Insert joke about my blog posts being like buses here. As in, none for ages and then several come along at once, as opposed to being like several tonnes of metal hitting you. I hope.
I was once criticised by a commenter for retelling the same stories over and over again. No point denying it – I do. I find it helpful to pick out different facets or feelings of various experiences I’ve had, because goodness knows I’m more than averagely rubbish at actually processing things as they happen to me.
This post is one of those retellings. This is something I wrote this afternoon after therapy, about why this week has been so difficult, particularly in regards to self harm urges. I didn’t add to my last post that actually, the depression has been slowly lifting for a few weeks now. This latest crisis was set off by a specific comment someone made to me last Friday, which triggered remnants of the PTSD I didn’t even realise were still lurking in my head. So now I know, apparently. I’m posting what I wrote here because my therapist is off on holiday for a fortnight now, and I want to let go of it rather than sit on it all that time, if you know what I mean. But just to say, posting this is more about what I need to do with it than wanting it to be seen/read, so if no one feels up to graphic descriptions of self harm on this fine Thursday afternoon, that’s okay with me.
If you do, TW the size of that bus for rape and self harm.
“Your hair looks really nice today”.
At the moment, my hair is much longer than I usually allow it to grow. This is not intentional, I’ve just forgotten to care recently. People tell me it makes me look younger than thirty, although this is not something I particularly want. Compliments about my appearance, especially from men, make me feel uncomfortably vulnerable. He is twice my size, and he could easily –
I don’t know if sleep is the correct word. It seems obscene to think that I could have fallen asleep on this floor, in this room, with these people. If I was capable of sleep, does that make me complicit in this, somehow? It is possible that after the incredible pain and terror I just passed out. It’s possible that my body is trying to play dead.
They think I’m asleep. I lie rigidly still and keep my eyes closed, although pretending to sleep didn’t stop them mauling me earlier. I am prey in the lions’ den, and if I play dead, they might lose interest. I feel subhuman, incapable of thinking in sentences, nothing but fear and instinct.
“She’s beautiful. Her hair is beautiful”.
Two feet away they talk about me quietly, as if I am a delicacy she has dragged home for him to eat. What’s left of me is equally disgusted by them, and by myself. My appearance – an immature, childlike eighteen, long curly hair, the fucking hair – I want to rip it out. My inability to foresee this, when now the way in which I have been groomed over the last few weeks seems so laughably obvious. My physical weakness. The predisposition of my nervous system to freeze when others would fight or take flight. I should have, I should – I don’t know. I do know that all I have done has been wrong, and now I might be dead.
I have never been so alone. I didn’t bring my bag, with my phone and my money and everything else I’d need to escape. I left it at her house. She said just a couple of drinks, and we’ll go back to mine. I want my bag, I want my mum, I don’t want to die, I –
Later, safe at home, I reconsider. Now I wish they had killed me. I numbly weigh up the benefits of dying at the hands of others, a blameless victim. Now all I can think about is death and if I kill myself, people will be so angry. But surely I can’t survive feeling this way. I am just as trapped, just as desperate, just as alone as in that tiny room two towns over. Not physically: my family are downstairs, my friends at the end of a text message or email. But I still can’t think or feel or talk, and my head is full of static.
I retreat to my cave but there are no wounds to lick, because what they did to me only survives in my head. I ritualistically go about making the damage visible. I start with my right leg. I come home from college, mechanically choke down my dinner, and go up to my room. I switch on my television. I cut myself one hundred times, in counts of ten, with pauses in between tens. The next evening the number is two hundred. Three. Four. Five, then seven-fifty, and finally one thousand. There is no room left on my leg, so my right arm and stomach are recruited in service of my sanity. The television stays on while I try to sleep, limbs wrapped in towels. After a week of these evenings it hurts so much to walk that I don’t have to cut myself any more. Nobody stops me. Nobody rescues me. I learn just how alone it is possible to be, and I have my hair cut shorter than I’ve ever dared.
Years pass, and every time I try to squash this vast and shapeless horror into a coherent narrative I find myself more able to remain present, to anchor myself to reality so I don’t float away – into the carpet, or the painting behind the latest therapist’s head – or go home and recreate the carnage I inflicted on myself after the fact. And sometimes it can be months since I last thought of it. Sometimes the anniversary passes and I almost forget.
And sometimes someone makes an innocuous comment about my hair, and ice runs in my veins and I shake, and I am confused and disoriented for days. I feel so strongly compelled to re-enact my original reaction to being raped – the television, the counting, the defining of my boundaries with sharp edges. It’s not something that can be argued with, or rationalised, it just needs, or thinks it does. The cognitive dissonance created by not going along with this is intense.
I try to wait it out patiently. And I think about cutting my hair.