Here is what I should be doing: I should be tying up all the loose ends before my shop launches on Wednesday. I still have at least a dozen things to figure out: invoicing software, adding inventory, nailing down product photography, posting on Facebook, setting up a PayPal business account, determining shipping costs and logistics, hustling, hustling, hustling. This is what the intellectual part of me knows; what it says to me when I wake up in the night with overwhelming fear and anxiety; what I know are the "right" steps to take two days before launching a business.
Here is what I'm actually doing: scrolling through my Facebook feed, seeing woman after woman I know post those two small words, marvelling at the bravery it takes to admit it, and then also knowing that for every woman who posted, there are several more who couldn't, for whatever (completely valid) reason.
Something is happening right now among my female friends. I can feel it, this solidifying of truth and anger, this gradual uprising against all of the patriarchal bullshit we face on a daily basis. I myself have been slowly awakening to an immense amount of repressed rage I've been harbouring for decades, and though I still resist it at times -- my brain: "Chill the fuck out! No one wants to hang around a harpy raging shrew!" -- it's unstoppable. I can't go back to who I was before, and the real miracle is that I don't want to. I feel like I have this new take on the world, and all that I'm interested in is what's real. And right now, what's real for me is that I am so. Fucking. ANGRY. Even writing that, I feel like I need to offer the disclaimer that yes, I know anger can eat away at your insides, and yes, I know I don't want to sit in that place forever -- and then I bristle at feeling like I even have to state those things, like my pure, unfettered anger at what I myself have dealt with, let alone the innumerable shitty experiences of the women around me, isn't completely valid on its own. I'm not in the place where I want to move forward yet. I just want to feel angry, because I never really have before.
I was sexually abused from the ages of roughly five or six to eight or nine. I have never typed that sentence before. I don't remember a lot of the details; much of it is repressed and I'm not ready yet to go down the road of recovering them, since, you know, I have a lot of other shit going on and also I still need to catch up on the current seasons of Game of Thrones and Last Week Tonight (priorities!). Up until this past July, I had told exactly two people about what had happened to me. One of them was my ex-husband, who, despite being the kindest, gentlest man I knew, I always struggled to show real, raw vulnerability to (exploring all the reasons for this in therapy has been
super fun very enlightening!). I felt like it was something he should know before we got married, but I was terrified of what he would say. His immediate reactions of anger and sadness about what happened to me felt like a balm, but I also didn't understand them. I was so disassociated from my own trauma that at that point I still kind of felt like, "Okay, it's not that big of a deal" and I shoved it back down to fester for a few more years.
Here are some other reasons why I didn't talk about it:
- I thought it wasn't really that big a deal
- But I also thought it was such a big deal that people would completely reframe how they thought of me
- I couldn't/don't remember a lot of the details, so I thought people wouldn't believe me
- My abuser was also young (around five years older than me) so I told myself maybe it was just kids playing and that I needed to get over it
- I felt confused about how pleasure and shame were all intertwined and that there must be something seriously wrong with me to even admit that I experienced both (though I now know that this is very common among abuse victims)
- I didn't want to be pitied
- I didn't want to be blamed
- I didn't want to be accused of blowing things out of proportion
- For years I told myself it was probably just some weird rite of passage and maybe similar things had happened to everyone and it was one of those super common things we didn't feel the need to talk about, like being into The Babysitters Club or owning a Furby in 1997. The really sad thing about this belief is that it's true in many ways -- the more I talk about what happened to me, the more my female friends open up about startlingly similar experiences.
The glaringly obvious emotion fueling all of those points is, of course, deep, blinding shame. Even now, thinking about posting this, about putting this into the world and having it linked to my full real name, fills me with terror and nausea. My thoughts go something like this: What will people (my family? people in my choir? potential first dates doing the requisite Google search?) think? Why do I even need to share this; why can't I just write it "for me" and keep it to myself? That would probably be the smart thing to do. It would definitely be the safe thing to do. I have therapy tomorrow, why not just save it for there? Sure, this blog is for writing about my personal journey, but do I really have to get this personal? People might feel uncomfortable! This is just too much, I'm too much, maybe I should just go back to bed.
And yet. Here I am writing it anyway. Because it's the truth. Because I didn't ask for it or deserve it and neither did any of my Facebook friends, or any survivor. Because I want Sona to grow up in a world where she feels safe and strong. Because I think my anger is starting to replace my shame, and maybe for me that's the first step to healing. Because I saw my abuser in a Vancouver bar this past July, and he came up to me and talked to me like nothing had ever happened. Because instead of immediately fleeing after that encounter, I stayed and finished my fucking drink. Because, yes, the internet is forever, but there are countless other women who've been brave enough to talk about this before me. Because every time I tell my story, I really and truly feel a little piece of shame fall away. Because I'm not alone, and neither are you.