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What PTSD Looks Like Years Later From a Rape Survivor

It’s Friday night. I am at my friend’s house so that I don’t have to be scared and lonely at home alone. My therapy dog, Samuel, is with me. I am recovering from having experienced two harrowing days. I did not want to be in my skin and certainly not in my mind. It was awful. The past became the present and tenses got mixed up just as they will in this post.

The Day Before

It’s Thursday night. I have been tracking my mood and my urges to self-harm on my DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) Diary Card, which I haven’t done in literally years. The mood tracking is on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest or most intense. I went from feeling a 9 on the happy scale and an 8 on the hopeful scale on Tuesday to today: fear is a 9 on the scale, anxiety is at a 10 and shame, disgust and guilt are all in the upper numbers as well. My happiness and hopefulness have declined steeply.

Impulsivity

I had a brilliant idea today. I was going to join the army. I figure that if I cannot afford to work in the mental health industry, I could train to become a mental health specialist in the army and get paid a bit more than the minimum wage. And then when I decide to go back to graduate school I could have the GI Bill cover my tuition. It’s morning and I call the recruiter right away. We talk for half an hour and he answers my questions. At the recruiter’s suggestion, we schedule an appointment to meet in his office that night after I get out of work. I obsess over this idea all day, amid my other work stressors.

The Trigger

By five o’clock I know I’m not going to make it to the appointment because there is just too much to do at work and I am overwhelmed. I phone the recruiter and tell him I won’t be able to make it. The conversation ends with him telling me he doesn’t want to waste his time on me. We hang up the phone. I have been immediately triggered. Old feelings of worthlessness pop up and I am hurt and confused but I don’t realise it yet. I call the toll-free army number and put in a complaint to the call centre. They never call me back.

Now I am obsessing about getting justice with this rude and insensitive recruiter by telling his superiors about it. The likelihood that they would believe me and actually do something about it is probably close to zero, but this thought hasn’t crossed my mind yet. Then the realisation comes to me. I am not angry with this insignificant person whose path I briefly came across. I am angry with my ex-husband and ex-abuser. I decide that I need justice in order to have closure. Note, this is almost six years since the time I last saw him.

Victimization

Half of the evening is already up. I feel the urge to call the victim advocate at the district attorney’s office whom I haven’t communicated within a year. I leave her a voicemail and then I send her an email entitled “Rape Case.” By now, tears are streaming down my face and I cannot see straight. I am definitely not thinking straight. My sobbing gets louder and I start to howl and wail.

Reaching Out for Help

It becomes too much for me to bear and it doesn’t seem to want to stop. The emotional reaction to the emotional pain I am experiencing has a life of its own. I desperately reach out to two female friends who don’t pick up the phone. I send an S.O.S. by text message which simply says, “help me.” I venture to call a third friend and she answers the phone. I can hardly speak because I am crying. She immediately invites me over.

We talk about me for a bit and then the conversation shifts to her. She is done smoking her cigarette. Even though I want to talk more about me, I listen and let her talk. She has her own problems too.

A Surreal Fantasy

Now it’s Friday morning and my victim advocate has responded to me, although we haven’t yet connected. I start having fantasies of scheduling an in-person meeting with my ex-husband. All I want is for him to admit to raping me, not just once, and then maybe tell me why he did it.

I start sending messages to people in my support system. I feel like a crazy person for wanting the impossible. I am told that I am not crazy and that it makes sense that I would want those things. One friend tells me that this man was evil, weak, and a coward. I like that imagery and it helps to shift my perspective away from self-blame.

The Past is No Longer the Present

I am still entrenched with thoughts of wanting justice somehow. The statute of limitations for rape in California is ten years. The last time of the number of years during which I was repeatedly raped was in 2012, so I’m still within that time frame. The only problem is, I have zero proof. I never went to the police because, in spite of the awful things he did to me, he was still my husband.

I was so brainwashed that I couldn’t imagine a life without him. I would rather be dead. I wanted to protect him at all costs. Also, for over six years I had been completely isolated. I had no personal friends and he had alienated me from my family. Being drugged with alcohol and then raped was my normal. Because I had no friends, anyone from that time period would testify against me.

Understanding Bodes for Internal Peace

In the afternoon I finally connect with my victim advocate. I have spent my lunch break crying. She listens and speaks words of courage and understanding to me. She also explains that what I am experiencing is from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I don’t want to believe her and I half dismiss what she says until another friend, who is a professional in the mental health industry, also says that I am experiencing PTSD. Two completely unrelated people have said the same thing to me and I begin to consider the truth in it. Is this why I have been too afraid to go out of my home at night lately?

On Saving Myself

The evening is finally here and I have recovered. I get to see my therapist tomorrow. His presence in my life is a saving grace. I have sent him at least ten updates by email today. I am not alone this evening, I made sure of that. My friend serves me an amazing lentil soup. It has all of these wonderful ingredients in it and it tastes delicious.

My mind is no longer focused on the trauma and the injustice. I finally have room to breathe and I get to feel at peace. I finish writing my journal entry, refill my glass of kombucha, and head over to the living room where my friend and her son are watching a scary movie. It’s Friday the thirteenth.

What PTSD Looks Like Years Later From a Rape Survivor

Anjuli Nunn

Anjuli Nunn identifies as a writer and is based out of San Diego, California. She is a mental health advocate. When she is not composing poetry, she likes to study psychology and philosophy. She also enjoys spending time with her mixed breed 12-pound dog named Samuel, whom she rescued in 2017.


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APA Reference
Nunn, A. (2018). What PTSD Looks Like Years Later From a Rape Survivor. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 23, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/mindful-recovery/2018/06/what-ptsd-looks-like-years-later-from-a-rape-survivor/

 

Last updated: 6 Jun 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Jun 2018
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.