The Battle of Sunday Night

Sunday is always my most reflective and introspective day. It is like that by design as I rarely, if ever, make plans beyond the occasional brunch. It is my day to be with myself. 

Only, increasingly it is becoming so hard to sit with myself. Just myself. I clamor and claw at the walls of the space of solitude and silently wish for someone, anyone to rescue me. I am so uncomfortable with where I am that having to be present is quite literally torture. It is when I reach for escape…maybe get a little buzz and forget. Maybe cry a bit and forget. Maybe call a guy and forget. Only now the calling a guy part is a trigger. 

What was initially supposed to be the personified version of a stiff drink, is now the entry way to a spiral staircase to my worst fears. And every time the feeling comes, I remember. And I clinch my jaw and I grind my teeth and I wring my hands and I can’t breathe. Yet even with knowing the awful consequences of a desperate phone call, I make them. Sending out bat signals across exes and old flings praying and hoping somebody can distract me from the loneliness and now deep sadness that I feel.  

I read somewhere that loneliness was God’s way of requesting time with you. Well I constantly fail at it. And I know it’s meant to make me stronger, when I am able to sit through it and not let it crush me or catalyze me into often regrettable actions. 

It won’t kill me, but it feels worse than death. It’s cold and isolated. Beyond the warmth of care and comfort, it is my own personal Azkeban. A sea of sorrow surround me and I am housed with my poor decisions that feed me lies of how my solitude was earned by unworthiness. I can recognize the lie and yet in the moment I cannot refute it. 

Today, on the Monday I feel a small victory in surviving another Sunday night. More clawing more attempts to escape myself, but no such luck. I find myself grateful that I was not successful. I know what the desperation can bring…has brought. It makes me feel weak. My Therapist would correct me and offer “human”. So it makes me feel so human. To be so vulnerable and to succumb so willingly to emotions. Not to be stronger than them and to chart my course after fleeting winds that change. 

I’m already scared for next Sunday. 

Hunger Pains

First off…I have to acknowledge how deeply uncomfortable I am right now in this moment. I haven’t talked to anyone about this, not really. Not even my best friend which is weird because I tell her everything. She’s going to find out here and I’m sorry for that JEM but I didn’t know how to talk to you about it. ((and ten minutes after writing and a few tears I have to close my eyes to click publish))

After it happened I didn’t have an appetite. One week would pass and eating would become a chore, something people or my shaking hands or growling stomach would have to remind me to do. It lasted for about two weeks, maybe three that consumption was something I did because I had to but not because I wanted to.  Then slowly it would return, my appetite would come back but after weeks of barely eating, I couldn’t eat as much. Smaller portions. It served its purpose and the craving went away. Then one saturday night I was getting ready for a birthday party. I had bought these red shorts over the holidays but could barely get them zipped when I bought them. I tried them on and to my surprise not only did they zip but they were comfortable. Flattering. I was ecstatic. I knew the weight loss came as a result of my trauma and ptsd but I didn’t care, I decided I was taking the “W” anyway.

Now it is about six weeks later and I just ate lunch, which I regret. It’s Wednesday and I’ve had approximately four meals all week. I’ve noticed myself hating food. Waiting until my head hurts or my hands shake from low blood sugar. Going out to dinner with friends and having half a roll of sushi. Or…after I eat after what I would consider to be a full meal I feel so sick that I wish I hadn’t eaten at all.

I hate when people ask me if I’ve eaten. It feels like judgment in the highest form. I know it’s not but that’s what it feels like. As if I couldn’t take care of myself…again.

I’ve asked myself if it is about control, because that’s what I learned from my studies. That women who have experienced sexual assault will develop eating disorders or disordered eating as a means to exert some control over their bodies. Maybe that’s it but it doesn’t feel right. I think maybe it’s the realization that the barriers of flesh did not and could not protect me.  That somehow my body which was my sanctuary is somehow less sacred now. Or is it more sacred? I don’t know. I can’t quite figure it out.

I promised myself I would never indulge the impulse to purge. But I wish I didn’t even feel it. I wish that I did not feel so at war with my body.  Part of me wanting to be healthy and the other part of me wanting to be empty. I wish the pain of hunger wasn’t so intoxicating.  I wish I wish I wish…

 

Writers note: While I have chosen to be candid and open about my sexual assault and the aftermath, I do want my readers to know that I am currently receiving professional help in addition to my written therapy. I have a psychiatrist who is amazing and a therapist that I often surprise with my frankness. I hope that the sharing of my story can be for the help and healing of others who have or are going through similar trials. And while community and shared experience is certainly important, I would recommend that if you or a loved one is struggling with any of these tough issues that you seek professional help as well. Nothing is more precious than your well being. 

-Jess

I am an emotional creature 

It would seem, upon review of my life in hindsight, that I had reached my pain threshold. I went silent which means I also went without processing. Writing helps me to think and to make sense of my world, I gain immense clarity through my fingertips. And now as I write for the first time in two weeks it is clear to me that I was perfectly fine being hazy. 

The wound of the assault is still open and swollen. Reminding me every time I need a pill to stop my hands from shaking or to fall asleep that I am still in repair. The hurt of my teaching being under question remains. The loss of my cousin whose last words to me was that she was coming to my graduation…The breath that was knocked from my lungs when my mother told me after the second family death in one week that she wasn’t coming to visit. She didn’t understand that I was holding it together just long enough to make it into her arms. When am I going to fall apart now? 

I was overwhelmed. 

I am overwhelmed. 

I’m grieving the loss of multiple things and people all at the same time. None, perhaps more, than the grief I am feeling for who I was just a few months ago. I am finally in touch with my anger. Because I did not lose myself, I was stolen. And the reverberation of that feeling through my dark skin rings all the way back. I have eased on trying to bring her back, but instead trying to rebuild and renovate all while staying in motion. And I want to quit. I want to stop and sit in the floor and cry, but I won’t allow myself. Not as a denial of the emotion, but because being an emotional creature does not mean my emotions get to own me. I can be sad, and hurting, and healing and still find joy and gratitude in a moment. 

Sometimes in the eye of your own storm and in the head of your own hurt you find access to the source. God only knows how I’ve gotten through the days weeks month successfully. It certainly hasn’t been me. I suppose I can truly say that I fully understand the sentiment behind:

 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I am building my testimony. I thought I knew what my story was, as if it were resolved and concluded. I thought I was an expert on myself and was ready to begin to help others’ become better versions of themselves. I knew the work. And I can’t help but feeling as though right now God is saying, prove it. Can I do the things I know will keep me and grow me? Will I take the advice and guidance I would willingly prescribe to others?  

So if this is an opportunity, will I have the courage to take it? To sow into myself as a new earth as the old has been scorched. To recount that fire brings creation through destruction and to cling to my ability to rise from my own ashes.  

And the “I’m sorrys” don’t water my garden. I don’t know what to do with them anymore than the givers of the words. Wanting it so badly to be a salve or an invitation to connect, “I’m sorry” now just makes me cringe. Maybe because it’s passive. There is no doing in I’m sorry. No movement no motion no friction even. I’m sorry lodges me further into my sore. Reminds me of the sadness in all my circumstance. 

Of all the emotions I’m tired of sadness the most. Anything else but sadness.  I’ve had my fill. But to deny it  only gives it power. So before you ask me how I am, I’ll tell you: I am profoundly sad. I am in pain. I want to cry even when I’m smiling. I’m worried about myself. I’m exhausted and I constantly feel like I’m failing.  But that is no reason to be sorry. I am also resilient and open and loving and optimistic. I am an emotional creature and my complexity and paradox makes me who I am. 

Tenets 

Ten (or so) things that are of chief importance to me:

  1. To be the kind of person living the kind of life that I can be proud of. I want to be able to look myself in the eye every morning and every evening. I want to do my best, even if for that day it just means I get through it.
  2. Everything I create is a fractal of my relationship with Source energy. I am not so foolish as to believe in my own purpose, but that God put me here to act in service of a higher purpose. My job is to remain open, because I am but a vessel.
  3. Everything and everyone is connected. My mother recently made the observation that I rarely get angry at people, even when they deserve my anger. I guess I just always think people make sense in their context. And I try to be understanding of that. I suppose I always have. Plus, I think not much gets accomplished with anger except I can recognize it as an opening for healing. We have the power to heal one another because of our connections. There is a reason people get under your skin or ignite your bones, do not try to keep people out, learn from them. At least that’s what I try to do as much as I can.
  4. Love is boundaryless. I know for me when I allow someone in and I truly love them, there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for them. Even when I don’t like them very much at the time. Love is continual forgiveness. I forgive you for not being the person I imagined you to be, and I am grateful for who you are.
  5. Life is always talking to you, it is your job to listen. I used to say that first life whispers then it talks then it yells then it screams. And I wanted to get to the place  where I could listen at the whisper. I am not there yet. And in many ways I feel my rape was life screaming at me. Discerning learning from blame, it happened to me therefore I have every right to question why and to make meaning of it as I do with all things, all opportunities or losses or interactions or events.
  6. You always know. And
  7. Listen to yourself. Trust yourself. Try as best you can to give yourself credit for knowing you best. You are the expert on you. That is not to say don’t learn vicariously or take advice, but even the advice you receive either lands or misses. If it misses then it wasn’t meant for you to follow at that time. Forgive yourself also for not being the human you previously assumed yourself to be AND be grateful for the human that you are.
  8. Timing is everything. I believe that God doesn’t do almost or halfway. That is evidenced by nature. And every adjustment or adaptation in nature is for a larger purpose that rarely makes sense at the time. But there is a synchronicity that is unspoken yet vital to sustaining. There’s never any doubt in flowers blooming or the sun rising, so why should there be doubt in us? I trust that what is meant for me is mine in its due time. It is frustrating for me to wait because I am impatient and impulsive, but at my core I know what will be will be.
  9. Love (which is to say forgiveness and gratitude) heals all wounds. Time is just you getting to the point of forgiveness and gratitude.

Losing ground 

I asked myself how much more I could take. Clearly God knows there exists a strength in me that I was previously unaware of. Not wanting to numb the emotions means electively choosing to feel all the hurt, the pain, the brokenness. And then it means constantly telling myself that I am strong enough to handle the hurt, fortuitous enough to endure the pain, and not broken but human. Then…I write. Because I couldn’t breathe if it weren’t for writing. It’s how I know what my tears are saying or what energy exists within my thoughts. I was thinking about writing when I came across GG’s blog this morning which opened with a quote 

“A writer – and, I believe, all persons – must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our misfortunes, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.” ~Jorge Luis Borges

From that moment I was in, hooked. This wasn’t just a blog, this was the universe, Spirit, The Divine, God. This was the message I most needed in this moment. And then came GG’s own words which I will end on. Gina, you beautiful soul, you were my life raft this morning: 

This is when we most need our own compassion and we need to believe that everything we go through is survivable by choosing moment to moment to moment to keep breathingand keep going.  We can’t go around it, we have to go through it.
Feelings demand to be felt.  Explore them and find the words to describe them.  At first for yourself, and then for others. There is purpose in making art with your troubles and sharing the wisdom you gain. 
Always stay true to loving yourself and being brave with your story no matter what is going on.


Transition

As the seasons change winter into spring, so do we also. I am in flux. Sifting through the wreckage learning what I can and cannot hold. Somedays I feel stronger than the day before, somedays I do not. The only things that feel good are sunshine and writing, and long walks at the ocean. Blessed am I to live so near the ocean. 

Erika says to be patient with myself, to give myself permission to not be okay, to do what I can rather than what I used to be able to do. Find a new normal. It’s harder than it sounds and it sounds horrible. Small things, she says, become big things. 

I’ve been wanting to bypass survival to get to thriving. But not only can I not, I quite literally am not. Eating is still hard. Sleeping still requires medicine. Living takes every ounce of energy I have. I get to the end of each day hanging on by a fingernail. And so maybe that’s me right now. 

I keep getting told I’m brave I’m strong I’m courageous, I don’t feel it. I want to. Perhaps I just have to trust that eventually I will. I hope I do. 

Morning 7: Being and Become a Dangerous Woman

A woman can never be too rich or too thin, but until very, very recently, she could be too powerful, for which–if she wasn’t smart enough to camouflage herself–she generally paid the price.

~Stacy Schiff

The day after I was raped I cried uncontrollably, continually repeating “I just don’t understand, I can’t make any sense of it.” Weeks later I’ve had time to reflect and examine the situation and ask myself really hard questions. Why? Because it is important to me to understand my life for the purpose of growth. I wanted to know what I did that I should not do again. Now, I want to try and draw a line of distinction in the proverbial sand: while I do not blame myself for the act, I do hold myself accountable for the circumstances that lead up to it.

I was in a place in my life where I did not put a high value on my body. I may not have articulated that a month ago, but my actions made it clear. Everything from what I fueled it with (late night fast food runs) to who I allowed to access it–men I was not in any kind of committed relationship with. I don’t think casual sex is wrong. I don’t even think random hook-ups are wrong, though that was not really my thing. But I do think that for me my life was incongruent with what I wanted. And truthfully what I deserve.

Previously I couldn’t wrap my head around the concept of celibacy because it seemed punitive; why intentionally deny yourself pleasure if that’s what you want? Well because there is something else that you want more. It’s the difference between long and sort term goals, and if we are continuing to be truthful it is the difference between maturity and immaturity. Not the sex itself, but the ability to have a healthy relationship with delayed gratification; that is maturity.

I was too much id and impatient and too much a slave to my emotions. In reading my “Loneliness” post it dawned on me that previously, I would have tried to assuage that feeling with temporary companionship rather than sitting through it. Because I hated the feeling. I still do, but at present my discomfort with physical intimacy outweighs my want for it. And I’m hoping that the discomfort is replaced by emotional fortitude. I don’t want to reach for just anyone in the moments I feel weakest. I want to have the ability to wait it out.

Full circle, I want to have the ability to believe myself bigger/stronger than my moments of pain/hurt/loneliness. That is what I was unable to do before. I caved. I sought attention and I used my body it obtain it. The men I associated with…

And sidebar, in this moment I am feeling the need to explain the relationships I had. To tell the readers of my public journal that I was not a whore or a slut…and in this noticing I realize that in hindsight I judge myself and I was about to beg forgiveness of my audience for being those disgusting misogynistic and pejorative terms, but no. I don’t need it. Part of my learning since the rape is that my appraisal of myself is more important than others’ appraisal of me. AND be it ironic though it may be, since the rape, the understanding of my own self-worth has increased tremendously.

So, I was saying…the men I associated with did not value me. And if it is one thing I’ve learned from hours of Pinterest therapy, it’s that if you do not know your worth, you’ll allow other people to assess your value and you’ll believe them over yourself. Again, a month ago I would have never said that, but my actions indicated it. I consciously sought out the approval and appraisal of men.

I don’t want to be that woman anymore. I want to dress for myself. I want to undress for myself. I want to walk, talk, eat, and exercise for the love and honor of myself. I want to grow for myself and not for the promise of love or a partner. I want to be better for myself. I want to glorify God and use every ounce of potential placed in me for my own gratification and not for the applause. I want to be proud of the person I am without accolade.

My sexual assault was a wake up call. It was a startling jolt of awakening that opened my eyes to the energy I was emitting into the world. I suppose that’s a controversial stance, but in my refusal to be a victim it also means I have to be accountable for my role. Not in the act, not in the force or the violation but in the circumstances that created the opportunity. I couldn’t have known he would do what he did. But, what I glean from the entire ordeal is that if he would have never been at my house or even in my life if I could have given myself what I was seeking from him.

Hard lessons. And maybe in a year I’ll disagree with myself but for right now that is my understanding. One last step before I end, “…what were you afraid of anyway?” A woman who is living for herself is a dangerous woman. It is not the disregard of the need of relationships, I need you to see me but I do not need you to define me. A woman who knows who she is, is a dangerous woman. She does not crave and subsequently cave. She realizes her own self-sufficiency because just as the universe can provide for itself, she is a universe in her own being. A woman who does not live and die for the approval of others is a dangerous woman. Because as we let our own light shine we unconsciously give permission to others.

Here’s to being and becoming a dangerous woman

Day 6: Clean

Before I went to bed I knew the next day would be spent cleaning. In the midst of everything else my roommate and I found out Monday that we would have to move. It wouldn’t have been such bad news of we didn’t a) absolutely love our place and b) have no time to move. However, with our lease ending at the end of April we had to make something happen. True to form by the end of the week we had secured a new place. Smaller and just a bit cheaper but secured. And that’s all we needed. So to make things easier on myself once packing time came I decided to go through all my things and do all the sorting one usually only does in the midst of moving. I tossed old things, made a clothes donation pile, scrubbed my bathroom, vacuumed, once I got started I just couldn’t help myself. 

When I got in the car headed to go get dinner (and a car wash–my car was filthy from days spent at the beach) Taylor Swift’s “Clean” came on. 

Rain came pouring down 
when I was drowning, that’s when I could finally breathe. 

I don’t know why but these lines felt exactly right for my moment.  The more I sit with it the more I find this horrific event to be one that changes me for the better. Drowning in all the overwhelming emotion of the aftermath you, I, become incredibly clear on what it really takes to survive and thrive. And it wasn’t the things I was dedicating much of my energy to. 

Ten months sober, I must admit…just because you’re clean don’t mean you don’t miss it. 

That at was my backslide. Slipping into old ways and habits and mind sets the day before…but I was reminded of how ill-fitting that old skin was now. I am different. I cannot do the same old things in the same old ways anymore. And thank God. 

So while my feeling might only last a day, I’ll take my one day. My clean day. 24 hours sober from a life spent undervaluing myself and overvaluing the appraisal of others. 

Day 4: Relax

It was a perfect day. Quite literally, it was one of those days where people would take photos to be made into post cards selling the Southern California dream. Eighty degrees and a slight breeze, clear blue water and shady Palm trees, yesterday was perfect. 

I started off with a manicure. Actually I started off with a shower. I always feel the need to have my legs perfectly smooth when I get a pedicure. I feel it’s the least I can do as someone graciously agrees to get my toes in order. So I showered. I put on one of my favorite maxi dresses and tied a knot in the bottom–you know the kind of knot you tie when you suddenly find yourself walking along the beach and don’t want your dress to get sandy or wet? Then I headed over to my favorite nail salon for a manicure and pedicure. Next I headed up north to Ted’s for a massage he gifted me. Let me say two things about that, one is that Ted is amazing (and not just because of the gift) but because of his thoughtfulness. I am continually impressed by men who pay attention. Actually I am continually impressed by people who pay attention, but especially men. One of my favorite things about him is when you’re having a conversation and suddenly get interrupted by something, say the waiter comes or you have to cross the street, as soon as the distraction is gone he picks back up, “so you were saying about your…” He always remembers right where we were and wants to go back to it. The second is that his generosity is never without intention, which I love. It is not haphazard or ostentatious. It is thoughtful and well meaning and always from a place of love. I continually tell him what a blessing his friendship has been to me. 

So I got a massage. My first one ever and it was amazing. I am pretty sure I fell asleep I was so relaxed and the masseur worked out kinks and knots in my shoulders (weight of the world) and back (concern over provision). I’ve honestly never felt better. It could also be that sometimes you just need someone to touch you. With some intention and purpose for your betterment and for your healing. I fully believe in the art (and science) of Chinese medicine. And our body energy and flow cannot be ignored. I feel like a new person after that massage. 

Next, I headed down south to shower and get ready for dinner with Ted and Elizabeth. We were going to Mister A’s because they were one of the few places in the city that was selling foie gras. Note, the delicacy has been illegal in California for some time and the ban was just recently lifted. It seems, though, some restaurants are still iffy on incorporating it into their menus. So, after a few drinks and an Uber ride we arrive at the restaurant fashionably late, which is perpetually our style, and sit for dinner. And while the food was certainly delicious–I ate everything on my plate including three pieces of bread a foie gras appetizer and multiple glasses of wine–the conversation was better. 

I love having good conversations with people. I will note that we were so engaged with one another that we did not even comment on the view, which is the reason people even go to this restaurant. We were fully present with one another and it was magnificent. The conversation spanned from joy to love to expectations, to energy to travel to art. It was perfect. After each of our respective bathroom breaks and three hours of one another’s company we got up to leave. Hugging and saying our thanks and deciding to do it again. 

As I woke up this morning after a great nights sleep, something I hadn’t had in a while, I smiled in remembering last night. There’s a reason days like that don’t happen everyday, it’s the law of relativity. But man am I ever so grateful when they happen. It reminds me of what great people I have in my life, which makes me proud of who I am. My accomplishments do not do that, my bank account doesn’t do that, nothing makes me prouder than the people I surround myself with. So it was a day of relaxation but it was also a day filled with honor. Honoring myself. Honoring those in my life. Honoring the spirit and love and connection. It was a delicious day.