"Flashbacks" an excerpt from my memoir 1+1=0
TRIGGER WARNING: Graphic description of my flashbacks and the moments after I was sexually assaulted.
Every year during the first week of July I post the same quote to my facebook "Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit" - Bernard Williams
Without explanation every year I posted this as my little way to remind myself of how far I have come.
The following is from my memoir draft ( I have been calling my memoir 1+1=0) ( the preface and the first scene from my book)I started this journey into public advocacy because I felt there was a lack information about trauma and PTSD which has led to a lack of empathy in society. So here is the raw story of what life was like for me the night of the attack and morning after and how I struggle with Flashbacks ( the most difficult "symptom" of my PTSD)
This week is always one of the hardest weeks of the year for me, it marks the anniversary of the night my life changed after I was raped. This is the first year I have shared my story publicly and would like to continue to give others insight into what my life was like 9 years ago.--------------------------------------------------
" I can’t seem to exhale; gasping for breath.
Am I dead?
Cause I can’t feel my body.
No I am not that lucky.
Pull your clothes back on don’t make eye contact GET OUT.
Ashley, pick up your foot and take a step.
Why aren’t you listening?!
Move, run, breathe.
My mind keeps screaming at my body, to do anything, to do something, but nothing seems to happen. What seems like a lifetime later I finally, once again unlock the door. Breaking free from the confines of this room, but I am still imprisoned. How can this keep happening? I can’t stop him, and he never listens. Every time it’s the same thing “no” is never enough and fighting back is the wrong option. I can’t seem to close my eyes, I don’t want to, and I don’t need sleep anyways.
A Flashback: a memory that is so vivid it is as if you are reliving the event.
Every time this happens it feels like the first time. Trying to avoid triggers has become a full time job. I feel like I am tiptoeing through a minefield. One wrong step and I’m gone…back in that locked room. I’m pinned under the weight of a man double my size. I’ve learned over time how to appear put together, filing away feelings and anxiety somewhere under a façade of apathy peppered with a little denial about the whole situation.
I remember when I used to think about what my first time would be like. Would it be like the movies? Would there be candles, rose petals and soft music playing in the background? I was a late bloomer, as they say, I heard stories from my friends, one by one, and they gleefully shared their stories about their teenage romances. The tales of stumbling hands and awkward moves were sugar coated with the idea of love and affection. They were now on this new level, they had cannonballed into woman-hood. I wanted to wait, not for marriage or any specific person but until I felt it was my time.
I never imagined my journey into non-virgin territory would be something out of an afterschool special. You know those videos and warnings they tell you about… “Stranger Danger”. Someone could drag you into a dark alley way or in my case I dark locked room. I never imagined that losing my virginity would mean that it was going to be taken away by a monster, not given to the person of my choosing.
I have finally made it home. I let out a loud whimper as I take a deep breath and wipe my tears. I don’t want anyone to hear me and luckily no one is awake this late at night. I remove my shoes, tiptoe upstairs, close the door slowly and turn on the shower. My feet stick to the cold porcelain tile of the floor. My hands are trembling as I try to grasp my sweatshirt. I can barely lift my arms as I pull my top over my head, I cringe from the aching of my muscles. I can feel the throbbing of my soon to be bruises. I unbutton my jeans. I do not realize I am crying again until I feel a tear hits my foot, as I look down at the bruises on my thighs. I bite my lip to stop it from quivering, I want to scream but my throat feels like its closing. It feels like his hands were never removed from around my neck. I catch a glance of myself in the mirror and a wave of numbness creeps upon my skin and bones. I can barely recognize my own body. I am angry it has let me down, but I am still breathing. Everything in my body tenses up as I step into the water. I feel so unclean. I can’t get his scent off of me I feel like marked territory. His sweat has sunk into my pores. I grab a shower brush and begin to scrub my skin. I can’t get it off. There’s a layer of grime and guilt all over my body. I sit on the floor of my tub and let the water run down me as I cry. I gasp for breath as I choke on tears and the snot running down my face.
It feels like I haven’t had any thoughts in my head since I got home. My body is on autopilot. I am not ready to turn my thoughts back on. I grab a towel and dry myself off. Patting lightly so I don’t break the skin where I had been scrubbing so hard that the top layer of blood vessels had raised like a raspberry on my arms. I cross the hallway to my room, kneel on my floor in front of my closed door and I place my panties inside of my shirt, roll it my shirt and next into my pants. I place this and my sweatshirt under my bed. I lay down on the floor naked drawing my fingertip over the lines and patterns now on my body.
If I wear long sleeves and jeans no one will ask, good thing I am always cold even if it is summer.
I crawl across my room to my dresser, grab the first thing I see which is a pink long-sleeved strawberry fields shirt. Find some underwear and a pair of soft pants and crawl back to my door. I need to lay down for a little while. I remove the towel off of my head and stuff it under my door so no one can hear me.
JUST DON’T SCREAM!
I fall asleep.
My alarm sounds off and my body jolts awake and I am reminded of the soreness. I get up and pick out my clothes for the day. I open my door, check to see if the coast is clear, and scurry into the bathroom. I lean against the countertop and analyze my clavicle then up to my face. I pull out some concealer, foundation and a tinted lip gloss to disguise my bruised lips. I paint over my face, then my neck, and finally end at my wrists.
Good thing I am clumsy. No one should be suspicious. I think this will do.
I make my way to the stairs. I brace the wall as it seems like the hallway is spinning. My first experience of vertigo. My chest tightens. I can’t move.
I am not ready.
I walk back to the mirror in my room. I feel like I have a giant red “D” on my shirt telling the world that I am DAMAGED.
It’s all in your head. Just don’t make eye contact. Short answers, a goodbye and you are in the clear.
I go back into the bathroom I feel like I am going to throw up; I can feel it creeping up my throat. I swallow although my mouth is dry and sour from vomit the night before. I sit down to pee and it stings like razor blades being drawn over a bruise. I notice some blood in my panties I change them and push them under my bed next to my other garments. I try again to walk downstairs, it hurts but I make it all the way down the stairway this time. I can hear my dad and mom in the kitchen and my little sister is on the computer typing. I turn the other way towards the garage.
“I have a double today at Sam’s I will see you later. I love you”
I rush out the door and walk to my car before they can reply. I feel a sigh of relief as I unlock my car. I get in and pull out of my driveway. I think I’m crying, well it feels like I am, but there are no more tears. I bang the steering wheel with my fist and let out a scream as I pull up to the stop sign at the end of my road. Then I drive in silence for the rest of the way."