to.” (Even after he point-blank told me he meant it, I still questioned that!) “Oh, maybe I misheard him (even though every piece of evidence I have about his character leads me to think I didn’t mishear him – or that even if I did mishear him that one time, he still assaulted me, so what would that matter?).
    So, when I would sort of re-litigate all that with my friends, it was the ones who stood really firm in their position that “it was sexual assault, he overstepped your clear boundaries” who were the most helpful.

    Now, that’s a tough thing to do, right? Stand really firm in your position while also listening to your friend. They never shut me down. They never were like, “stop thinking this or that! or saying this or that! That’s dumb!” No. They’d usually soften it with some kind of joke. [*super sarcastically*] Oh sure, the man who just completely ignores you when you’re crying and climbs on top of you, and laughs at you when you say you’re uncomfortable, and tells you that you’re not [etc. etc.] that definitely sounds like a super normal sexual experience to me. It’s happened to you a million times before, right? That’s just what sex is? Everybody cries during sex, right? Just like he says?”

    (I mean, I don’t think I do that sarcasm bit as well as my friends did. But it was the one sarcasm I always welcomed haha.)

    I love the friends who wanted to listen to me, wanted to hear me out, wanted to give me space of “huh, maybe he didn’t really understand.” Of course it’s sweet to have listeners. But you cannot go on that journey with me. I’m already undercutting myself all the time. So, I need you to not help – to not jump on any little piece I pick out of “but he seemed like a good guy!” Sure, yes. He seemed like one. But it’s not our job to take a tiny kernel of niceness and extrapolate it to cover up all the bad things he did. And I need you to stand firm.
    (Random side note: It was usually my male friends who were the super-stand-firmers and my female friends who’d go down the “weeeeeeeeell, maybe he’s not bad. Maybe he was just confused” rabbit hole with me. I have no idea what that means. Just a weird observation.)

  • 2) Know when you don’t know the answers.I had one friend who, when he felt, “I’ve known you for so long, but never seen you act quite like this over anything, no matter how upsetting” (and of course, he’d seen me pretty upset before), he didn’t get frustrated with me or huff and puff and leave. He sat me down and asked if we could really talk about it. I ended in tears. And he was no more equipped than that. So, he encouraged me to call the RAINN hotline, which I did, which got the ball rolling toward therapy and me getting better and everything.

    He knew something was really wrong. He knew enough to ask. And he knew enough to send me to somewhere else for answers, because he knew he didn’t have them. Those were all the right things to do.

    And I don’t know that I would’ve known enough to do those things. I say I wish more people would’ve been like that for me. But I imagine if a great friend of mine seemed really edgy or something. I’m not positive that my first impulse would be “she really needs help.” I could totally imagine thinking, “she seems off, but if something were really wrong, she’d tell me.” Or, “she can take care of herself. I’m not her parent. I don’t want to overstep bounds. She’ll ask if she needs help,” or any other number of things that results in me not being helpful. And I might be good intentioned at heart – as I’m nearly certain every one of my friends were. But the friend who saw something was off and asked to talk about it, and set me on the path toward help… He’s the one I remember the most as being the most helpful. Where would I be without him? So, I dunno. Help. Be helpful. Think to help. Never hurts to ask.

  • 3) “How Are You Feeling/Dealing With This?” (etc.) is the question that comes first, full stop.

    Or, at least, that’s what I think, in my opinion – that’s what felt best.I never knew how much I wanted someone to ask this, until someone did.
    I haven’t been shy about the details. I’ve blogged them for the world to see. It’s not secret. So, it’s fine when someone asks me about them. I’ve answered the questions of if I went to the police, if I went to a lawyer. Now, I can even answer if I went back to school (because I did). So, I don’t mind answering all those questions that come up. And especially at the beginning, when I was still processing everything, I did want to talk about the details sometimes.

    But of all the many times that I have told someone in a one-on-one conversation what was happening/what happened in my life, one that really stuck out to me was the person who asked, “How are you doing? Are you okay?” in a sea of people asking, “Did you report him? What exactly happened?” and on and on. (Just because I’m comfortable sharing my details doesn’t mean everyone is. And even of those who are, not everyone wants to share them/relive them at a moment’s notice.)

    I mean, it’s awesome that people want to take an interest in what happened to me. It’s awesome that they want me to get “justice,” and for him to see consequences. But it was so much more awesome, under the weight of a million questions that I’d been dealing with, to have someone ask about me. Yes, the perpetrator should get the shame, but the survivor should get the support. And that felt very supportive and nice. So, my best advice would be to ask about the survivor – how are they doing? What do they need?

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The weird feeling of weird rifts and shifts in our dynamic:

  • I am finding it sometimes hard to differentiate “what comments are worth saying something about” vs “what do I just need to let go?”

    I firmly believe that every one of my friends is a good friend, and really, is a feminist. I think everyone was trying the best they could with the knowledge they have. And I also believe I owe them way more of an apology than they owe me (which is why I’ve been doing a mini-sort-of-apology tour, as I will get into).

    So, if I’m the one who was agitated a lot, didn’t want to leave the apartment a lot, was bad at keeping in touch, was sort of grouchy and hard to talk to often, couldn’t concentrate on anything (anything – not work, not life stuff, so not my friends’ lives), etc…. If I was a bad friend, how can I possibly think it’s okay to nit pick and be like, “Listen. What you said felt sort of insensitive to survivors because of [blah], and it hurt my feelings” or, “you said something that really sounded like the myths some people believe about domestic violence, and I just want to make sure you know that when you say [blah blah blah] it can hurt,” or whatever…

    On the one hand, when people hurt each other, they should both have an opportunity to express that to each other and keep their relationship open and communicative, and it can grow. And if we’re ever gonna actually grow as a country, that means every single one of us needs to grow (including me!). We all need to keep looking at our internalized biases, and ingrained misogyny (even many, many of the “feminists” among us (again, super including me!). We need to keep listening, learning, and growing. So, if my friends want the culture to change (and I think they do), they would want to know the stuff they said that may be hurtful.

    On the other hand, a couple of things.
    A) I’m tired. (This is a huge, giant part of it.)

    I am tired. (So, so, tired.) I have fought enough battles this year. (You can skip this paragraph if you don’t want the list.) I have talked to the police and a lawyer. I’ve navigated going back to my writing program, where I’d met the man who assaulted me (who thankfully is gone from there, finally). I dealt with trying to successfully keep my day job while I could barely get out of bed. I toed the line at a bunch of races when I was not feeling it (and have not gotten my full health back after a bunch of crying breakdowns). I’ve dealt with my own brain feeling like it’s gonna melt away when I can’t do anything but be stuck in the time of the incident and cry, cry, cry, cry, cry. I’ve tried to navigate staying in the new city I’d just recently moved to after it all happened. And on and on and on and on. I feel like I have been constantly fighting. I am exhausted. The last thing I want to do is fight with my friends – especially if there is already sort of a rift. Which brings me to B –

    B) I don’t want to tear our friendship any more apart, if it’s already fraying!

    How much can people reasonably take? “Oh, yeah, I wasn’t a great friend for a while. Also, while you were trying to be nice, you actually said this thing that upset me.” Are they living in a world of landmines now, where they can’t do anything right? That wouldn’t be a fun position to be in.

    C) As I said before, I know in healthy relationships, you can both share grievances. But there is something about this all that feels at least vaguely reminiscent-ish of my time with sexual assault guy. He’d do something awful, but then zero in on something tiny I did, so we could focus on that instead. I don’t want that to start being a pattern of my life in the other direction where it’s like, “Sure. I need to apologize for barely talking to you for like a 6-month span. But also, you should’ve have said this or that.” Like, what? So, I don’t want to be him. And I think there’s a way to accomplish it all – to talk about things that hurt my feelings and take responsibility for being a bad friend for a while (while trying to actively change and start to be a better friend now that I’m more capable). But to me, it feels like at least a semi-sort-of hard line to walk and I definitely don’t want to turn into sexual assault guy. I don’t think I’m him. I don’t think I’ll be him. But I definitely don’t want to accidentally become him. But I also don’t want to get stuck in relationships (of any kind) where I can’t say how I feel because I’m too afraid – either of becoming him, or of upsetting the other person. So, I don’t know… I’m rambling. Anyway…

This post is long. So, I’m gonna sort of do a much smaller version of it tomorrow with the conclusion, but if you stuck through the long version, well there you go. You reached the end of this post, my friend!

Sunday, November 5th, 2017

My old titles I was considering: How Do We *Really* Learn About This Stuff? / How Do We *Really* Listen To Women?

I think those maybe might sound like dumb questions… and they maybe, might be dumb questions…

Here’s what I’m trying to say… Through therapy, books, twitter, conversations, etc., I have learned a lot about misconceptions about domestic violence, and super-duper internalized misogyny throughout America. I’ve learned about “rape culture” and how prevalent and institutionalized and ingrained it is. I’ve learned so much.

And now I feel like I understand all these “feminist” words that are being used… I feel like some of these ideas (such as rape culture) are real, and important to talk about and understand.

And now that I’m sort of “in this world,” I feel happy yo have a language with which to talk about this stuff. And i also feel like it makes talking about this stuff easier when certain concepts start to have names.

But.

I used to kind of tune out a little when I heard “patriarchy” or “rape culture,” etc. And if I – a somewhat progressive-ish, at least feminist-ish woman thinks, “Oh my. Let’s all settle down,” imagine how some other people are feeling about those words. I know plenty of men who tune them out.

But now they’ve become sort of part of my lexicon.

So, I don’t know. I think it’s important to use language that’s seemingly accessible to all and not really intimidating. So, I try to be careful-ish about not overusing those words.

But I also wish we could talk about them in a way that made the conversation easier once we all got on the same page about overall concepts.

Anyway, I have no answers. But I do think some of this “feminist language” is both helpful and almost not-helpful at the same time, depending on the audience. And it’s just something I think about…

Saturday, November 4th, 2017

I feel a little weird making a strong statement like that, that to some degree, is based on my opinion and personal experience.

But also, “just put your foot down” is terrible advice for people in an abusive relationship.

It’s just not that simple.

For instance, with me and sexual assault guy, I “put my foot down.” When he talked to me like no one should ever talk to another human being during a fight about basically nothing, I let him know I was very upset, and was not happy to spend time with him, etc.

And he laaaaaid on the charm. He took me to a sort of nice restaurant. He apologized so hard. He just kept saying, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” He was a perfect gentleman. And do you know what happened later that week? He sexually assaulted me.

Of every abusive relationship I’ve ever known pretty intimately, very few times over the course of a pretty long time has the abused person ever felt comfortable “putting their foot down.” And each time they did, things got amazingly better for a little bit – and then they got 10x worse.

And abusive person, sure, will get a little “better” to keep you. And then they get worse to re-establish dominance.

You don’t get to have power. That’s not how abusive relationships work. So, if they feel they give some power up to you, they will take it back (usually even harder than they did before). “Putting your foot down” to an abusive person is terrible advice because in most cases, it will ultimately make you less safe, more in trouble, more scared, and get you deeper in your situation.

And I am reeeeeeeally tired of hearing this narrative that like, “Oh, men are just selfish,” or “men just don’t listen” and it’s up to women to “shape them up.” As long as women ‘put their foot down/do things right,’ men will shape up!” Like, please stop.

I used to think it must be my fault that people would say things like that to me. I must not be using the correct words – trying to minimize to much and such. But after I tried to get ahold of the language and really explain that this guy was abusive and threatening and scary and a serial sexual assaulter, etc… I still got it sometimes. “Oh, it’s just gonna take the right woman, and he’ll shape up.”

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

It’s not my job to “fix” an abusive man. It’s not any of our jobs. We are not responsible for our own mistreatment because we don’t know the secret to making someone not abusive.

And if there’s a way to stop that weird narrative sometime in my lifetime, it would be really pretty dope.

So… okay, if you can’t tell the person to put their foot down, what do you do? You obviously care about your friend. You don’t want them to be in an abusive relationship. So you’re like, “change it! Get out! Do this! Do that!” …Because you want to help. It’s not coming from a place of maliciousness.

Well. I think you have a lot of patience. I’ve read a few books now about abusive relationships. And some of the advice that I’ve seen is that if you’re sort of almost commanding her, “leave that man,” then it’s easy for you to almost sound like him… You’re not being abusive or anything. You’re not him. But, as far as how it makes the abused woman feel – it’s another person trying to order her around. So, maybe don’t do that.

I don’t really know the answers for how to get your friend out of an abusive relationship. But I do know that having friends get angry with you for “not being the strong smart woman they know you are,” and “allowing this to happen to you” when you got in over your head and don’t know what to do – it doesn’t feel exceptionally helpful. I know it comes from a place of love. And I try to accept it as such. But I was doing enough yelling at myself. And he was definitely doing enough yelling at me. So, I didn’t need another chorus of yellers.

There’s a chapter toward the end of Lundy Bancroft’s, “Why Does He Do That?” that helps explain this better than I can – how to be a good support person if you have a friend in an abusive relationship. So, I guess go read that?

In conclusion, whatever tactics you take… shifting the blame to telling the woman that she’s responsible for her treatment because she hasn’t “tamed him” or “put her foot down” or whatever enough is really the wrong way to go. It’s the wrong take. (And it’s one I hear a lot.) So, as I’m finishing out these posts, I thought it was important to have one focus on that. (And please, don’t only avoid doing it yourself – correct the people you hear doing it. We can’t change this myth/stigma without forward purposeful movement.)

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

So, this is a pretty explicit post about sex, because well, it’s talking about sex.

I’m doing this post specifically because I used to google this a lot (a lot) at the beginning. Since I was dying to hear other survivors’ voices on this back then, I felt it was only fair to add my voice in – especially because I’ve talked so in depth about everything else.

To some extent (if you’ve been reading this blog), you know some things about my sex life. (That’s kind of weird to think about, but that’s life, I suppose. Haha.)
While I haven’t really had a conclusion post about sex, it has been something woven throughout my posts. (So, sorry for any of this that ends up being me sort of repeating myself…

In the beginning, I cried a lot during sex – like a lot, a lot. Like for a while, it was practically any time a man got on top of me. (The only person who escaped this was California guy, but I cried in the uber on my way home…) I cried a lot.

It interrupted sex a lot. I’m sure it won’t shock you to think crying kind of ruined the mood. So, there were a lot of times that were interrupted for a bit, or full-on stopped.

I wondered here if sex would be my tequila.

I went through a couple of different phases. I had kind of the “summer of sex,” where I had sex with kinda everybody. And then – and I never thought I’d hit this point in my life – I had a small time of just like, “Oh my gosh. I need a break. I can’t have any more sex.” Thankfully, that didn’t last too long. But it was around for a little while.

[Warning, again, this is pretty explicit-ish…]

One thing that I really viewed as sort of a turning point of sorts was when I had a threesome. I had a couple different combinations. And when I had a threesome with two guys, that was a giant turning point for me. They were kind and respectful, and I felt super safe – even with two super strong men around me. And there was so much to concentrate on and take in – it was like sensory overload. And it was… for me, it was really helpful. I don’t know if a threesome is what helps other people. And oh goodness, I personally wouldn’t recommend jumping *right* into one. As I said, I cried a lot. For months. And then, as I was starting to get better, this opportunity came along. So, I went for it! And it just kind of came along at the right time and was good. But I wasn’t 100% better immediately after that. I still had some rough days. I still needed a tiny break from sex a few months later.

So… what’s the secret? Cry and cry and cry it out until you hopefully stop? Or take a break from sex? Or have sex with someone you reeeeeally love? Or have sex with a stranger? With someone famous? With what feels like everyone on the planet?  Have different types of sex you haven’t had before (such as said threesome)? Go travel around the world and have destination sex with somebody? Hope that getting better in trauma therapy will help everything – including your sex life?

I don’t know. I don’t know the answer. I did all of those things. And… I will say eventually I got better. Which one made me better? I don’t know. All of them? Maybe. Or did some of them hinder the process? Maybe! It’s hard to tell. I don’t know.

It was a haaaaaaaaard process. And I don’t even mean that in a funny sex joke way. I just mean it was actually a really tough process.

[Also, I just want to make a note in here really fast that obviously, no matter how many people you’re having sex with, keep it safe… Get tested regularly. Use protection. Be safe. That’s important… You may feel like your life is over. But it’s not. And when you really start living again, you want as little baggage as possible from your assault into your new life. So, anyway, be safe. (Don’t worry. I was safe too.)]

And I read so many blogs. And all these places kept saying, “it’s normal if women don’t orgasm,” and I wanted to tear my hair out and scream, “I have always been great at orgasming! It’s potentially my most reliable and best skill! Do not tell me it leaves me now. Stop it!”

This only even became an issue because sexual assault guy wouldn’t stop making fun of me for not orgasming (as he was making me so uncomfortable I was crying). (And even when I brought up later how upsetting that was, and how I’d already orgasmed multiple times that morning and we both knew full well I could orgasm, he said, “Well, you didn’t.” He never let it die. I always wanted an apology, and instead he doubled down whenever it was brought up.

So, when I was having sex with someone new – and it was taking all I had just to not cry and keep on keepin’ on, it took me longer to orgasm than usual. (I did! But it took a while.) And he said something like, “it takes a little while to get your motor running.” And I wanted to crawl into a hole for eternity.

Is this who I’m gonna be forever now? Am I gonna have some orgasm issue? I don’t have sex issues! I sit on my throne of orgasms in my sex kingdom, as reigning sex princess. So much was being taken away from me. My best and most reliable skill could not join the list.

So, the road was stressful. It was hard. It was uncomfortable. It was filled with self-doubt and fear. It was a weird year and a half in a million ways – and that includes sex.

So, if you’re reading this wondering if sex will get good for you again – I hope to goodness it will. It did for me, 100%. I’m fully back to orgasming all the time, feeling comfortable again. I’m not so naive as to believe I’ll *never* have a bad day or weird moment when it comes to sex. But it’s very normal again. And I felt like I was in the largest pit of despair and that it would never be normal. So, if you’re feeling the most despair you’ve felt in your life – I promise I was feeling it too. I didn’t believe people when they told me it would get better. “You don’t understand! This is the worst I’ve ever felt, and this feeling won’t go away!” “I do understand, Aurora. It will get better.” “It will NOT!”

…But sure enough… I had like 11 orgasms the other night. I’m orgasming just fine and often. I’m really enjoying a sex a lot, getting distracted way (way) less, not crying at all. It’s all good now!

And I know it’s so weird that I’ve talked about orgasms so much here. Because it feels like I’m being some weird douche-y whatever. I feel gross – like I’m Donald Trump bragging or something. But I don’t mean it in a gross way. … (I mean, I am pretty proud of my super-human ability ;), but I do mean it more in a way of hope than *pounds chest* Oh, yeah, bro! 11 Orgasms *chest bump*)

So, that’s my take on it. Sex gets great again. It just felt like the longest year and a half ish (year and three quarters?) of my life for that to happen.

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

I’m about to finish what I think is probably the end of this whole saga. And before I do, I wanted to hit on any last questions… I think we’ve (hopefully) covered basically everything. But one of the last questions I never got around to was – how did I learn to sleep again?

[spoiler alert: *dramatically bangs head on the table, because uuuuugh gross it’s about love/intimacy/bah blah blah blah uuuugh. So, feel free to skip this one if you want.]

I hadn’t been sleeping basically at all. I was up almost every hour for a while – getting exceptionally interrupted sleep, when I ever was lucky enough to. Thank goodness for the couch in my office, because I’d always need to nap during the day. ‘Cause I was just never sleeping…

It’s weird to say, “I was so lucky” to start a sentence when it has to do with my sexual assault saga. But, the one part of it that I was so lucky about was that the man I was so so deeply in love with still existed in this place that was this whole other world… (California).

I know I have some mixed feelings on having gone back to California so much. But one thing I loved about all the trips was getting to see him. Everything seemed a little more possible with him – including sleep – a billion times more possible in his arms.

So, as we fell asleep, I traced his chest. I paid so much attention to every single millimeter of it. I’m sure I could describe it in great perfect detail to a professional sketch artist – which is more than I can say for most faces, tbh.

I put my hand on his chest as he held me to sleep. And I made sure to concentrate on that feeling so much. I wanted to take it back to New York with me. I know it was both hard to concentrate and hard to feel at that time. So I just kept focusing, kept tracing, kept looking, until I fell asleep…. Because while I couldn’t sleep anywhere else, I couldn’t not sleep when I was in his arms.

And so when I was in my bed, alone, and I couldn’t sleep, I would put my hand just in the air right next to me and pretend to trace his chest, and my shoulders would fall like 4 inches. I’d be totally unaware of how much tension I was holding in them until they’d lower so much, and it’d be like “whoa.”

And then I’d lay my hand on the bed next to me – as though I was laying it on California guy’s chest. And I’d fall asleep thinking of him holding me. (I don’t even usually like to be held! …But by him I do.)

And that’s how I slept.

Different people have different tricks. You’ve read them in 1,000 google articles. I tried a number of them. And I’m sorry that my trick is something that’s not easy to replicate. But after I was assaulted, I wanted to know how people did everything – how did they sleep, how did they have sex, how did they function? Was anything ever normal again? I had a million questions.

So, for the people asking those questions now, I thought I owed a little answer – even if (I’m sorry), it’s not an exceptionally helpful one.

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

I feel like a fair amount of what I’ve been dealing with over all this time is not necessarily just dealing with the trauma of what happened – it’s been trying to justify why it’s a big deal, or why it’s okay for me to be upset, or why rape isn’t just some “asshole” move that we brush away in the same way we would someone blowing off a date or something…

I think I’ve talked before about how when I had open-heart surgery people were overly concerned. For the most part, most people were so nice and so patient, that it felt like they were making it a bigger deal than it was to me.

And I feel the opposite about this sexual assault trauma – that people don’t necessarily think it’s as big of a deal, and they put it under the umbrella of any “bad relationship” issues. And so, I just feel like sometimes I’m fighting for empathy, and that can really be kind of exhausting…

But, I really need to learn that me getting better doesn’t rely on how other people view my trauma.

People think of things differently!

Some people might be more shaken at the loss of a pet than of a human family member. I can already hear people with pets saying “they are my family too!” And some people would just completely not understand that.

For some people, losing their house might be the worst thing in the world, taking away something that means a lot to them for one reason or another (maybe it symbolized independence, or certain goals, strength, or pride, or an investment, etc.). For someone else, losing a house might mean freedom if the house has bad memories for them.
(We could do these examples all day, and I’m sure we could find better ones.)

The point is, I think we all have a general sense of what’s probably (uuuuuuuusually) more upsetting/disrupting to a person’s life than other stuff… (We even have a legal system that sort of takes care of that – sorting crimes at least into felonies, and misdemeanors, etc.) Of course, many tragedies don’t fall under the umbrella of crimes. (It’s not a crime to get cancer. It’s not a crime to lose someone special, or your job, or to go bankrupt, etc. And I also now not all crimes are successfully prosecuted, etc.) But, what I’m trying to say is I think  we all generally have a spectrum, but some people’s spectrums are quite different.

Sometimes people expect me to be more hurt by things I don’t feel so hurt by, or less by things that tear me up. And I’m sure, to some extent, that has to be true of a lot of us…

Now that my eyes have sort of been opened more so than before (specifically about the ways women (and all sexual assault survivors) are treated in America), I’ve been screaming from the rooftops, “Oh my gosh! Women’s rights! Look at how we treat women and survivors of sexual assault…” Even if it feels like a giant, current, threatening, awful problem, there are always going to be people who either just don’t really think it’s a problem, don’t care, or literally do not even believe what happened to you.

I sometimes feel the not believing this is a problem specific to rape survivors, but it’s not necessarily. I mean, there are people out there who think that Sandy Hook – a giant national tragedy didn’t even happen. Those people seem overall few and far between, but there’s enough of them that sometimes they still terrorize some of the family members of the victims. No matter how clear your trauma is, or how sad it is, not everyone will believe you/be on your side/care.

I mean, we elected a President who bragged about sexually assaulting women – that’s people saying they obviously don’t care. That is not a deal breaker for the people who voted for him. (Even though it should be.)

Some people don’t have the personal experience to truly be able to relate to what it’s like for you. Men may not fully understand what it’s like to be a woman and feel threatened in the various ways we do. “Just fight back. What’s the problem?” It’s somewhat like how a lot of white people don’t understand how so many innocent black people get killed by cops. People say, “Just follow orders, you’ll be fine” – even though, so often black people do exactly that (after getting pulled over for a bogus, non-offense anyway, and then things aren’t fine). And some white people still say, “Well, obviously the black man did something wrong. Otherwise he wouldn’t have been shot.”

A lot of us (me totally included) have a hard time stepping outside of what our own struggles are. Do I have any clue what it’s reeeeally like for, for instance, a transgender person? Do I intimately understand their struggles? I do not. And if I hear a story of someone who’s not some privileged, small, young cisgender white girl (like me) having a struggle in a place where I’m embraced, of course it’s easy for me to not understand that on the surface.

And I think sometimes a lot gets lost in the translations of our experiences because even though we all think we’re generally the same – living the same lives, in the same places – your life might be a LOT different from the your neighbor, or someone else who works in your office, because of your skin color, or background, or gender, or sexual orientation and on and on and on. (And sometimes, even if we want to put on the goggles of that person to see the world through their eyes – we might not have the tools at our immediate disposal. (Really, we can learn and read as much as we can, and talk to as many other people as we can… We’ll still never truly be able to 100% understand, since we’re not them. But I still think we should at least try, with the best of our ability.))

So, I think between not being able to have a true deep understanding of certain struggles, between having different backgrounds, and different things that are important to people and affect them in certain different ways, and because we only have so much brain space, and for other various reasons – not everyone will understand. Not everyone will care. Not everyone will even believe you.

But that doesn’t make what happened to you any less real or awful. You’re not in court. You don’t have to convince every troll who tweets you. (Heck, I had an issue even on a helpline once (which I guess I’ll talk about soon) – but spoiler alert, you don’t have to convince that person either).) It would feel so great to feel unconditionally supported by the world, but that’s not how the world works.

And for me, it’s been a reeeeeeeeeeally hard thing to grapple with. But until it happened to me, even I didn’t realize/recognize the epidemic we have in America of the way we treat sexual assault survivors, and the way we treat women – and all the issues/hurdles/biases within the epidemic that make it even worse.

And yes, I think work should be done to better things. I think the culture is maybe thankfully changing a little. I think I would like to contribute to that. I would like to find positive ways to make the world better for survivors… But I’d also like to be able to separate from it a little – to do it in a way that doesn’t feel so painful when I find the people who don’t believe or don’t care. For me, I think it maybe needs to become slightly less personal…

I dunno. That’s kind of what’s rolling around in my head right now.

And a final note on this post: Even if you don’t have everyone, you always have someone – always. Even if you don’t have a family, or you’ve been alienating your friends – you might feel alone, but you’re not. There are apps, helplines, support groups. You are never fully alone. Not having everybody, doesn’t mean having nobody.