One of the biggest, weirdest things about having been assaulted/in an abusive sort of relationship is that I feel like I can’t even go sightseeing anymore.
Most of the time I’ve been sightseeing, I’ve just ended up completely sobbing and losing it.
I kinda think this probably has to do with many things. For one, I just feel sort of embarrassed – embarrassed that I’m such a mess, and that I allowed the situation to get out of control. I just feel embarrassed and like I want to kind of hide from people in general (and that’s hard at tourist attractions).
I also feel just nearly constantly distracted – just replaying those nights over and over and how I got to those nights in the first place. To me, the most present thing about how hard all of this is, is never being able to concentrate on anything. And I think that becomes pretty blatantly apparent when I’m supposed to be experiencing something new or learning about something new at some new place – I can’t take it in. I can’t see it. I can’t retain. And that makes everything so exceptionally frustrating.
Another thing that I think is probably pretty specific to me and maybe not all people who’ve experienced abuse or assault is that on of his problems was that he’d get exceptionally angry anytime I wasn’t “normal” in the sense of what he expected from relationships. The reason he first assaulted me was because I wasn’t ready to have sex in my bed. To me, that was my space. He and I hadn’t even been sleeping together for a week. I wasn’t ready, and he thought that was preposterous because, “that’s not how it works!” I would get in really big trouble if I wanted to deviate from anything… If for him, I wasn’t ready for something he felt “wasn’t a big deal” or ‘should’ve already happened’ in this imaginary timetable he decided was normal, then I would get in giant trouble. It let to abuse. It led to assault. And now it’s led to me having all these issues with PTSD (which have made other issues for me in life, like deferring school and such).
I never really paid all that much attention to people around me while sightseeing before (unless I was making new friends :-)). Couples? Not couples? Families? Everybody was just doing their own thing, and it was just sort of like whatever. But now, I feel so aware of couples around me. Because weirdly every time I see a couple holding hands or being able to be “normal,” it’s as though I can hear the ghost of sexual assault guy in my head – like he’s pointing out to me, “Look at all these people who are normal! Who can handle all this ‘normal couple stuff’! You’re the weird one. You’re the one in the wrong. If you could’ve just moved a little faster in stuff that was normal for me to expect from you, you wouldn’t have gotten hurt. It’s your fault.”
And I know that’s a little crazy. But that doesn’t stop it from feeling that way. I’m sure these people who are in couples are not giving me a second thought. And they’re definitely not thinking, “That girl deserves to be assaulted because she doesn’t like holding hands as much as we do right now.” But it still just sort of feels like this overwhelming chorus of blame screeching in my ears – even if it’s all just self-blame. It’s like look at all these “normal” couples, and if only you’d been “normal” too you wouldn’t have been hurt.
And logically, that’s crazy. I have a right to say no to things no matter how “normal” they are. I’m allowed to feel uncomfortable moving fast on certain things (even if many other women feel differently). (These are things we go over in therapy). But still. Seeing people being “normal” makes me feel defensive (even if it’s just defensive to a ghost of a person not even actually there).
So, for those reasons, and maybe more, who knows, sightseeing has become one of my most giant hills to climb. There is part of me that feels like once I can sightsee again – that that will be some kind of masterful expert level in a video game of life… That that will either mean I’m better or basically better.
And Philadelphia specifically seems like the place, because I remember Thanksgiving of 2015.
I had the week off from The Nightly Show. (We were on hiatus.) And things had been insane for me for about two months or so – working, school, moving across the country. It just felt like there were no breaks and a trillion things to do. And I got a break when I did the Philadelphia Marathon.
The marathon was awesome. I loved it. And i decided to stay in Philadelphia, because I just needed a break. And it was such a beautiful break. I had an incredible time. The people in the hotel were so nice. There were so many sights to see and so much to learn.
And it’s one of my last great memories, because very shortly after that was when I started to become involved with sexual assault guy. Philadelphia was one of the last times I felt so free… and powerful (after all, I was a marathoner!), and fulfilled, and just sooooooo happy, taking a break from a new amazing world and getting ready to return to a world full of possibilities.
I’ve since been back to Philadelphia, and like I’ve done everywhere else I’ve gone, I’ve cried my eyes out.
So, there’s something for me about being able to go back to Philadelphia. There’s a part of me that views that as sort of this like, “final challenge” or something. We’ll see. Maybe sightseeing will never be the same. Maybe Philadelphia will never again be this amazing escape. I don’t know. But that’s where I kind of stand right now.