Relationship Collateral Damage

August 11, 2017

[This is one of many posts in the sexual assault series.]

I don’t mean to compare my assault with some giant news-making tragedy… I don’t really believe in comparing trauma, and I personally don’t think what I’ve been through even begins to even kind of compare with what people in the Boston bombing, and the like, went through… 

But through my time in therapy (individual and group), and through talking with other survivors, I’ve found it helpful to think of assault in that lens purely when you get so bogged down in “if I only I would’ve done this or that, this wouldn’t have happened.”

And yeah, it’s true that technically if you hadn’t been at a certain place at a certain time, then the thing that happened wouldn’t have happened to you…

But how could you know?

How could you know not to go a marathon? To the movies? To school?

You can know not to go to these things…

But I never thought about how tenuous the relationships might be with you and the people who were somehow involved in these things. Maybe they invited you to that movie in Aurora, CO, or even just told you they wanted to see it. 

Did they bring the gun in the theater? Did they have *any* idea that would happen? Of course not. But are they a big part of the reason you were there? Yeah. Can your brain get around forgiving them? I guess that depends on a lot of factors.

(This probably also applies to people who were perfect drivers, but a drunk driver still hit them and harmed their passenger, etc etc. Anyone who was not responsible for the harm, but was just close enough to it that they felt like they were…)

As I try to come back to the “real world,” and build some relationships back, I do know that of course it is sad that some are no longer there or seem no longer viable, but at least I can understand why. I can easily see that maybe I only just met the person after all this happened, and they only knew me as flaky and sad and cry-y, and they have no history with me to fight for, and a person who potentially could’ve been a good friend falls out of my life.

It’s still sad. But it’s completely understandable. I have been such a crazy person. Who would be friends with me?

But then there was this story I told about the weekend that in my mind led to being assaulted.

Bear in mind, he had already assaulted me once! I was already pretty on edge and showing signs of someone going through trauma. I was already in trouble! There are a million things that contributed to both that one, and the second one. And it is not my friend’s fault who came to NY (therefore making it that I stayed in town on the weekend I was gonna leave)… 

She didn’t do anything!

I hadn’t told her about the first assault (that I definitely was still just thinking of as like “that was so weird/mean/rude/wrong,” and not understanding it yet as the true boundary-crossing, trauma-inducing thing it was)… Anyway, she didn’t know. There was no way for her to know how incredibly on edge I was, and how desperately I needed to escape home to California for my long weekend.

She was just someone reaching out to a great friend saying she was coming into town and asking if she could stay – totally exceptionally unremarkably normal friend stuff to do. 

Did she make me stay in town that weekend to be with her? No, she did not. 

Did she make me send the text that seemed like kind of a non issue that ultimately accidentally started the fight of the century with sexual assault guy (when I found out she’d out super late for work, so I had the night free after all)? Heck no, she did not! She has nothing to do with that. She’s not in my brain, or in my phone.

Did she have aaaaanything to do with the fallout throughout the following week that ultimately led to me crying underneath the man who wouldn’t stop?

She wasn’t even here! She had nothing to do with it.

And yet.

I can’t get passed the idea that if she just hadn’t called… if I’d just flown to California and gone to Legoland and seen my friends and whatever, that things would be different. And somehow I put that way too much on her. A phone call and a request from her did not ruin my life, but it feels like such an inciting incident, I can’t let it go, no matter how super crazy that is.

I held her to too high of a standard after that. I was coming to California for something many months later. And we had made plans to hang out and have a sleepover and everything. And then at the last minute, she went on vacation with someone.

Really, in the grand scheme of life, was that that big of a slight?

We have been through everything together. We have seen so many ups and downs. We have made hospital visits, had long late-night phone calls… She’s shown up with a poster to half marathon. We’ve experienced loss and death and also excitement and change together. We have seen each other through SO much, and I was so sure that we would be friends forever. (For real.)

So, is that gigantic of a deal that she wanted to take a vacation with her new boyfriend instead of seeing her old friend? No. Is it friendship-ending? Of course it shouldn’t be. But my brain cannot let go of “when you came to town last minute, I stayed and got assaulted for you. Now I come to town for something that’s been on our calendars for a while, you decide not to even be there?!”

And obviously I didn’t get assaulted “for her.” That’s crazy. I didn’t even get assaulted because of her. But my Neanderthal brain can’t separate what happened from her being a part of the inciting incident. So when she makes what would normally be a mildly hurtful misstep that’s pretty easy to get past, now it’s a friendship-ender. She was held to too gigantically high of a standard that no one could’ve ever survived forever because I was too “angry” I guess or whatever with her, because of what just so happened to happen around her… 

None of this is her fault, but I don’t think our supposedly “rock solid” friendship (or so I thought) is gonna make it past this…

And even if I can grow up and have logical thoughts and get passed it, who knows if she’ll even still be around to accept me back into her life then.

So, that’s something I’ve found exceptionally hard. It’s hard enough to deal with the relationships that I saw falling apart in front of my eyes because of how I couldn’t even keep my own life together, so how on earth could I have ever have kept those together? That was hard enough.

But watching successful thriving relationships just get hit by a meteor of my neurons not being able to distinguish blame or whatever, that is really just a whole ‘nother level of exceptionally painful. And I never thought about the fact that I bet this happens with a lot of people. Or not. Maybe people cope better than I do. Anyway, this just was a surprising sad jarring thing to me that I didn’t know was a thing, and now, I sadly do.

I'd love to hear from you! So whaddya say?