You Always Liked Me Best

You Always Liked Me Best This Is Why I Cheat

You always liked me best when I was lying at your feet

but you never reached a hand to help me off the floor.

You always liked me best when I was suffering defeat

but you’re the only one who was ever keeping score.

You always liked me best when I was sounding the retreat

but you always tried to stop me from walking out the door.

You always liked me best when I was crying in the street

but you never figured out what I was dying for.

You always liked me best when I was suckling at your teat

but you liked to turn me down if I ever asked for more.

You always liked me best when I was howling from the heat

but you never missed a chance to label me a whore.

You always liked me best when I was lying at your feet

but that’s the one place you won’t find me anymore.

Rape in the Newsroom, Part 2: in which nobody says nothin’

Rape in the Newsroom This Is Why I Cheat

My co-workers have been talking about my rape in conversations that didn’t include me. It’s something I’ve long suspected, since I wrote this post more than a year ago. But my suspicions were only recently confirmed. Now I’m trying to figure out why no one has said anything to me in the more than 12 months since I disclosed.

Some of them still hang out with him. Maybe they don’t know. Probably they don’t care. Not my business, they’d say. Not my place to know what the truth is.

Except it is.

It’s our only place in this world, to learn the truth. I know lots of journalists; none of them make much money and most of them work too much and bitch all the time. There’s no job perks except that you get to do the thing that drives you as a human being: Find the truth and write about it.

So I can’t believe that they wouldn’t want to know the truth about this. In that way, I’m not surprised they gossiped about it, discussed it among themselves. Maybe I’m really angry because I’m afraid they’ve found the truth and it isn’t mine.

Maybe that’s why they didn’t say anything. Because they’ve looked at the evidence and concluded I’m just another girl overreacting about a drunken night and a bad decision. But they kinda like me and don’t want to make me feel bad, so they stay silent.

Even though I fear this, I kind of doubt it. It’s more likely that they are supremely uncomfortable about the whole thing, with no idea how to approach it or me. And I can’t be disappointed, because who does?

But people did talk to me about it. Four people in the office did bring it up, did ask me what happened, did believe me, did support me. Four people, who, by the way, aren’t even reporters, whose job isn’t even to find out the truth.

They are designers and editors and sports people. And it strikes me now that maybe that’s why they could ask me, because their job isn’t finding out the truth bur taking the truth and organizing it into something digestible and easy to understand.

Maybe I shouldn’t be angry. After all, no one tells you what to do when your co-worker gets assaulted. There’s no manual; it’s not outlined in the employee handbook. But I just feel like any fucking decent human being knows what to do. And any good journalist knows that story built on hearsay isn’t a story at all. You always talk to the victim if you can, always.

Here we are as a news organization trying to navigate our way in a 21st-century world that has left us behind, trying to figure out how to reach a generation that doesn’t think they need us, that might not actually need us. It might not seem like one thing has anything to do with the other, but I firmly believe it does.

It’s not enough to dispassionately observe and report anymore. You can’t stand quietly by commenting when your readership feels the world is burning down around them. You’ve got to do more, be more human, take more stands, do the right thing. You’ve got to be more open, more honest, less impartial and worried about objectivity than ever before.

Not on everything — not on the city council and business disputes and density concerns, but on the stuff that matters. On the stuff that needs a voice. It’s not bad journalism to say that anti-immigrant rhetoric is wrong, that Islamaphobia is wrong, that oppressing civil rights is wrong. But it is bad humanism not to.

Maybe this makes me a bad journalist. I don’t know. Maybe my peers are being good journalists by not taking my side, the side of an accuser. But they’re being bad humans by pretending not to be involved.

Sexual assault does not happen in a vacuum. It affects everybody in the community in which it occurred. Maybe my co-workers think they don’t get to have feelings about what happened, but they do. They knew him; they worked with him, laughed with him, maybe got beers with him. You can’t not have a feeling when someone you liked is accused of something so heinous.

They know me, too. They work with me, laugh with me, drink with me. Not sure if they like me, but I suspect so. I’m nice enough, most of the time. Maybe, I think, they do believe me and are trying to protect me from the pain of having to talk about it, think about it.

If that’s the case, I have news for them: Please don’t. You’re not protecting anyone but yourself. I have been thinking about this and talking about it for years. Every time I hear his name, it’s like I’m there again. I am swimming in waves of old grief and panic that wash up every time I have to look up an old story that bears his byline.

You are not protecting me; you are leaving me to drown alone. And I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe through the pain of not knowing what you believe.

Please, please talk to me. It will be uncomfortable for a few minutes, awkward for a few days, but the easement of pain will last a lifetime for us both. Maybe what you have to say isn’t something I’d want to hear, but trust me when I tell you there is nothing you can say that is as painful as this silence.

Silence and shame is no way to live. And it’s no way to work.

Please, somebody, say something.

Because I’m all about providing solutions and not just lectures, visit this site for tips and more information on what to do when someone you know discloses sexual assault. 

Five minutes to self destruction

immolation this is why i cheat self destructive

Don’t call me self destructive.

Other people did the destroying.

All my life, I’ve been just trying to repair what other people broke. I started out perfect and whole, like every blessed baby on this earth.  It was them that let the cracks in, them that picked me off the solid earth, mishandled me and dropped me. Them, with their harsh words and stony silences and evil deeds. Them, telling me I was already broken, that my brokenness was breaking them. For so many years on this earth, that was my truth. You don’t mind wiping the floor with a dirty rag. That’s what they’re for. And no one ever asks how it got dirty in the first place.

I will burn everything down if I have to. But not to destroy. To renew. The way forests do. Seeds growing in the fertility of the ashes, clearing out the brush and decay of years of neglect.

Don’t call me self destructive.

What about the monks, who set themselves aflame? Is it their own destruction they crave, or that of a cruel and uncaring system that has risen up to oppress them? Every act of self destruction is an act of self preservation. What happens when the pressure of your own reality becomes too great, when the pain of your life and the lives of the ones you love is too much, and the only answer is blood and guns and fire because they are lighter than tears.

Don’t call me self destructive.

It was others who destroyed me. And I am trying to repair myself by radical means, because the simple ones didn’t work. My plaintive pleas for help went unheard and unanswered, so I am left here with a match in my hand and I’ll light it, I swear I will but won’t you please just stop for a second and watch? Listen to my body burn, my joints crack under the heat, my skin blister and peel. Hear the chorus of complaints rising from my flesh, amplified to a decibel you can’t ignore.

Don’t call me self destructive.

Unless you want to know about what I am destroying myself for, and from whom I am escaping.

Unless you want to take the match from my hand and stay with me awhile. Sit down with me and listen. Believe me what I tell you, when I tell you. Fucking care. If you can’t stand to hear the gory details, you don’t get to watch me burn, or say who set me alight.

I am the one holding the match, but you hold the power.

You and the others. The ones who broke me. And made my self destruct

Being A Girl: A Brief Personal History of Violence

The Belle Jar


I am six. My babysitter’s son, who is five but a whole head taller than me, likes to show me his penis. He does it when his mother isn’t looking. One time when I tell him not to, he holds me down and puts penis on my arm. I bite his shoulder, hard. He starts crying, pulls up his pants and runs upstairs to tell his mother that I bit him. I’m too embarrassed to tell anyone about the penis part, so they all just think I bit him for no reason.

I get in trouble first at the babysitter’s house, then later at home.

The next time the babysitter’s son tries to show me his penis, I don’t fight back because I don’t want to get in trouble.

One day I tell the babysitter what her son does, she tells me that he’s just a little boy, he doesn’t know…

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National Poetry Day: In Each Others’ Stories

*for you

*for you

You know how you are mad at me for hurting you,

but you’re not allowed to be,

because it’s not my fault?

I am mad at you, too.

I am mad as hell that

— during the darkest days of my life —

I have to understand

to guide

to coax

to soothe.

I have to be the adult

I have to be both our parents

(and I didn’t have very good role models).

This is my time.

It is supposed to be my time

to mess up

to make mistakes

to cry, to whine, to fuss

to throw tantrums

I am supposed to be the child

But I am the adult.

In the time of my greatest emotional upheaval,

I have to extend beyond myself

to supplement your emotional


But you know what that’s like, don’t you?

Stab, stab, switch.

Not the victim anymore

You are the provider

the rock

You had to cover up that exposed nerve

the one I struck with a mallet

Because I was the raped girl

and you were my man

You were the orphaned boy

family diced up by divorce

precipitated by betrayal

You are the boy with the broken h ome

The one with the amazing disappearing mother

but I know what that’s like, don’t I?

I remember that we are two acts of the same great saga

I read my life on your pages

We are each others’ villan

players in a sacred cycle of wounding and reaching

If we could just stop

and see each other

we would lay down our weapons

and bridge the chasm

of our alone togetherness

But my gaze is blurred by this white hot heat

This burning brilliance of anger

that obscures my view

Inside the raging flame of my ego

I am nothing but self

There is no you

There is only me

and my acres of need.

Maybe when this blaze burns out

and scorches me into clean white ash

It will leave my heart behind

full of empathy

for your struggle.

Maybe I will reach for you.

Maybe I am reaching for you now.

but you still need to burn, burn, burn

so you can be just you

and you can see just me

and not the bad guys we’ve become

in each others’ stories

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____ In the Newsroom: How Stories of Sexual Assault Become News Clippings


TRIGGER WARNING!!!!The following is a factual account of a sexual assault that occurred in May 2013. Readers may find content extremely disturbing and/or triggering.

It was mid-May 2013. I’m not sure of the date. Joe R***** and I went out after work to have some drinks. We were meeting up with some of his friends and one of mine. We had been out together twice before — once soon after I started the job, in late summer 2012, and again in March 2013 at a house party for one of our mutual co-workers. We had previous light sexual contact (kissing) before the May 2013 incident.

I drove to Joe’s apartment after my shift. We did shots of Jim Beam, maybe 2 or 3 each. Then we walked downtown to Connor O’Neils. His friends were there. We danced. I had a beer. I think only one, but maybe two. My friend, Geof, showed up later. We did Irish Car Bomb shots. We left the bar and walked back to Joe’s apartment. Geof had some cocaine that we were going to snort. I had never done cocaine.

When we got to his place, I felt very sick. I went into the bathroom and threw up. I stayed on the bathroom floor for a long time. I went into a dark bedroom, away from the kitchen light. I laid down and passed out. Joe and Geof stayed up in the kitchen, doing lines of coke. I don’t know for how long.

My friend Geof came in to the bedroom to tell me he was leaving. I don’t know if this is an actual memory, or just a memory of Geof telling me what happened. I can’t remember. I don’t remember Joe getting into bed with me. I remember seeing the street light outside the window, through the blinds. I don’t remember him taking off my clothes. I was clothed when I laid down.

I remember him on top of me. I remember him whispering words. I remember him slapping the side of my face and saying, “Stay with me.” I remember wishing I could be sober so I could stop him from having sex with me. But I couldn’t stay awake. I didn’t have control over my muscles; I couldn’t even get up to walk to the bathroom.

A few hours later, still in the early morning, it happened again. This time I was already naked. This time, he finished. I fell bask asleep. I woke up a few hours later and got up to go to the bathroom. I grabbed a shirt of his off the floor to cover up. I felt something wet on my thigh and I realized he had ejaculated inside of me. I asked him about it when he woke up. He said yes, that he did, and that it had been “stupid” of him. I told him I wasn’t on birth control. I asked if he had STDs, because he didn’t use a condom. He said no. I told him I would get the morning after pill. 

He watched me as I got dressed. I left.

Three months later, I had an ectopic pregnancy that ruptured, destroying my right Fallopian tube and nearly killing me. I had emergency surgery. The doctor said it was about three months along.

I came back to work after three weeks. I told Joe I needed to talk to him. One night after work, outside, I told him that about the pregnancy, the helicopter ride, the surgery. I told him it was his because I hadn’t had unprotected sex with anyone else. My boyfriend and I always used a condom. I told Joe I was mad he didn’t use a condom because it almost killed me. I said that if I’d had a choice, I wouldn’t have had sex with him. He said I was “still a good egg.”

I never talked to him again. In December 2014, I left him a letter. It told him I had been in therapy, in a support group. That I was taking a leave for PTSD. That I had been scared of him, but I wasn’t anymore. I wrote that he had raped me, and didn’t apologize when he had the chance. I asked him to pay the remaining $500 of my hospital bills.

I got a series of texts from him the day he read the letter.

“Can i talk to you about your letter at all? If not, how can i go about paying my share?”

“I am sorry. Truly sorry.”

“I’m sorry for your emergency trip and the surgery and all of the terrible things that came after, to be clear. I believed all sexual contact between us was consensual. … “

I emailed him a few days later to ask that all further contact with me be conducted through email. We have not had any contact since. 

This is my experience of my rape, presented in the most factual way possible. Noted out are the parts of the story that could not be confirmed independently by someone other than myself or my rapist.

This is how a journalist thinks. This is how a journalist must think. There’s an old joke: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

A newspaper would never run an assault story like this. Not unless there was a police report. Or unless it was an accusation of a school/church/official mishandling claims. Or if either the accused or the accuser were famous.

This is not a criticism of journalism: It’s the sad and unfortunate truth that there’s nothing particularly noteworthy about sexual assault. They’re disturbingly commonplace.

But the fact that I’m a journalist and that my attacker was a journalist has always made me wonder: How would the people in our newsroom approach this assault as a news story? Assuming every piece of information that could be verified was important enough to verify.

Would they find his friends? The bartenders? Confirm how many drinks I had? Question Joe’s roommate about the sounds of retching coming from the bathroom? Track down Geof in Vietnam to attest to my physical condition at the time? Would that even matter, given that the largest chunk of my story, the only parts that pertain to the actual sexual contact, would be deemed completely inadmissible?

After all, there were only us two there. Only us two, with our potentially conflicting versions of the story. Even my story is in patches. Like all traumatic memories, it is not a neat, clean, linear narrative. It is jagged; patches of sights and sounds and sensations.

This is how someone’s experience, someone’s truth, is transformed into he said/she said. When we hear of rape victims coming forward, telling their stories, these are the parts that are parsed out, questioned, doubted.

“Just the facts, ma’am.”

As a journalist, I’m a firm believer in the facts being enough to draw a reasonable conclusion. And there are certainly more facts to this story, ones that can be confirmed by outside parties. My therapy, which can be traced in payments of thousands of dollars over several months. My presence for the past 18 months in a support group. My two-month leave from work; my diagnosis of PTSD. My panic attacks at work were largely invisible, but did anyone take note of my shifting attitude, my increasingly dour silences?

Shouldn’t this secondary evidence be considered? We mark behavioral changes in children as evidence of abuse, but what of adults? Are my personal struggles facts that bolster my story or merely circumstantial tidbits to be tossed aside?

And what of my character? I shudder to imagine those conversations. It’s technically not allowed to be used in courtroom arguments anymore, and it would be frowned upon in journalism, I think. But there’s always someone asking: What’s she getting out of this? How do we know we can trust her? There is always an edge of doubt — despite the statistics that false reporting of rape hovers around 1-2% — always the fleeting thought that anyone reporting this sensitive crime, instead of hiding away in shame, is seeking attention.

I’m not arguing that journalists should alter the way they report on sexual assaults. If you asked me what to change and how, I wouldn’t have an answer for you. I am as much a journalist as I am a survivor, and it’s hard as hell to unify those disparate parts of myself.

I think the reason it took so long for me to seek help, to admit to myself that there was a problem, was that I was approaching it as a journalist: There was sexual contact, but we had both been drinking. I couldn’t remember much, so who’s to say what really happened?

It took months of pointed questions from my support group — If you were awake and participating, why did he have to slap your face and say, ‘Stay with me’? Why did he call you a ‘good egg’ when you told him? That implies that YOU did something wrong. Would your boyfriend have done the same thing in the same situation? How about your guy friends? — before I could begin to admit that something was off.

I framed my experience in different terms: What if this happened to a friend of mine? Would I tell her the things I told myself, that is was OK, no big deal, just another bad night of drinking, another regrettable sexual decision? Or would I be upset — angry even — on her behalf?

I still believe in journalism. It is essential to a free, informed society. I still believe in its power and prestige. But in order to believe in myself more, I had to start believing in journalism less. Because as great as it is, as integral and as influential, it does not have all the answers. Not for me. Not for other survivors.

The kind of support we need will never be found on a newspaper page or a web article. The kind of belief we need to cultivate in ourselves can only come from others.

I’m not sure how being a journalist has helped me survive. But I know that surviving, choosing to heal from sexual assault, has made me a better journalist.

I have learned how to listen more intently; I have been forced to practice honesty; I have reaffirmed that my intuition is a powerful force, to be trusted. I have changed my interactions with people, gained appreciation for experiences both dissimilar and familiar to mine. And again and again, I have asked the hard questions  — of myself and others — and prepared myself for the difficult answers.

What I wasn’t prepared for was my shaken faith in journalists.

Journalism was my first refuge from an unkind world. When I stepped into that college newsroom, I belonged somewhere — for the very first time in my life. Here there were people who were a little bit funny, a little bit nerdy, and a whole lot skeptical. They labored for answers when most people didn’t even bother asking. And I fit right in.

We are supposed to be the good guys, defenders of truth and justice in a false and unjust society. I never expected to find a predator here, a wolf among shepherds. But I walked straight into his lair.

Maybe that was my last and final lesson as a journalist — question everything, and everybody. Trust no one, not even your own peers.

As a human being, what I learned was different. It was something that perhaps I should have realized long ago: Perpetrators come from all walks of life. They are preachers, they are coaches, they are friends and soldiers. They are young and old, male and female (but mostly male. As a journalist, I feel duty bound to report that factoid.).

Overwhelmingly, they are someone you know and trust.

But “trust no one” is not an ethos for life. You can’t live that way. I tried, for years, and it left me more broken than before. Instead, what I finally learned is not to trust or distrust an entire group of people based on personal association.

I am a survivor. I am also a journalist. Within those spheres, there are good people and bad people — but mostly good. And those are the ones I’m choosing to believe in.

I have yet to encounter someone in this newsroom who reacted negatively to my truth as a survivor. They have accepted and embraced me and my story not as journalists, but as people. And I have learned to do the same.

I am not going to leave the survivor behind. I have to learn to embrace her, for all her strengths AND weaknesses. Neither can I reject journalism because of how it fails me as a victim. I have a foot in both worlds, and I’m learning how to stay balanced.

Dear Duggars: What I Wish I Could Tell Victims of Abuse in Religious Families


Hi. You don’t know me, and I don’t know you. But I feel like I know your story and you know mine, better than you think. Not exactly, of course, because who can ever truly know our stories other than ourselves. But I know the shape of it, the feel. There are things that all survivors share. Unfortunate, universal truths that result from this horrible wounding.

I am so sorry for all of this. I am sorry for what happened to you, and sorry for it getting brought back up now. Although, for me personally, what happened never really went away. It was always there, and the people who mattered in my life just ignored it or expected me to deal with it. I’m sorry for that, too, if that also happened to you.

I’m sorry, because I know the pressure to forget. To go along to get along. I cannot imagine what it would be like in a family with a TV show, a family with so many people who could have so many different responses. I don’t know what it was like in your family, but I am sorry if it was anything less than 100% supportive and caring and kind. There are things your loved ones are supposed to say when things like this happen, and I don’t know if you ever heard them. But I’m saying them, if you want to listen.

It is not your fault.

What was done to you was completely, totally out of your control. You didn’t do anything to “bring this on yourself.” And it definitely wasn’t  part of God’s plan. No. Way. This isn’t some major test that the Lord wants you to struggle through. Growing up, I heard a lot of religious people say,  “God never gives us more than we can handle.” This isn’t that.

This is 100% on your abuser. He was wrong. He was outside of God’s plan. It is a terrible thing that he did to you. And then he left you to deal with it.

Your parents were wrong.

This, what was done to you, is a crime. It should have been treated as such. It was good of them to get your abuser out of the house, away from you. That was right. But more should have been done. You deserved more. More than a year of waiting for it to be reported. More than having to live in the same house with your abuser. More than having to listen to him tout his “purity” during his courtship. To pretend, before God and man, that because he hadn’t kissed his girlfriend, he was pure. That, more than anything, pisses me off. Hurts me deeply. Because I can imagine how much it may hurt you.

This has nothing to do with purity.

There is only one thing that matters about sex or sexual experiences: Consent. That is it. Whatever your religious beliefs, that is the No. 1 rule, the only one that should ever be considered. Whatever you do, whenever you do it, whomever you do it with – this should be your guide: If both of you don’t want it equally, it’s not OK.

What he did to you, that is the opposite of purity. It reveals a deep impurity of the soul. He took without asking. He stole something from you — but it wasn’t your purity. Your purity, your value, your essence of self, is how you treat yourself and others. As long as you hold true to that, to the importance of kindness and compassion, you will be among the few truly pure people in the world.

You don’t have to forgive anyone. Ever.

I remember what it was like growing up in a Christian household. It was a lot like yours, actually, except with a lot fewer people. But I remember it all: the Sunday mornings, the purity pledges, the Beatitudes and, most of all, the importance of forgiveness.

It is the cornerstone of our faith. We forgive because we are forgiven. Without it, we cannot hope to attain salvation – that is what we are taught. I am still struggling with the what forgiveness means to me now, now that I have abandoned my faith in God and replaced it with a faith in myself. But I do know this one thing, the thing I have figured out: I never have to forgive my abuser. And you don’t either.

Forgiveness is not a requirement, not something to be coaxed or cajoled out of you. It is yours to give — or not. It is not the entry cost to get to heaven. Not for this. I will forgive my abuser when he has walked through the same fire that I have. When he has gone through years of therapy, when he has suffered from PTSD and had to take a leave of absence from work, when he has lived and worked 15 feet from the person who terrifies him the most in the world — that will be a start. But it will still not earn my forgiveness.

Maybe God can judge me for that, if he wants. If he exists. But I don’t think he will. Because he knows my heart, and my soul. And they are pure. I would never hurt someone the way I have been hurt. I do not withhold forgiveness out of spite or malice, but out of protection. Out of protest. Until the last rapist, the last molester, has a full and complete understanding of what they have taken from us, their victims.

I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. But I know your story. I have been in a similar place. And my heart is with yours now, sending you hope for healing and wellness.

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Rethinking Infidelity: A TED talk for anyone who has ever loved

“Betrayal in a relationship comes in many forms. There are many ways that we betray our partner: with contempt, with neglect, with indifference, with violence. Sexual betrayal is only one way to hurt a partner. In other words, the victim of an affair is not always the victim of the marriage.”

 ” … when we seek the gaze of another, it isn’t always our partner that we are turning away from, but the person that we have ourselves become. And it isn’t so much that we’re looking for another person, as much as we are looking for another self.”

Here are the things that would be more hurtful than my partner having sex with someone else:

  • Spending too much money (so much that you can’t contribute to shared goals)
  • Never taking a vacation with me (if we’ve been together 1+ year and we have the money)
  • Hating my friends
  • Dismissing how I feel/things I say
  • Words or actions that intentionally hurt my feelings
  • Refusal to change a behavior/situation that is hurtful or damaging to me

I share this list not to minimize or rationalize my own infidelity. Instead, thinking of what are the most hurtful things that can be done to me personally in a relationship has given me a deeper understanding of just how much pain I caused.

For me, being cheated on is not the most painful thing. It is not the deepest betrayal — even though it is thought of in society as the ultimate betrayal. But realizing that every individual might have their own personal “ultimate betrayal” has opened me sympathy — and empathy — more than ever before.

For me, the things on this list have one thing in common: They are all a denial of my needs and desires. I need to be heard, to feel valued, to know that I am important enough for consideration. Maybe that takes the form of a vacation, which I recognize as a trivial thing. But to me, it is symbolic of so many things important to a relationship: a commitment of time and resources; a desire to spend time together; acknowledgement of my passion for travel.

The items on my list reflect my need to feel safe — emotionally as well as physically.

When I do not feel safe, when I do not feel valued, when I do not feel cared for — that is the most intense pain I have ever felt in my life. Greater than the pain of abuse or assault. Greater than the pain of healing from those things. Greater even than the pain of death, the loss of loved ones.

It is pain almost beyond description, because it touches on the deepest of my wounds, the root of all my shame. When I need, I feel bad about myself.

The ability to recognize that I’m allowed to have needs; the process of beginning to ask for things I need — I have just begun to do this work. It is slow and painful. And so the pain of an unmet or denied need is magnified by the pain of all my unmet and denied needs, over the entire course of my lifetime. It is every nagging voice that says, “You are a burden. Why are you bothering me?”

This, I realize, is the pain I have caused some by my cheating. Not all, because I’m sure everyone’s list of betrayals looks a little different. Maybe that’s something we should consider, before we embark on relationships, or before we abandon them. What hurts you the most? What can’t you get over?

I can get over these things. I can delay blame, because under each of these actions is a root cause, a wounding of its own. And I of all people understand when our past hurts cause us to do things that hurt others. So I am patient, and I am kind. In the short-term, these are not deal breakers. Not for me. I believe that in relationships, what happened in the past does not matter, should not matter. It is the things that keep happening that we should not overlook.

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11 Harsh Realities of Healing From Sexual Assault and PTSD

'Dirt Boyz' at night

Huzzah! My first list-icle. I guess all that Buzzfeeding is getting to me. So I’m taking some time out of my Year of Anger to educate you, the public, on the painful (and occasionally hopeful) truths about trauma and the healing process. This is the world we live in. Thousands of us. Veterans, victims of domestic violence, amputees … PTSD affects so many. And while I can’t speak for everyone, I can speak for myself. Hopefully my experience is in the ballpark.

1. You will be angry ALL THE DAMN TIME.

There’s a lot to be angry about. I spent all my money on therapy and hospital bills; I’m down a Fallopian tube; I work with people who think my rapist is a nice, funny guy; I’m still having panic attacks at work, usually on days when not one of my co-workers talks to me; I’m foggy and dizzy about 75% of the time; walking the dogs in the dark is too scary; sleep is hard to come by, due to the unending nightmares; I gained at least 5 lbs. on my break from work, since crying doesn’t exactly burn too many calories; and things with Mr. T. have been shit about 80% of the time since I started therapy.

So, yeah, you’ll be pissed. And you should be. Something terrible happened to you. Something unfair and violent and wrong. And now you are stuck dealing with it, while chances are that your attacker is doing approximately jack shit.

2. You will feel alone 90% of the time.

People don’t get the angry-all-the-time thing. And they really don’t get the raped thing, or the PTSD thing. So, basically, they don’t understand anything that you’re thinking and feeling. And you really, really don’t have the energy to explain it to them. As a result, you will spend most of your daily life feeling incredibly lonely. Soul-crushingly lonely.

And the thing is, it’s not just a feeling. Even if you have the best support system and therapist in the world, when you go into those dark, scary places of your past, you ARE alone. It’s you doing the work. No one can do it for you.

3. The work will wreck you, emotionally and physically.

I spent half of my time off work in some state of mild illness. And I never get sick. I can usually beat a cold in two days. But my sore throats and my stuffy noses just wore on. In fact, I’m still coughing up phlegm from a sinus thing I had three weeks ago. And I ache. Everywhere. All the time.

Trauma gets stored in your body. To work through it, you have to do body work, too. You have to re-experience the trauma, body and soul. Tense muscles, shallow breathing, racing heartbeat — everything you felt during the assault(s) and abuse, you will feel again. Hopefully, for the last time. But six straight months of panic is going to take its toll on your body.

4. Normal things will suddenly become very scary.

I used to love riding in the car on an open highway. And road trips. City driving, I would delegate to boyfriends. Now, I am afraid every time I get into a car, either behind the wheel (moderately nerve-wracking) or in the passenger seat (absolutely terrifying). I could bike everywhere, but I would have to do so at a glacial pace, because I can’t stand even the smallest bit of speed. I am certain — not just afraid, but sure — that I’m going to crash. I can’t climb trees anymore, or scramble over rocks, or stand near the edges of the trail on my hikes. I imagine that every twisty twig is a snake, and every man on the sidewalk who glances my way is a rapist.

Life becomes terrifying after a trauma. PTSD traps you in that cycle of fear, superimposing your trauma onto everything and everyone. And that’s not something that just goes away. You have to learn how to overcome it.

5. You will spend all. of. the. money.

My few months of therapy cost me roughly $3,000. My trauma yoga class cost just under $100. I spent $240 on a boxing gym membership that I never used, because it triggered my PTSD so badly. And, having taken disability leave from work, I cut my income by about $2,500 for the year.

Life is expensive. And for someone without the strength or presence of mind to participate in the daily minutiae, the cost is high. If you take time to focus on your healing, you are basically checking out of the rat race. The world moves on without you, demanding just as much as it always has, even if you have less to give.

6. You will be a crappy friend.

I have spoken to my two best friends (in Florida) maybe three times this year, combined. I miss birthdays, forget lunch dates and am perpetually late. Not because I’m an irresponsible or forgetful person, but because my brain is stuck in survival mode. Bessel van der Kolk, one of the foremost experts on trauma and PTSD, wrote: “As long as the mind is defending itself against invisible assaults, our closest bonds are threatened, along with our ability to imagine, plan, play, learn, and pay attention to other people’s needs.”

If you are healing, you probably don’t have room for anything else. You probably don’t have energy to put into relationships. And so, they will suffer.

7. You will lose friends.

I used to have friends at work. People used to talk to me, a lot. They laughed at my jokes and they included me in conversations. Now? Silence. There are days when not a single person says a word to me, other than ‘hi’ or ‘hello.’ And, OK, maybe we weren’t BFFs, but I felt that I was part of a group. I felt valued as a co-worker and as a human. Now, I feel avoided.

I know that the issues I’m facing make people uncomfortable. I know they don’t know what to say. But I wish they would say something. And I wish they understood that saying nothing is the absolute worst thing they could do.

If and when you reveal your assault to your clan — be it friends or family — chances are you will “lose” someone. Someone who doesn’t believe you. Someone who can’t be bothered with your issues. Someone who is too uncomfortable with the reality to continue interacting with you. These might all be understandable, but they are still painful as hell.

8. You will think about giving up.

Not on life, altogether, although that’s entirely possible. But once you’ve made the decision to heal, you have made the decision to live. At least for me, I was less suicidal after I identified what I needed to fix and got started on fixing it. It gave me a purpose. But it also made things 1,000 times more difficult.

Staying numb is easy. Ignoring your problems is easy. Drinking and drugging and sleeping around is easy. And fun. Way more fun than hours of therapy and soul-searching. People like fun party girls. They don’t like girls who want to talk about their feelings, or their rape, or their feelings about their rape.

So, yeah, I think about going back. Back to Florida. Back to bartending. Back to my fuck buddy and my failed relationships. Back to a time before I was diagnosed with PTSD. Back when I didn’t know the words body memory, re-enactment or disassociation. Back when I could calm the panic with a drink or some shameless flirting. But I can’t. And you can’t either.

9. You will realize that giving up is no longer an option.

I can’t, because I’ve put one foot on the other side. I’ve dipped my toe into happiness. And I think it’s a place I would like to spend some more time. I have one hand on the glass, and I can see a life — my life — that I want. There are friends, and family, and Mr. T. There is a good career, some volunteer work, some travel. What I mostly see is what’s not there: Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, nightmares, shame, intimacy and trust issues, isolation.

I want that life. I am working every fucking day to get it. Because I am so tired of where I’ve lived. The neighborhood is bad. There’s trash everywhere, and the people that live here? They are terrible.

10. You will make new friends.

The most profound experiences of my healing have not been personal epiphanies or revelations. Instead, it is the connections I made with others that have helped me most.

Several people reached out to me when I shared my story, some expected and some not. Of those, most have ceased their efforts. But three people have not. Two of my co-workers make it a point to initiate conversation on days that I’m quiet. They engage me when I’m isolated. And that can change a bad day into a good one.

One woman from my support group has continued to connect with me and check in. I have a new hiking buddy and a coffee or dinner date each week. Slowly, they are helping me build the life that I want for myself. They are giving me hope and strength to keep going.

11. It will get better.

If someone has ever said this to you in the middle of a PTSD-fueled crisis, you have probably wanted to hit them in the face. If so, good for you. But also, they were right.

Things change incrementally, but they change. Unresolved trauma is like being buried under a pile of dirt, and every shovelful that gets taken off makes the load a bit lighter. You won’t be able to cure your PTSD overnight, but learning grounding techniques to stop panic attacks, or making a list of things to do to curb suicidal thoughts, joining a support group that listens and understands your story … all these things help. Tremendously, if not all at once.

The first time I found myself implementing self-care strategies after a triggering event (texts from my attacker), I was so proud of myself. I had grown from a place of self-soothing with booze and sex to a place where I identified my panic and headed it off with some herbal tea and a hot bath. (Not as exciting, I know, but much healthier.)

So, yeah, things suck right now. They might for quite some time. But one day, they will suck less.

That might not be the most eloquent of promises, but this is the truth of what lies beneath: If you do the work, see it through, one day your life will be better than it has ever been. So do the work. Heal. Create the life you want for yourself.

In other words, keep shoveling that shit.

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When You Say Nothing At All: Silence and Suffering in the Newsroom

Startup Stock PhotosI started back to work three weeks ago. And it’s unbelievably hard.

The shifts are quiet. Too quiet. Some days, I go eight hours with hardly a word said to me. Most people welcomed me back my first few days, but from others I got nothing. Not a hi, not a hello: Not a goddamn thing.

And I know I shouldn’t worry about those people. I know I should focus on the ones that did say something, the people that brought me cookies and veggies and snacks for my first day back. The ones that asked how I was doing and actually cared about the answer. But I’m having trouble.

I don’t know who knows what, or what they know. I don’t know what they’ve said or are saying, because they aren’t saying it to me. Given how much certain people gossip at work about anything and everything, I’m positive I’ve been discussed. I just wish I was part of the discussion.

I anticipated some of this. But I didn’t think it would be affect me so much. I didn’t think it would be so hard. And last week, it got harder.

One of my co-workers is dying.

He’s not here. He hasn’t been for awhile. He was in and out of the hospital before I went on leave, but working when I left. And now, in the next couple of months, he is dying.

People didn’t like this co-worker. They gossiped about him. Made fun of him. Called him names. Made zero effort to make him feel welcomed and wanted. Because he wasn’t welcome; they didn’t want him. He was loud and awkward, and suffering from a condition that made him louder and awkward-er.

We called him names. And now he is dying.

I called him names. Not here, at work, but at home, with Mr. T. We came up with a funny, short title for him that we thought was cute. I used it just last week.

His loudness bothered me. It aggravated my dislike of noise, which I’ve since learned is related to my PTSD. Mostly I just put in my earbuds and drowned him out with music. But once, I made a joke about it with my co-workers. And a few times, I joined in the gossip with some frustrations of my own.

I had some compassion for him, too. Once, after I’d heard that someone complained about him to HR, I talked to him, one-on-one. I listened to his story, his struggles. I defended him after that, when people more daring than me gossiped aloud. But I never stopped calling him that mean name.

And I never tried to be more welcoming. I just sat with my headphones in, ignoring it all.

That is what I imagine my co-workers are doing now, about me. Because that is what we do about everything uncomfortable here. We pass whispered gossip from desk to desk. We type confidences in chat windows. Or we ignore it all, eyes and hands glued to our computers.

It is the atmosphere that is fostered here. And I hate it. But, when I think of Mark dying alone in his house, I know I did next to nothing to change that.

In all likelihood, his only memories of this place will be of heads bent together whispering insults, or  HR telling him he needed to get his loud voice, coughing and breathing under control. He was no idiot; he knew when he was being talked about, laughed at. He told me so when we chatted once. One time, the only time I bothered to treat him like a human being instead of another office annoyance.

I intended to make this post about me, a helpful how-to for my peers on my PTSD and what I need from them in order to function. But I can’t. Because Mark is dying, and I couldn’t even be bothered to be nice to him when he was here.

I couldn’t tell you five things about most of the people that sit 10 feet from my desk. I’ve been standing at my desk stewing in anxiety and depression because there are days no one talks to me. But I haven’t talked to them either. I am part of the problem.

The culture here has affected me, and I’ve let it. I ignored an intern the other day, because the office gossip about her was bad. I could have reached out, said hi, introduced myself. I know what it’s like to be an unknown, to be the ignored intern. I still feel like that here, some days.

Silence does things to a person. It’s like taking a plant and putting it in the dark. It won’t grow. People need contact. They need conversation. They need to feel like someone would give a shit if they weren’t around.

PTSD exaggerates these things. It makes me forget the cookies, the veggies, the kind words that welcomed me back into the office. It envelopes me in a bubble of shame and self-loathing, walls so thick that they obscure the truth of how people feel about me, how much they care. It makes me imagine everyone is against me, whispering insults and attacking my character.

But that is about me, and this isn’t about me anymore. Because Mark is dying. And I can’t change that.

I can’t change how I acted, the things I said. I can’t take them back. But I can do better. I can try. Next time, I’ll try.

I had this plan, to help my co-workers help me. I was going to buy some of those red circle stickers, the kind you use to label and color code things. I was going to write about how, when I was having a bad PTSD day, I would place a sticker on the top corner of my computer monitor. Then people would know it was a bad day, and they could talk to me if they wanted, or offer to take a break together.

Because asking for help is really, really hard, especially in this place. We’re awkward and quiet. We don’t know what to say to one another, so we say nothing. We’re self-absorbed and busy as fuck. We’re underpaid and stressed out. But, for 8 hours a night, 5 days a week, we are all we have. So we should start supporting one another.

Maybe this idea is stupid. Maybe no one but me will do it. But I don’t want to be the person who sits with her headphones on and ignores things. That is not the person I want to be. That is not the kind of place I want to work, or the type of people I want to work with. I don’t want to be someone who is oblivious to the suffering of others. And I know that I’m not the only one here in pain.

Saying mean things is unacceptable, but saying nothing isn’t good enough, either. So I’m going to buy those stickers. But I’m going to leave them out at my desk , for anyone to use. And I’m going to look around every day for red dots on computers. And if I see one, I’m going to say something. Maybe it will be the wrong thing. Maybe it will be an insignificant thing. But it will be something.

And something is better than nothing.

For Mark. Because ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t do a goddamn thing for you.

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