After I got married, crazy things started to happen. I thought they might, as I hadn't had sex with a man since I was raped at 14. I thought about it the entire time we were engaged, wondering if it would bite me in the ass or if my memories would play nice and let me enjoy things normal people do... like sex.
After our first time, the night of our honeymoon, I sent my husband out of the hotel room to get food. I freaked out. I stood naked in the shower and sobbed. I felt dirty. I felt like I did after I was raped.
Let me be clear - my husband and I had consensual sex that I wanted to participate in. I just didn't know my memories would take that experience away from me. I remember sitting on the shower floor, not knowing if I could continue to be married if I was going to feel this every time we had sex. Wondering if we could annul the marriage or if the pastor that married us just wouldn't mail in the certificate.
I began to stifle what I was feeling. I'd perform my "wifely duty," with the lights off sobbing silently the entire time. I'd stay silent so I didn't make my husband feel badly.
In those moments, in the dark, I relived my sexual abuses. Each touch motivated by love from my husband felt so similar to the touches I had experienced out of lust and abuse. I couldn't tell the difference. I'd see vivid images - almost an out-of-body experience. I knew I was safe with my husband, but it was as if I was watching 14-year old me being abused and raped. This continued each time we were intimate.
It became an issue when what I later learned were "flashbacks" would happen in the middle of the day. I'd be in a meeting and literally transported back to the year 2000. It was like I was experiencing it again. I couldn't get out of these ones. I didn't know I wasn't there: I honestly thought I was. My palms would sweat, my heart race, and I swear I could feel his weight on me, his hands around my wrists. I was there. And I couldn't escape.
I worked at Starbucks, and every time I heard a loud truck on the Drive Thru speaker, I was sure it was my rapist there to kill me like he had promised. I always had my eyes open.
Being out in public places was absolute hell. I'd see a man in his 40's with dirty blonde hair, I clammed up. I flashed back - I couldn't stop myself. I watched my back, certain I would run into him, and he would have the gun he always flashed to make sure I played his little games. I knew he was capable of harming me. He was, in fact, a convicted felon.
It got to the point that I wasn't sure if I could continue to live if this was going to be my life. I fantasized about killing myself. We were house-sitting at a friend's house who had a pool. The week before we house-sat, I thought about how good; how relieving it would feel to walk in their front door, straight through the house, and walk into the pool and take a deep breath. There would be no way to fail on this one. I would be home alone and would drown. You can't screw that one up.
I was so scared because that thought gave me incredible relief. I could handle the upcoming days because I knew it was almost over.
It was then I spoke to a pastor I knew. It was then I knew I needed help.
I started going to weekly therapy and learning how to ground myself so I would recognize that I was having a flashback. Then I could briong myself back to the present day. At first, I learned how to make myself feel safe. Over time, I was able to bring myself out of the flashback faster and faster. Eventually I learned what triggered them and how to avoid or pre-empt them.
I was officially diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. At that time, I didn't know that someone not in the military could have PTSD. But I did.
With therapy, support groups, and medication, I started to get better. Slowly.
I still flashback occasionally, usually prompted by men that favor him, certain smells, and almost every time I shower, he is in my mind since most of the abuse prior to the rape took place in the shower. But I know that triggers me so I can psych myself up for it.
I now feel comfortable calling myself a survivor and not a victim.6 Comments