“[Y]our heart’s a thousand colors but they’re all shades of blue / broken bottles shine just like stars / make a wish anyway.” – Gregory Alan Isakov, All Shades of Blue
On Monday, I barely kept from crying while training in a space (my training gym) I trust, with an instructor I trust, with a man I not only trust, but genuinely also like and consider a friend. On Monday, I didn’t know why I was reacting so strongly.
On Wednesday, I nearly lost my shit on a training partner who was being an asshole during the final stress drill. It took most of my self-control to not actually hit him, hard. The instructor pulled him aside and talked to him about how to be a better training partner, but by the end of the drill, my muscles were pumped in a way I haven’t felt since I was regularly bouldering. I should have left my training gym then, but I thought I could handle being in the next class. I made it 23 minutes before I started crying and left the room, to go beat the shit out of a heavy bag. I hit the bag until my knuckles were bleeding. I hit the bag and cried.
Last night, I went back to the training gym. I wanted to hit stuff. I wanted to be reminded of my body. I made it through a half hour class, but when the next class started I couldn’t stay focused. I left before the warm-up was over. I left, and cried in the parking lot, as the sun sank toward the mountains.
Later in the evening, I sat on my couch, sobbing. I’d just snapped at my best friend, via text, and felt pissed at myself about that and about the fact that every little thing had been pushing me to the brink of tears, if not to actual tears, for the past 48 hours. What did my best friend do, you ask? He had the audacity to suggest that I was being too hard on myself for feeling feelings.
Today makes 4 ears since this guy I’d met at a fundraiser raped me. I’ve never publicly written his name, and for a while I thought it was because of some perverse sense of wanting to protect him.
But it was never him I wanted to protect.
It was myself.
I’ve been, and am, afraid that if I were to publicly say his name, that the entire thing would somehow blow up and be even bigger. I don’t have the emotional bandwidth to deal with that. I’ve never had the emotional bandwidth to deal with that.
This year, in particular, I know I don’t have the emotional bandwidth to deal with it. This year, I’ve been more on edge. This year, all my feelings started earlier. This year, for the first time, I had trouble focusing on anything. This year, my patience was frayed and my temper was short, and this year I almost started crying when a good man checked in with me to see if I was okay to continue training. You know, like sought consent before touching me again. And not just once, but twice because he noticed that I hesitated before saying I was okay to keep going.
I was, and am, so pissed off at myself. I want to be in a better place. A place that’s not reacting to trauma. I want to not feel so broken. I want to be able to train, because within my training gym, I’ve found a group of people who care about each other and because training is what I’ve turned to when everything else has been hell.
Several close friends reminded me that there is no timeline for trauma — and that triggers can crop up unexpectedly, and that these things are okay.
I know these things, of course. That, in itself, doesn’t help.
I think part of what has made this year so hard is that, comparatively speaking, things have felt like they are otherwise going okay — well, even. I think because other things in my life feel relatively secure, and stable, that I was able to really feel the things it has been too dangerous to let myself feel about this anniversary in prior years. In prior years, I’ve already been too close to the edge to process my feelings about this. And so, I’ve tucked them away.
(It’s a good theory, anyway.)
Whatever the reason, I’m exhausted. My body is moving slower. I feel disconnected from my body unless I’m pushing it to its limits. Last night, I had trouble even engaging with the people I normally enjoy seeing at training. I was shutting down, and shutting out.
After I left the gym, I went on a 20 mile bike ride, just to feel the lactic acid build up in my muscles. I pushed for speed. I forced myself to concentrate on breathing. I traveled a route I’ve ridden probably a hundred times before — and traveled at night and in rain and in gathering storms. A route I didn’t have to think about. A route that helps me feel like I’m escaping something, while not actually taking me to an escape.
While I was riding, I was thinking about the solidarity of people who have experienced something similar. Here, I mean solidarity not as in what allies, accomplices, or those otherwise joined in the struggle, can provide, but solidarity like we might use the words herd or flock or coven. There is a solidarity of us out there — and not many of us are talking about it. We’re ashamed or afraid or just plain tired of talking about it, of explaining ourselves or our experience or our feelings again. We’re trying to be our stronger selves, or at the very least trying not to burden someone else. Depending on teh day, we may or may not even think about it — certainly a lot of days go by where I don’t.
But the days I do — which are, admittedly, much less frequently than I expected in the days or months right after it happened, I’m usually angry or wary of everyone or just simply crushingly sad.
The thing about hurting is you can’t rush it along. You can lock away the feelings (not advisable, but certainly something we all do — something I made a point of doing for a large portion of my earlier life) or sit with them. I’m doing my best to sit with these feelings (even though I’m also pissed off at myself). I’m doing my best to find ways to focus myself, to be with myself and my thoughts.
And, I’ve been reminding myself of something one awesome yoga teacher says at her community yoga classes “Give yourself a big fucking hug.”
Sometimes that big fucking hug — from ourselves or someone else — is what we need.