Showing Up & Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Showing Up & Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April is a tough month for me. It’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and it’s also the month when I was attacked. So here I am trying to forget and people just want me to be aware! Aware of the worst time of my life! April 27, 2012 is the night I was attacked and I wish that I could just erase that day from the calendar. The weeks before and after that date bring with them terrible nightmares and full-blown panic attacks. When I start to dread waking up every morning, and the thought of living through another day does not seem appealing, it’s really hard to show up. But I am showing up to my own life, every day. And here is why:

A friend mentioned recently that I was functioning better in the months after the attack than I was a year after. At first I didn’t agree. My body was in fight or flight mode for months; it’s a huge blur but I remember doing weird things like putting my phone in the fridge, or trying to lock my house with my car keys, all of the time. I had to leave an extra 30 minutes to get anywhere because I would zone out and miss a turn, or turn the wrong way even though I had been driving to the same places every day for years. That didn’t sound like functioning to me. But, for months after the attack, I was still going through the motions. I was running stairs until my lungs and legs collapsed, I was doing yoga twice a day. Anything to keep my mind off the racing heart and mind, and the absolute terror I was feeling. I kept both of my jobs and continued to work 60 hour weeks.

Once my heart rate returned to normal and the hyper-vigilance slowed down, the nasty stuff set in. At the time I didn’t know what to call it, but I developed a bit of agoraphobia. I had to give myself a pep talk every time I left my house for months and it just got exhausting. I didn’t want to do it anymore so I stopped. I quit my second job, and took a huge step back at my full-time job. I left the house to go to work and the grocery store. That was it. I stopped going to yoga; social events were a thing of the past. I just stopped living. I spent a lot of time on the couch. The medication was making me gain weight and kept me groggy for 12-14 hours a day. Panic attacks made it hard to do anything that got me out of breath. The baking didn’t help either. I read somewhere that Emma Stone used baking to help her manage her panic attacks so I did a lot of baking (and eating).

I was convinced for a long time that no one in the world knew how I felt. And I was sure that was a good thing. It meant no one was hurting as much as me. I couldn’t stand the thought of people hurting that much, so I just pretended that there was no one else. That furthered the cycle of isolation and loneliness. Once I started going to a support group (more on that later!), I realized that other people were able to help. It’s terrible that other people are feeling the same way, but once I was able to deal with that, I found a great support network.

With that support in place, I reached out to the friends who were there, waiting for me to take the step. I saw more therapists than I can count on one hand. I saw my family doctor like clockwork to monitor medications. I worked tirelessly to get a new job. I started going to the gym again, and I started socializing.
At the two year mark, I decided to get my body back. I got a personal trainer (and friend!) to kick my ass at the slow, slow rate my mind and body could handle at the time.
At the two and a half year mark, it was time to start helping. I started doing a lot of research and following other blogs that were out there to help victims become survivors. I found the Joyful Heart Foundation, Natasha’s Justice Project, RAINN, and ConsentEd just to name a few. I knew I wanted to make a difference but had no idea what that would look like. I am still figuring that piece out, but am so thankful to be a part of When You’re Ready.
And now at the three year mark, I am still working on my master plan. Until that’s figured out, I am following through on all of the commitments I have made to myself and to others. I am striving to stay healthy and happy. I am 100% sure that I am on the right path and although it is a difficult one, I am overjoyed to be on it.

One thing I learned through all of this, is that you have to show up. Even if you don’t want to go through the motions, we are creatures of habit and we need some sort of routine. Just getting out of bed is a step in the right direction. Shower, put on makeup, go for a walk. All of the annoying things your mom (sorry moms!) tells you to do and you roll your eyes. How could that possibly help? I don’t know. I’m not a scientist. But I’m telling you, it helps. Once I started showing up to my own life, I kept showing up. I built up enough momentum to slowly crawl out of the deep dark hole.

Recovery is hard work. It is really difficult and you don’t always see progress even when you’re following the right steps. I was doing all of the ‘right’ things that are supposed to fix you and they weren’t working. It just takes time. It’s not a linear process, and the little changes aren’t always noticeable. They accumulate slowly until one day you look back and realize… at last year’s Canada Day fireworks I had to curl up in a ball in my closet. This year I’m watching from the balcony! That is progress!

Anyways, when I’m exhausted from the nightmares, the flashbacks have returned, and I am a sobbing/panicking mess, I really don’t want to show up. But here I am, going to work, writing on the blog, doing my homework, getting my butt kicked at the gym, cooking dinner, and wearing my red lipstick! Because I know that if I stop showing up, it’s going to be really hard to start again. So I am just powering through, knowing that one day things will feel better!

If you are seeing yourself in this post, please reach out. There is hope, recovery is possible, and I am here to help in any way I can.

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Hi! I'm Elizabeth, a blogger on When You're I spent 2 years struggling with PTSD and panic attacks following a violent attack. I want to use my experience and my voice to raise support for others. I desperately want to make the world a safer place for girls and women, especially my two little sisters. Keep talking, Keep sharing. When You're Ready, I'll be here.



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