trauma is weird

I’m going to speak extensively about rape in this post. Specifically my rape. You, sadly may have your own, but this one is mine. Yeah, that’s right, that boring one from ten years ago that I don’t shut up about. So if you want to go off and look at kittens instead, or memes about songs to sing when you’re washing your hands, that’s completely fine. I won’t be writing about anything else in this post except for PTSD and how it felt to use EMDR to treat it yesterday. So you won’t be missing out.

But Friday morning, I had an appointment with the dental hygienist. I was years overdue but in my extensive lists of trying to fix everything about me (although I was just sitting the other day and I felt for the first time that I wasn’t broken – that I’m a person with problems and some sadness, sure, but not fundamentally broken), I knew it was a box I had to tick off. So it was a different branch of the clinic that I normally see, but I figured they shared notes. She asked me if there was anything new I had to tell her and I said that I can get quite panicky because of my PTSD but that I’d taken a benzo, and it was worse with the dentist because he was a guy, so I’d probably be fine. I laid down in the chair quite happy while she went to find out why all the electricity had gone out in it. I got this, I thought, it will be okay.

Narrator: she was not okay.

At one stage I opened my eyes and realised how close to my head she was, and all of a sudden I could feel it all again, a ghost weight pinning me down, looming over me. I tried to breathe deep, to think about what my feet were up to, but my hands became claws and my chest tightened and I had to raise one to get her to stop. I sat up and started crying and apologising, so much apologising because of course that’s what happens and I was so ANGRY, that here I was, ten years later, and I couldn’t even get a simple fucking tooth clean done without inconveniencing another woman and do you think that David has ever had an anxiety attack in the dentist office? I doubt it. And the knowledge I’d caused someone else’s PTSD was pushing on me too. I wanted to run away but instead I blew my nose multiple times, apologised some more, she said it was fine, we got on with it. Every part of me felt crooked, sick. I went to go get something to eat to recover before going back to work. Everything was spacey and I couldn’t concentrate. It felt like I’d been hit by a truck.

I felt incapable of doing basic tasks on the weekend, I just wanted to lie in bed and play Candy Crush and not think. That ghost presence was back, the weight of everyone I’ve ever been under when I wasn’t 100% into it, the blackout sex that I’ve had, all the reasons why I blamed myself at the time and why others probably still do. And you fucking better believe that I was angry with myself too for being weak, for being so affected when it was so long ago and of course at the same time there was the logical side trying to be nice to myself, to understand that trauma is trauma and how the body reacts isn’t something I can control. Thank fuck I had counselling booked for yesterday is all I can say.

I barrelled in there a hot mess and told her briefly what had happened, not covering all the other things that had come up in the past fortnight, knowing that this was the thing I needed to work on even though it was going to be hard. We set up for EMDR, which meant dimming the lights and moving my chair so that she could sit on a rolling chair just in front of me. I was snotty and worried she’d be thinking about germs as I clutched her fancy velvet pillow because I can’t not play with somethign with my hands when I’m in that state. So the way that EMDR works is that you’re asked to think of a specific feeling or memory or image, and describe the very worst parts of it. That part came out easily – feeling trapped, feeling worthless, feeling like I deserved it and that it was my fault. And then you’re asked to describe how you would rather feel about the memory – that I am safe now, that it wasn’t my fault, and that I didn’t deserve it. Your therapist then moves their fingers backwards and forwards and you follow with your eyes until your vision starts to blur a little, and then you’re asked how you feel, and how that is manifesting itself in your body. I feel angry with myself for blaming myself, and I can feel myself shrinking in this chair, wanting to curl up into a ball. More hand movements – how do you feel? I feel angry at him because he’s not spending all his fucking money on therapy so he can get his teeth cleaned and that anger is making my fists clench. More hand movements, how do you feel? I feel calmer, I can feel that I’m breathing in deeper and my chest seems to be losening up. More hand movements, how do you feel? I’m thinking of the judgement of all the people who said stupid shit like “well how drunk were you?” and that’s making me curl up again. More hand movements, how do you feel? I hate that I did this to someone else, that I caused them this pain, that I hurt someone after I’d been hurt, that I am a violater and it makes me feel so fucking ashamed. More hand movements, how do you feel? Exhausted like I have been crying for a week and that we’ve been talking for hours. More hand movements, how do you feel? Calm, like I am sinking into this chair, like I have taken magnesium supplements and I am drifting off to sleep. More hand movements, how do you feel?

And it goes on like this, for forty five minutes, and the mood swings are EXTREME. She asks occasionally how I would rate the feeling of being scared out of 10, and it moves from an 8 to a 2 to a 1 over the 45 minutes. My belief that it was not my fault and that I didn’t deserve it moves from a 3 to a 6. What is this fucking magic? I don’t know. I can tell you from the session before though that I still have the sensation of watching the feeling I needed to work on disappear away from me on the back of a train, waving goodbye from its caboose of terror.

So will I be fine next time I have to go to the dentist? I don’t know, but I will be better than I am now. The first session, I felt so relaxed after. This one, not so much. I went to the gym afterwards and swam a little and soaked in the spa because you feel all that tension in your body so strongly. She warned me more thoughts will come up and more will need to be processed, and lo and behold, last night I started feeling the memory of the first time I was assaulted in a nightclub in Tokyo when I was 14, the bouncer in the bar pinning me to the wall in the toilet, shoving his tongue in my mouth and all of a sudden I could feel his tongue again, and I still can, and I felt tiny and helpless for a second, and definitely can feel the tension still, but I waved my fingers in my face and asked myself how I felt now. It was a cheap hack and definitely not proper EMDR but fuck it, it’s processing, right? Just like writing this out is too. It wasn’t my fault, I didn’t deserve it, and I am going to talk about it if I want to.

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