Real TALK is our series of articles from fellow survivors of sexual abuse / assault covering topics that might be helpful to you. What we aim for here isn’t perfection but some good practical advice based on real experiences here in Hong Kong. If you have suggestion to add, please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve been in quite a bit of pain. I have a stomach ache as I write this.
The other day I struggled to let my therapist know what I was feeling. So she suggested that I go write about it.
So I went home and wrote a long email about things I need to close my eyes for every time I think about them, even as I’m writing them here: the sexual abuse in my childhood, the toxic relationship I had as an adult where I struggled with control and manipulation, and the very recent realisation that the definition of rape includes what I have experienced.
Hold on. My heart hurts. I have to close my eyes.
Through writing it all and sending it to her, I discover that telling someone about your pain can be just as painful as keeping it all inside.
I wrote about the panic attack I had. We were in bed, in that relationship I shouldn’t have been in. I looked up at the ceiling. The edges of the drab brown curtains, the grey shadows from the bare light bulb, and the sense of enclosure of the small room took me back to when I was 7 years old, to a bedroom in the basement of a relative’s house, where people rarely ventured.
The room was carved out of plywood – damp, dark, and quiet. In a period of time that seems cocooned by light brown carpeting, where my memory holds no sound. I remember spending many wrong hours in that room, at his desk, on the bed.
I couldn’t breathe. Was I here? Or was I there?
Hold on. I need to close my eyes.
I fantasize about confronting him. What I would say to him.
But my mind’s always come up blank.
What do you say to someone you don’t understand?
What do you say to yourself when you don’t understand?
My heart hurts when I think about this.
Perhaps there’s nothing to think about. It’s just something you feel.
I close my eyes. And I feel my heart. Or is that my stomach?
Sometimes I think I live my life scared of when something is going to hit me unawares again, like that panic attack, wondering when I’m going to make another bad decision, when I will feel something I don’t want to feel.
Or is feeling that thing that’s been lacking? The thing I’ve been avoiding?
I close my eyes. I feel pain.
With death, no one will know what happened to me. No one will know how I felt. No one will know what it’s like to not be able to talk about it. No one will know what it’s like to know that you’re so alone in this.
No one will know that I’m ashamed and embarrassed about what happened to me.
Or that I’m angry about who I have become and how this is my life.
I’m angry that I wanted the attention and care that nobody else was able to give me.
I wanted to know that I was important. I wanted to have somebody that was mine.
I don’t have memories of how it started. It’s like it wasn’t there and then one day it was there.
It was almost like looking into the proverbial darkness: going into the basement, trying to find what you’re looking for, but instead you touch the devil.
Perhaps in the moment, it relieved me of my loneliness. But it never gave me what I needed. It gave me shame, sadness, and anger.
Close your eyes. What do you feel?
My therapist wrote back: “I am holding it, the pain, with you. Gently.”
And so I say to you now. I am holding it, the pain, with you. Gently. Let somebody know.