One Year of Being Awake (TW)

A year ago, a friend woke me up from an 18 year sleep. 

We began to talk about bad drinking experiences and I told her a little about my experience with the woman who eventually raped me. I was still calling it something else then. I was still denying my pain and blaming myself. 

She calmly told me, "you were raped." I took a breath and the walls started to crash in on me. Waves of panic, fear and shame competed for my attention as the realization of her words began to take root. 

I was raped. Me. James. Raped. Victimized. Hurt. Those words carry so much weight and I could not acknowledge them for so long. Now I was unexpectedly forced to confront them. 

My body was used without my permission. A woman took something she had no right to receive. In her wake, she left me emptier, sadder and confused. 

I felt victimized. Nauseous. Powerless. Ashamed. Emasculated. 

How did I not see it myself? How did I go on about my daily business for so many years as if nothing had ever happened? Why did it feel like a switch had suddenly been flipped in my brain that lit up that dark room in the corner where you hide your ugliest fears from daylight? 

Well, the answer to that is that I didn't go on unaffected. I simply did not recognize how the psychological damage had been manifesting itself in my life and in my intimate relationships with women. It would take several months, tons of therapy and a lot of talking and reflection to see that picture more clearly. I'm still sharpening the focus on a daily basis and I stumble around blindly on occasion. Nearly 20 years of cluttered up denial takes a great deal of effort to clear away. 

A year later, I'm less raw in some ways. I have faced down some of my demons, but there are many left to purge. As more layers of denial have been peeled away I find new things to confront, new challenges to face, and new reasons to be sad, angry or numb. 

Going forward, I'm going to try to remember how far I've traveled over the last year. I'm going to ignore that mixture of shame and numbness that has been creeping into me lately, as it seems to do in unpredictable cycles. I'm going to begin my second year awake with the knowledge that I now know what happened and I've faced it as best I could with the tools at my reach. 

I will keep building on the progress I've made. I'm going to stop beating myself up for feeling bad on days like today, when the anxiety, shame and sadness take turns occupying my head and heart.

I'm going to live.


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