Sorry I haven’t written in a long time. Mixture of reasons. At the end of September I ended up back in a psychiatric hospital for a week; my first admission in 2 years. It was hard not to see this as a setback even though I recognised it to be progress. The reason I was admitted was because my layers of dissociation have faded to the extent I have all the emotions from my past. Suddenly it hit me how many times I’d nearly died, how I’m here out of luck and not much else…suddenly the terror I’d lived in came and smacked me hard in the face. I saw danger everywhere. Danger I wasn’t in control of. I ended up having the world’s biggest terror attack in the middle of the University forum. I hallucinated everywhere. I attended lectures and had to dash in and out to allow space for panic attacks. I just lived in endless terror that didn’t belong here, it belonged in my past, but now needed to be felt in order to be processed.
In the end this all became far too much and the suicidal feelings that are always around intensified. A bit paradoxical perhaps, seeing as my reason for said breakdown as seeing danger everywhere and living in terror of being harmed again…but suicide felt at least something within my control…and an escape route out of this exhausting and frightening phase.
So, incredibly suicidal, I was admitted to hospital. And I’m still not completely better yet, but my smiley brave face tells the world I am. Only those close to me see the cracks, and even then I try to keep smiling. There’s always a reason to smile. I have to cling to that.
A few nights ago, I dissociated badly and ended up back 4 years ago (memory-wise). Where my memory was meant I fully believed I’d given birth to a stillborn child the day before, and the magnitude of that shock and grief was gripping me to the extent I couldn’t think straight. I just wanted oblivion. I wanted death. I didn’t recognise my partner, having not met her at this stage, and barely recognised my friends…who at that stage I had only known a matter of weeks. I didn’t have the same reasons to live as I do now. I wasn’t aware of the fact I’m engaged and finally doing okay at University. I wasn’t aware of the fact the abuse had finally stopped. I wasn’t aware of the fact these people around me were people who I loved. I wasn’t aware of any of it. All I knew was I’d lost a baby the day before, in a secret world of ritual abuse, and was supposed to carry on managing at University as normal, and I didn’t know if I had the strength to. I was back in the days where being raped on a way to lecture was normal. Where my friends would be searching for me when I went missing. Where I’d turn up, later than intended, shaking and pale, clearly hurt, and would try to shrug their sincere concerns of. I was back in the days where I was grateful for rape, because it was at least ‘only rape.’
But I was also back in the days where my life in the ritual ring was still mostly a secret. Where I was terrified, and broken.
I had nothing to live for, and wanted to be with my babies. My beautiful babies.
So I planned to drown myself in the river.
Evidently, it didn’t work. For a start, my partner and 2 close friends had been alerted that I was dissociated, and had found me. Secondly, one of said friends is a qualified lifeguard and made sure I knew this. Even if I went in the water, I’d be plucked straight back out, we’d all just have a swim in the process. There was no way they’d all just stand back and let me drown myself and I knew it. I tried nonetheless. I sat down and got my legs knee-deep into the (very very cold) water, crying openly, just desperate to be back with my babies and sure that if I died, I’d be with them. My friend bear-hugged me from behind, preventing me from going any further into the water, but I still tried to fight him off. A half-hearted attempt, because by this point I knew I was already defeated, I knew that even if I did manage to shake him off and get into the water, I wouldn’t drown. They wouldn’t let me.
And I was furious with these people for it – 2 people I barely knew and the other a total stranger (in fact my poor partner who coped brilliantly and indeed seemed relatively unphased by the whole thing! Perhaps reassured by the fact there were 3 of them and only 1 of me…!) I was furious with them all, I felt like they were pulling me away from my babies, pulling me away from my wish to die…that it’s my right if I commit suicide, not their’s. I was so angry and so desperately sad and grief-stricken. In the end I just broke down and sobbed “I want my baby…I want my baby…”
I didn’t want to feel better as we walked away from the river. I refused a jumper despite shaking with the cold (this was now about midnight and very cold, and my legs had been in icy water). My jeans, shoes and socks were soaked. In the end I took my shoes off. I kept holding my abdomen, praying to feel my baby kick, knowing I never would again.
Back at the house, I had the labour flashback, so at least this time I didn’t have to go through labour and childbirth so alone.
And afterwards, I just sobbed.
I want my babies. Any of them, just to hold in my arms once more. My arms feel tired, pointless…when I became a mother my arms took on a new role…they were no longer just something to write with…they were a cradle, a precious cradle for my babies. They were comfort. They were the soothing place for them to sleep, my hands to stroke their velvety foreheads. My arms miss the weight of a baby in my arms. They feel empty and betrayed, just as I feel.
It’s so hard, being at University sometimes. I look like any other student. Sometimes a bit tired perhaps, but what student isn’t. But unless you know me, nobody would guess I’m a torture survivor. Nobody would know I’m a mother with no baby. That I became a mother when I was still a child myself and spent the better part of ten years either pregnant or in the aftermath of pregnancy…that my body is exhausted from it all…that I have so much scarring inside my abdomen that even the surgeons couldn’t count it all. Nobody would know any of this. That I know what it’s like to be cable-tied to a bed and raped to oblivion. That sometimes I passed time/distracted myself by counting how many men per day. One day it was over 50. It makes no difference – once it got past 6, my body and mind were numb anyway.
Nobody knows that whenever I walk past a parked van, I hold my breath. I go cold. I feel sick. Sometimes I even close my eyes. I keep walking but I’m waiting for the doors to open and rough hands to grab me and pull me into the van. For my arms to be brutally pulled behind my back and tied, for the duct tape to go across my mouth, stifling my screams and breathing. For me to be driven to the next place I would be tortured…then kicked out again, to carry on as normal, to ignore the pain I was in.
Nobody knows that when I see a baby or a child, I wonder about my own.
Nobody knows that my partner and I have both sat crying for the children I lost, for what could have been.
When I speak to people at University, they don’t know that I have on average about 4 or 5 visual flashbacks a day, many more auditory flashbacks a day, and a huge re-living of an event flashback about once a week.
They all praise me for giving talks, for volunteering, for finding the time to do it all.
Nobody knows that the reason I can manage my time so well is because I spent my entire childhood learning how to study, work, be accepted as a normal pupil, look after my siblings, and be brutally tortured in the ring in my ‘spare time.’ I have so much more time now. I’m not abused for hours in evenings or weekends. My holidays don’t consist of being taken somewhere and left, with other children and masked men.
I find the time because I have too much of it. I don’t know how to cope with spare time. It’s an alien concept to me.
Nobody knows that when I shower, I sometimes look down and stroke my abdomen, remembering the babies who used to kick me.
Nobody knows that most nights, my partner gently strokes all the scars on my body with her fingers…outlines them, kisses them if I stiffen, tries to normalise them for me, tries to make it so I don’t look in a mirror and see scars, but I see survival instead. I see whatever the hell it is she sees. Or at least, I try to.
I miss my babies.
But I’m determined to live for them. One day my partner and I will have children of our own, and they won’t exist in some sick criminal underworld. They will be so loved, and when they’re old enough, will hear about their big brothers and sisters who are looking at us from the stars…
One day I will be a mother again, instead of juts a grieving one. My identity will make sense, again. Because right now, it doesn’t.