Monday, November 09, 2009
Once Upon A Time
"It's the human condition that keeps us apart
Everybody's got a story that could break your heart
Yeah everybody's got a story that could break your heart"
-Everybody's Got A Story, Lyrics by Amanda Marshall
"Finding Angela Shelton" - Day Five...
In March of 2009, my immediate family was going through what can only be described as one of the most stressful events we have faced as a unit thus far. The stress of the event triggered a post-traumatic episode that landed me in our local mental health facility's crisis unit. I had been there before. As a matter of fact, I had been there so many times I'd lost count. Was this the third time? The fourth time? Did it even matter?
I was so exhausted and so done with living in defeat. I didn't know where else to go or what else to do. The crisis unit had helped me weather some storms in the past, so I knew I could turn to them for some temporary relief from the stress. I walked into that place and I told them through my tears, "I am here. I'm not leaving until you help me. I've done this before. I've never been honest. I've never really faced what's bothering me, and I'm ready. I want therapy. I want meds. I want homework. I want whatever I need to have to get better. I'm done running from it. It's time."
The next week of my life was filled with individual sessions, group sessions, meetings with a psychiatrist to adjust medications, meetings with a nurse to discuss the side effects of those medications... but the most profound part of the experience was an assignment given to me by a therapist named Ken. I'll never forget Ken.
Ken saw something in me. He recognized that I was ready, really ready to heal. Step one of the assignment Ken gave me was to list all of the trauma I remembered experiencing throughout my life. I spent an hour making the list. There were 12 items on my list. The next step of my assignment was to write down everything I thought or believed about the first trauma on my list. It took five days to finish this exercise, and I won't share every step with you because I'm sure I'll lose you before we get anywhere near the end - ha! But the act of sharing my story with Ken, every detail, every thought I had about it, every memory of it that I had... well, it changed me.
Telling my story was cathartic. I had honestly reached a point in my life where I didn't know what to do, other than to turn it over to the professionals. I knew that everything I had tried on my own wasn't working and things were just getting worse. I'm so glad I decided to trust the advice of the professionals and tell my story.
I am taking the time to work through the other 11 traumas I listed on my own. Ken showed me what to do and I'm doing it. He called it "unraveling the yarn" of the trauma. Today's "Finding Angela Shelton" task is to tell my story. Today, I'm going to share with you the beginning of unraveling the yarn of a trauma I have yet to fully process. I'm going to tell you just one of my stories...
Once upon a time there was a girl named Megan. She was 18 and beautiful, but she didn't know it. One day Megan was working at her job as a cashier in a local grocery store when a handsome young man came through her line. He was buying a single red rose. He made small talk as she rang up his purchase, took his money and gave him his change. As he exited her line, he turned to her and said, "This is for you. Can I get your number? I've been here before and I've seen you around and I want to take you out."
Megan didn't know what to think. She was flattered. Could this really be happening to her? He was so charming, of course she wanted to go on a date with him. She accepted the rose, gave him her telephone number and went about her daily routine in a fog. She daydreamed about the phone call she hoped she'd soon be receiving. That evening when she got the call, plans were made to meet her date at his home later in the week. He wanted her to meet his family. He just knew she was going to love them.
The night of the date came and Megan pulled into the driveway with butterflies in her stomach. She had never been asked out before. Not like this. She held her breath in expectation as she rapped on the door. Mr. Handsome opened it and invited her in.
Formal introductions were made, and one by one the family members came up with their obligatory excuses to get the heck outta Dodge so Mr. Handsome and his date could have some privacy. Mom had to go to the store. Sister and Brother-in-Law had to run errands and were going to be gone for a while... Alone at last, Mr. Handsome turned on some music and asked Megan to dance.
Alarm bells started going off in Megan's head when she noticed that Mr. Handsome was getting a little too close for comfort. Her mind raced as she plotted her escape from the uncomfortable moment. "I know," she thought, "I'll tell him I have to pee. I'll go in there and gather my thoughts, and I'll come out and tell him I'm sick and I need to go home."
Megan politely asked where the bathroom was. Mr. Handsome walked her down the hallway and to the bathroom door. She closed the door behind her as she entered the bathroom. She walked to the sink and looked at herself in the mirror. “Why am I so creeped out by this?” she asked herself as she made her way to the toilet. She closed the lid and sat down, trying to think of a way to make herself look ill so that Mr. Handsome would just walk her to her car and send her on her way.
Gathering her thoughts, she stood up and walked to the sink to splash a little water on her face. She rubbed her eyes, dried her hands, and headed for the door. As she opened the door, Mr. Handsome pounced. He loomed over her, grinning.
“Hi,” he said as he walked toward her, forcing her back into the bathroom. He motioned toward the closed lid of the toilet, nudging her toward it with his hand. Megan began to panic as he forced her to sit down.
“I need to go home. I gotta get out of here. I’m not feeling well,” she said nervously.
“Oh, I just want to prove to you that I’m a good guy. I just want to show you that I can be naked with you and not do anything.” He started to tear at her clothing as she tried to get away.
“I need to go! Please don’t do this!” She tried with all her might to push past him.
Mr. Handsome dragged Megan into a bedroom where he wrestled with her until she stopped fighting back. He was too strong for her, and she eventually resigned herself to the fact that he was going to overtake her no matter how hard she tried to get away. She knew she would survive, just as she had survived the abuse she’d endured as a child. She would survive and she would add this to her list, the list of things she felt she was too stupid to see coming. Mr. Handsome sexually assaulted Megan. Mr. Handsome raped Megan with the handle of a broom. Mr. Handsome got away with the assault and the rape, because Megan was too scared and humiliated to tell anyone about what had happened to her. Until today.
Today Megan is telling her story. Today Megan realizes that she is not alone. Today, she is opening up her world and expanding her horizons. Today, she is taking back her power. Today may be too late to press charges or to confront Mr. Handsome (Megan doesn’t remember his name), but she recognizes the effect his actions had on her, and she refuses to keep quiet about them. Megan wants to help other people who are too humiliated to share their experiences with trauma. Megan is on a journey to heal and to live a life full of joy. Megan is hopeful that telling her story will help others speak out and tell theirs, because Megan knows that breaking the silence is essential to healing the hurt.