No means no

No means no

Saturday, 5 January 2013

My Wall

In the 1970s Pink Floyd, Iron Maiden, Uriah Heep and other early heavy rock bands were my favourites.  After I was raped I cut all these bands out of my life along with everything else that the 70s had come to mean to me.  I built my wall to keep my memories shut firmly away from my everyday life. 

My wall wouldn't come down for 19 years and it was then that I discovered Pink Floyd's "The Wall".  Our local theatre had a tribute production of The Wall and as I was working there I got to see it many times.  It fascinated me.  The messages were, to me, quite clear.  For me personally, it was all about barricading bad memories and emotions to stop them from taking over my everyday life, and when my wall had been breached I no longer had that protection.

Building walls in our minds is a common reaction to rape.  In a 20/20 interview with Tori Amos in 2008, Alison Clement, a therapist, said "There are a number of survivors that don't come forward for a very long time. Some never come forward. It's not impossible for a survivor to put in the back of their mind and make like it never happened".  Not just make like it never happened, but truly believe it never happened. 

Jason Ivers on "A Miracle a Day" says we "build ... walls to shelter our inner, vulnerable self.  We build them to provide safety, safety from pain, safety from risk.  We build them to keep others out, so that they can't see our weaknesses."  My wall was to keep me out of the painful memories.  I built it against me.  This is one of the body's natural reactions to severe trauma.  That it served also to keep others out was secondary at the time.

Rape Trauma Syndrome was identified in the 1970s as a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and it's common amongst rape survivors.  RTS consists of four phases - anticipatory, impact, reconstitution and resolution.  The third phase, reconstitution, can last for many years and encompasses denial, symptom formation and anger.  We are told "anger should be refocused appropriately on external circumstances rather than on self-blame".  

We are also told that the four phases are not linear - that is, don't expect to follow the phases exactly.  There is no one way or right way or even common way for rape survivors to deal with their trauma - it's as individual as our fingerprints.

Reading and learning about RTS and PTSD has been cathartic for me, as has writing.  I have learned a lot about myself which goes a long way to explain why I am and who I am and how I came to be in the mindplace.  The AAETS has a very comprehensive layman's page about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which tells me I am not crazy, my thoughts, feelings and emotions are normal for an abuse survivor.  "For example, if they feel the trauma was their fault they may spend the rest of their life having to be right so they won't ever be at fault again."  That's me in a nutshell.

I've still got a long way to go - perhaps the rest of my lifetime - but I know it's okay to be angry.

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