I was raped.”
I uttered these words as I fell forward, head in my hands, shaking on my therapist’s couch It took me a long to time to utter these words, let alone accept them. The word rape feels dirty. Like we are damaged, like there is something wrong with us that we would allow this to happen.
For so long I justified the situation to myself in order to deny what happened I compared myself to all the other images of society of someone who is raped. I believed for many years that it was my fault. I was the one that invited him to the party, I was the one that was so drunk and high. If I hadn’t let myself get so wasted this wouldn’t have happened. Is this true? Maybe... we could even say probably. And that still doesn’t mean that it’s my FAULT. There may be something for me to be responsible for.. but we can take responsibility for our part in a situation and not be to blame. Blame and responsibility are two very different things that are often collapsed in our culture and minds.
When working with clients, I often talk about this concept. It’s a tricky line to walk, one that must be done carefully and diligently. Not everyone is ready to have this conversation. Those of us that are not in the acceptance stage are not ready to have this conversation. People who are actively in a traumatizing situation are also not in the space to have this conversation. You cannot safety process a situation you are currently being traumatized by. Safety must come first and you must be out of that situation before healing can begin.
However, for my friends that are ready, I encourage you to look at this with an open mind. It’s actually very empowering to take responsibility for your part in a situation. To be clear, for many of us, the ONLY responsibility we may have is that we allowed it to keep us small and control our lives for so long. This is also NOT to say that we were wrong because of this. We did what we needed to do to survive. And thank god for that. Of course a child that was molested was severely negatively impacted. It isn’t her fault, but with knowledge now it becomes her responsibility to heal. Now taking that on, that’s real power.
This leads me to one of my favorite quotes,
“Your wound is probably not your fault, but your healing is your responsibility.”
- Denice Frohman
Whether we have trauma or not, taking responsibility for our life and healing our wounds is an empowering context to live our lives. It shifts us out of searching for others to blame, and we start to feel empowered by ourselves and what we can accomplish. I know this is a heavy topic, so for my friends that read all the way to the bottom of this post I appreciate you sticking in this. I would love to know your thoughts!
I've been typing and deleting and trying to muster up the courage to write this post for the last 24 hours. Its so clear to me how important it is to write this post, and yet, like everyone, I hate vulnerability and recoil from it like a hot flame. Must look good, must not embarrass oneself or others, must not cause a commotion, what if people identify who it is? are just a few sentences that run through my head in attempts to not post.
But screw it. Here we go. Nine years ago I was raped. I was at a party and was very drunk and high during my active addiction. I knew the guy and he was older than me and really cool. I desperately wanted him to like me. I hazily remember him inviting me back over to his place and I accepted. I had only had sex with 2 people at that point in my life and both were serious boyfriends. This had been a value of mine, and it was a big part of who I was. Soon after going over to his place, things began to move quickly and I asked him to stop. He ripped my dress and pushed me on the bed. He refused to use protection despite my protests. I remember at some point, he left and other people came into the room. I was lying naked and helpless on the bed, I was too intoxicated to speak or move.
I woke up the next morning covered in bruises. I walked back to my dorm the next morning in my ripped dress I had to hold together, feeling so ashamed. I was so angry at myself for getting so wasted. I thought it was my fault. I rationalized and made sense of the situation by saying that I must have wanted to have sex with him.
Soon after, my drinking and drugging spiraled out of control. I stopped caring about myself or my values. I became very promiscuous.
Years later, while studying to be a therapist in school, I learned that promscuity is actually a response to sexual trauma. If a child is physically abused, a common way a child's brain will reprocess the trauma is through re-enacting the same behavior with toys (or other children). The child will do the same behaviors and often mimic the same words that were said to him or her. This is the reason that so many female strippers or prostitutes have a history of sexual trauma, they learn (unfortunately for many at a young age) how to survive, and that survival includes using their body for sex often so that somebody else doesn't use it for themselves instead. Learning this dramatically impacted my life. For the first time since iI was clear that I wasn't a bad person or a slut. I didn't "want this" just because of my sexual history that followed. And it is the reason I'm so passionate about working with young women.
If we can convince ourselves that it was our idea, it gives us a sense of control. We feel as though it won't happen again, or in the very least, it will be our choice and thus less painful.
There are many therapists who choose not to disclose to their clients. I have lots of respect for them. I know what I'm doing is risky. They believe that it is better to be a mirror and be as plain and objective as possible in order to bring healing to their clients. I have a different opinion. I find that there is so much power in sharing, in a client both seeing me and being seen. For me , this type of one-sided therapeutic relationship did not work. I needed a clinician who I trusted, who I knew had gone through a similar experience to me, who I believed would understand me. This is why I share. This is why I self disclose.
Because if its one thing I've learned from being in therapy and also facilitating tons of it over the years, its that there is so much power in speaking our truth. In sharing our stories with each other, in shining light on the darkness. And ultimately, saying, ME TOO!
P.S. Disclaimer: please note that the #metoo campaign is a spectrum. It doesn't necessarily look just like rape. Many women have been groped, assaulted, name called etc. and absolutely fit into this category. This is simply my experience. Abuse is a spectrum and is up to the individual to choose and classify for his or herself is she falls into that category. It is never our right to label someone else's experience.
I was sitting in an AA big book meeting roughly a year ago. I opened the cover and scribbled on the first page read "willingness without action is fantasy." The quote hit me in the stomach. Sometimes we need that in recovery...a wake up call. The quote found me at exactly the right time. Since grad school I had been saying that I wanted to start my own private practice but somewhere along the way I found comfort and security in my job at a drug and alcohol rehab center. I had steady pay, plenty of support and the comfort of knowing that I would always have a steady stream of clients. Being in private practice is...vulnerable. People cancel, they relapse, they no-show, they get angry, and you don't have a larger institution to support and protect you when things get messy. I've learned vulnerability is messy, as is anything worth having in life.
So there I am sitting at a meeting on a Friday night with truth staring me right in the face. It begged the question, the dream of opening a private practice would remain, just that, a fantasy, without action. The very next day I created a plan for how my private practice could become a reality in one year. I set a date and I began sharing this with other people and began to learn what it would actually take. The truth is, it doesn't matter how willing we are, if we put it on a dream board or meditate about it if we are not taking action. Don't get me wrong, I'm a proponent of all such things, its just that wanting it is not sufficient for actually making it happen. The entire point of manifestation is to put us in a space where we are willing to take action and new opportunities to act open up for us.
While I may be talking about something that is more of a luxury, I am clear that this quote applies to all parts of our life. When we are struggling, its easy to be willing. We say we will do anything to get better, to feel better, to not keep repeating our destructive patterns. Then, we take action. And guess what? Things get better. But somewhere along the way we lose our willingness. Saying that we are willing or "being" willing makes no difference. It is only through ACTION that things can move forward. So my invitation to you today is, whether you are struggling with something such as depression, anxiety, or an addiction, or you are simply looking to take the next step in your life, as yourself... what actions am I taking? If the answer is none, get real with yourself...I ask you, what is it going to take?
So here's the truth- as I reflect on the completion of my latest trip around the sun, it's amazing how different I expected my life to be and even more amazing how much BETTER it turned out. Nothing in my life turned out as planned and now I'm so grateful for that.
By this time in my life, I expected to be engaged to an investment banker who sipped dry martinis, played football in college and summered in the Hamptons. I was obsessed with having a life that looked perfect. Until recently, I was convinced that if I had all the external trappings of a happy and successful life, I would be happy. However, I also knew it wasn't exactly cool to be outwardly desperate for a perfect life, so I pretended to be coy about it. That not only made me a slave to social media but also never satisfied as I was never present for my life. Instead I lived in a perpetual fantasy.. "when I have, fill in the blank- a boyfriend, more friends, a thinner body, a nicer wardrobe- THEN I will be happy."
Thankfully my life fell apart rapidly by the end of college, which landed me in a position to get sober and find recovery from my eating disorder. At the time, this was the worst thing that could have ever happened to me. My life was over as I knew it and I had many moments where I couldn't imagine living without drinking nor was I interested in living that life. I remember having to actually grieve the loss that I would never be able to meet a cool handsome guy over drinks at the Plaza or go wine tasting at a picturesque vineyard in Napa with my beautiful girlfriends. The truth is, having my life fall apart, having everything I knew and wanted stripped away from me was the best thing that ever happened to me. To be the epitome of a cliche of my generation, I'm going to quote J.K Rowling: "rock bottom became the solid foundation from which I rebuilt my life." So that's what I did. Stone by stone and brick by brick.
The last few years have not been easy or simple (more on that in other blog posts to come). There were honestly many days where I wanted to give up, probably did on some level, or even made things worse. Self sabotage is a huge part of my story and something that still comes back to haunt me sometimes. However, when I look back now, I wouldn't trade any struggle, stumble or misstep. They all led me here....exactly where I'm supposed to be. And the life I have now, the one where I'm a therapist and yoga teacher who spends her free time reading self help/ spiritual books, talking to my parents on the phone and attending personal development programs (all very UNCOOl), I wouldn't trade for ANYTHING. I never imagined I could be so fulfilled and my life being so meaningful. The greates gift of my recovery today is not my boyfriend, job, or vacations I take, the greatest gift is that I can sit outside on a beautiful day and smile at a stranger. I can look my barista in the eye and feel connected rather than wanting not to crawl out of my skin. I have peace today, and I wouldn't trade that for anything.
So here's my wisdom this week for you...life will DEFINITELY throw you obstacles. Things will absolutely NOT go as planned. I'm sure my life will keep not going as planned too (don't you worry I have not and will never arrive). At the time it may feel as though the world is against you... and in those moments all you can do is surrender and keep the faith. You don't need to understand what's happened or why. Lean into the discomfort and trust that the universe has your back. Not just that, but I have a sneaky suspicion that the universe has a better plan for your life than you do!