What does it feel like to go through heartbreak after trauma?
CN: sexual assault, csa
All trauma is different and experienced different. But I feel like rape and sexual assault is a specific type of trauma. A visceral theft. Someone has stolen something that belongs very specifically to you and you alone. It’s the most intimate act of violence someone can commit. Every word, every syllable that you decide to share and utter out loud about your experience isn’t a desire to be seen as strong or stoic, it’s done out of a desperate necessity. It’s fucking painful, every time it re-opens a wound that will never really heal. So, when survivors speak up, they are speaking up because for some inexplicable reason, rape is still denied and excused by the petty & the powerful.
I want to talk about my personal experience of heartbreak after the trauma of being raped.
The night I was raped I was huddled in my bed, buried under a thousand blankets, with my best friend next to me. For those who have never been through something traumatic, it’s very hard to explain what it feels like. It’s like a tectonic shift has taken place inside of you. Everything has rearranged, shattered, erupted, split, twisted, caved, broken. On the outside you look the same. It’s hard for other people to see it. But to you, the world looks different. It sounds, tastes, feels - unfamiliar, unsafe.
This is how my trauma manifested itself anyway.
I had some fucked up sexual relationships with a few men in the months following. I think I was trying to reclaim what had been stolen from me. I just know that it was messy, and I was lost.
Then I met him. It’s hard to explain now, but for the first time I was safe. I felt vulnerable, but in a comfortable way. He looked at me instead of through me. And I laughed when I was with him. Side splitting laughter, and I hadn’t laughed in such a long time.
We fell into that quick, passionate, all consuming type of love. We met 7 months after I had been raped. I remember thinking he had fixed me. He had mended the broken pieces of me. He put me back together.
That type of dependency on someone is dangerous. He was equally as dependent on me. He had been abused as a child. And there we were, two lost and scared children clinging onto something that felt good and safe. We replaced our pain with love. We were so intoxicated by each other that we suffocated the trauma and for a while the hurt went away.
He quickly became my world, my anchor tying me to reality.
He was incredible. He would sit with me, put his hand on the back of my neck, the other on my heart, his forehead on mine and would say “Whenever you’re scared, just remember my hand here on the back of your neck, holding you. I got you”
He gave everything to me, he protected me and loved me, but it took its toll. He was being strong for me, but all the while I think his childhood trauma was being drawn out. It was resurfacing.
I began to notice small changes in him. He was becoming more reclusive. Less willing to talk. I thought I was losing my mind. The more he retreated from me, the more I felt disconnected from the world, from him, from reality.
A foundation built on trauma is always going to be volatile. I think in the end I just reminded him of his pain, and he reminded me of mine. We were no longer able to drown it out.
One day we were lying on the beach, he was holding me, we kissed and were soaking up the sun. 2 hours later I had packed up my bag and was on the train back to my parents. It was over.
He ended it.
I didn’t get a say. My voice wasn’t heard. He wouldn’t listen to me. For this first time, he didn’t look at me, he just looked through me.
Once again, I was powerless. Once again, I felt disregarded and disposed of. Once again, I didn’t matter. But this time it wasn’t by a stranger. It was from the love of my life. The person who told me to put my trust in them. Then without a word of warning they dropped me.
That was that. At the time I thought it was easy for him. To let me go. It was like I had never even existed. But I guess I’ll never know his side of the story. Sometimes that’s the been the hardest part, not knowing why.
That was a long time ago. I’m no longer in love with him. There’s too much that’s happened, there are just some things that aren’t meant to be repaired. That can’t be repaired. But this year has been agonising. Picking myself up. Telling myself that I’m worth it, when every single atom of my being is screaming that I’m not.
Everything I know has told me that I am disposable. Replaceable. And now I’m terrified. The thing I fear most, is someone who looks through me, not at me. Because I now know the repercussions. I’ve spent hours crying. Hours picking myself up. I know my worth should not be measured by a man. But, in some way or other, men have defined and dictated the last 3 years of my life. Through trauma, love and heartbreak.
I am a feminist. I’m a fierce queer woman who knows my strength and the power in my voice. I blame the patriarchy and the existence of rape culture and rapists. I know that our relationship was destined to fail, because unaddressed trauma will at some point, inevitably rear its ugly head. That is the truth and logic of the situation. But heartbreak and logic aren’t symbiotic. You don’t feel logic. Sometimes all you feel is rejection and pain.
I don’t blame him. I will love him always. He played such a part in my life and I’m grateful to have loved and been loved by someone like him. I know he’s suffering right now. He’s dealing with the trauma of his past and I wish him peace.
This year I felt scared, lonely and lost but I was resilient. Broken but strong. I don’t know how I got through it, I just know that I did, and that I still am.