Hello my darling readers. I come to you today with a heavy heart and a mind that searches for reason in this ocean of chaos that we live in. I come to you today a broken woman, shattered to pieces by the cruelty of another. I come to you today a survivor, although surviving is all I seem to be doing; not living, not growing, not loving, not excelling… just simply surviving. Floating from one day to another, hoping that if I distract myself enough from this ache I feel inside that I will not be lost to the darkness that threatens to engulf me. That darkness is despair, that darkness is rage, that darkness is callousness, that darkness is hopelessness.
Never in all my life have I ever felt such exquisite hopelessness. Even through my divorce, which was the most emotionally painful experience of my life, there was still hope buried under all the tears and drunken attempts to escape. There was always a fleeting hope that I’d find love again, that losing my dear companion in life would not be my undoing. But with this newfound pain and suffering, there is a true feeling of hopelessness, and it doesn’t feel the way I would have expected it to. I would have expected hopelessness to be the most painful experience of all, but it’s not… it’s nothing, really. It is the feeling of pure, unadulterated nothingness. It is oblivion; it is an abyss so deep and so black that you cannot hope to escape it. Hopelessness is a black hole inside your heart and mind, and its gravity is enough to devour any and all good or light from your life with its voracious appetite. It does not discriminate and it does not choose, it devours anything that gets close.
Hopelessness is a haze, through which you walk. You see people around you, smiling, laughing, loving, and enjoying life and you want to envy them, but you cannot even do that. They do not know this darkness. It has not dug its icy fingers into their minds, bodies, and spirits like it has yours. It has not consumed them like the black hole that it is, and just like a black hole, they cannot see it.
Hopelessness wears a smile. It pretends to laugh with others. It pretends to be social. It pretends to be happy. Hopelessness is a liar and a fake. It fools those around it into thinking nothing is wrong because what is actually wrong is so wrong it can barely be spoken. Hopelessness is not something you answer when everyone, every goddamn fucking person you come across, asks you how you are. You cannot answer, “Hopeless,” and expect them to understand. Even if they cared, even if they tried, even if they did everything in their power to comfort you, it would not be enough. The black hole’s hunger will not be satisfied with their pity, with their sympathy, with their feeble attempts to comfort. Its gravity is too strong and were they truly able to get close enough to it to understand its power, they too would become lost in the void.
No, hopelessness is not something that can be shared with another like some other, lesser emotions. You can share joy. You can share humor. You can share boredom. You can even share sadness, but you cannot share hopelessness. Hopelessness can only be understood by those who have experienced it themselves. It can only be grasped by those who’ve carried it themselves and even then, it is a solitary experience.
I wake in the morning and it is there waiting for me. It’s with me while I take a shower, hoping that I can feel the warmth of the water enough to reawaken the person I used to be. It’s with me as I look into the mirror and put on my makeup. It’s in the blackness at the center of my eyes, staring back at me. It’s with me when I eat breakfast, stealing the taste and savor of the food I’m eating. It’s with me when I put on my shoes to leave the house, eager to walk along with me. It’s with me as I drive my car to work, dulling the beat of the music and numbing the vibration of the road. It’s there when I get to work, gripping me tightly as my coworkers ask me how I am. It’s hidden behind my words as I say, “I’m okay,” or even more so when I shed a brief light on it and say, “Eh… I’m alive.”
It’s with me as I read my emails, the words all bleeding into one another. It’s with me when I greet the clients who are happy to see me. It’s next to me as I force a smile, as I force a joke to cover its presence up. It’s with me as I walk around the building, following every step I take. Sometimes I forget it is there, and sometimes it’s like it isn’t there at all. I get into the flow of the day, hoping that will dispel this terrible shadow, and I almost convince myself through all the interactions of the day and the busyness that is residential treatment that it’s finally gone; but it isn’t. The moment I notice its absence, it returns with its cold presence. Underneath the fog of forced sociability that I’ve created it can be found, lurking, waiting for its chance to remind that it is there.
I try to ignore it, I try to thicken the fog with more social interaction. I tell jokes, I use sarcasm, I try to genuinely interact with my clients. I do everything I possibly can to pretend like it isn’t there, wishing that it will finally leave me alone, but when I clock out for the day and I get into my car to drive home, it’s in the passenger seat next to me.
The drive home is as numb as the drive to work was, if not worse. Instead of heading towards a place of distraction where I can force sociability, I’m heading back to my empty home. My roommate is almost never home, so I am left alone with the hopelessness. When I pull into the garage I sit in the car and just stare at the dashboard for a minute or two. What’s the point? Where do I go from here? Is anything worth living for now?
I close my eyes and wish for death. I am too hopeless to take my own life so I simply plead with the gods to take the misery away, to finally put an end to this nightmare called life. The gods answer as they always do, with silence; cold silence.
I get out of the car and head for the house. My cats are there to greet me. I say a feeble hello to each of them before heading into my room to change into pj’s and collapse into bed. I’m not really tired, but I cannot stand the thought of being awake anymore. At least when I am asleep, the hopelessness abates for a while. It cannot reach my dreams, at least not yet. And then the tears come. They’ve been there, waiting all day to come out, and I welcome them. They are my only true friends right now. They are the only ones who truly get what’s going on with me. They are the only ones who fully understand the ache I feel inside.
They know the emptiness. They know the coldness. They know how it feels to be completely hollow and yet also be corroding on the inside at the same time. They know what the PTSD is like. They know what it’s like to have a full-blown panic attack where your body believes you are in mortal danger simply because a loud motorcycle driving by your house startled you, or because someone dropped something that made a loud noise. They know what it’s like to feel like everything is a potential threat, that every person on the street is dangerous and should be avoided. They know what it’s like to have the triggers come out of nowhere, to have something so simple and innocuous bring it all back like it just happened again. They know what it’s like to have the flashbacks and the echoes.
The tears know what it’s like to not feel like your body is your own anymore. They know what it’s like to want nothing more than to be held at the same time that you never, EVER, EVER, want anyone to touch you again. They know what it’s like to feel physically ill at the thought of ever being physically intimate with another person. No, there is too much danger there now; too much pain, suffering, and emptiness there. They know that nothing can bring back what has been taken. What’s gone is gone for good. Even if I manage to find a way to trust again, to be vulnerable again, to want to be touched again, it won’t be the same as it was. This will always be there, buried in my memory and permanently burned into my mind.
No, what she took from me was my light, innocence, and hope, and while I may one day find light and hope again, I will never regain my innocence. That’s gone now and it only took a couple minutes for it to be stripped from me forever. A couple minutes of her not listening when I said no again and again; when I asked her to stop, told her to stop, begged her to stop. A few moments of panic as she pinned me down and refused to stop as I tried desperately to get away has done a lifetime worth of damage.
I am a sexual assault survivor, I am a rape survivor, and this is my reality. What might have only been a minute felt like an eternity and its impact has extended for days now, and I suspect it will extend for weeks and possibly months or years. No means no. Stop means stop. It doesn’t matter if you are drunk, high, or having too much fun to want to stop, if consent is not given or is revoked, then it means it’s over. No one has the right to make someone feel the way that I do; the way that so many others before me have felt.
I’m a mess. I’m a disaster. I’m so fucking broken inside right now that I’m not sure I can ever be put back together again. I’ve gone through some seriously fucked up things in my life and dealt with so much loss and grief it’s hard to believe sometimes, but all of that pales in comparison to this emptiness I feel inside; this aching nothingness that’s consumed my life. For many, like me, the assault doesn’t end when the physical contact is over. No, it continues on well beyond then. It’s stored in your mind and in your body. My mind is now a minefield of triggers just waiting to set off another flashback or panic attack. What has always been mine (my body) now feels foreign, like it was stolen from me and must be reclaimed.
In a few brief moments my hope was stolen from me and now I must fight my way out of the gravitational pull of this horrible hopelessness that has consumed my life, all because her physical wants were more important to her than my consent. All because someone thought they had the right to use my body when I told them no and to stop, I am plagued by this pervasive emptiness in everything I do. I didn’t deserve what happened to me. No one deserves to have this happen to them. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.
And in case you were wondering, no, this wasn’t a stranger. This wasn’t someone who attacked me out of the blue. This was someone I trusted. Someone I cared about. Someone I thought would never hurt me like this.
I could have stayed silent. I could have kept this to myself. I could have pretended like what happened wasn’t really that bad (I actually did try denial, for a couple hours before it fell apart). I could have allowed this person to get away with what they did by not saying anything, but I can’t do that. I can’t be silent. There are too many of us out there, holding onto this awful burden by ourselves, and silence is our enemy. I understand why people don’t talk about this. I understand why they don’t report it or break their silence. I almost did the same. I felt almost compelled to do the same. Why should I be burdened with telling this story when the only thing I did wrong was trust someone who chose to break that trust?
The answer is because this story isn’t about me alone. My trauma, while deeply personal and subjective, is the trauma of untold millions who didn’t have the strength, ability, or safety to break their silence. If only one person going through the same thing reads my words and feels a connection that bridges the gap between emptiness and understanding, then showing my throbbing wound to the world is worth it.
You are not alone. You are not alone. Do you know that you are not alone? Because you aren’t my beloved friend. The hopelessness might have its hold on you and you might feel like you are adrift in the cold blackness of space, but you are not alone my love. You can do this. You can survive this. You already are, sweetheart. You are reading these words, which says a lot.
Fuck that person who did this to you. Fuck them and their greedy bullshit. They can’t take your light from you, no matter how hard they try. You have to fight. You have to keep going. You have to prove to the world and most importantly yourself, that you are stronger than this terrible thing that’s happened to you. I know it won’t be easy; in fact it’s probably going to be downright fucking awful to keep going, to keep getting out of bed, to keep moving through this life, but you have to do it. If not for yourself, then for me, and the countless others like us. We need one another now. I need you. I need you to be strong so I can remember that I am strong, and I will be strong so that you can remember that you are strong too. Together, we are stronger than our trauma.
She might have taken my innocence and stolen my hope when she turned my mind and body against me, but she can never take my pride.
I am Emma, Transfem Extraordinaire and I will survive this cruelty to live another day.
In the words of Destiny’s Child, I am a survivor