I think this is the hardest part of recovery; letting go. Letting go of the past, letting go of past or current judgements, letting go of bitterness, anger, resentment…
I still sleep with the lights on all night ever since I got raped four years ago as of the 13th of this month. I sleep with the lights on because I am worried someone is “out to get me” and not being able to see the perpetrator(s) at night when I am most vulnerable gives me so much fear and anxiety. I sleep near the door no matter where I am. I need a quick exit, there I go. I sleep on one edge of my queen sized bed so if an attacker comes in, I can fight or flight quicker.
These are trauma responses for what has happened to me. I used to sleep with the lights off, in a dark room, in the middle of my bed, not needing to be near an exit at all times. One might diagnose me with post traumatic stress disorder and they might be right. However, I am in survival mode when I don’t necessarily need to be. I fear the worst is going to happen at all times. Which is hard because naturally I am a very trusting person. But I have learned to be a very cautious person because fear is instilled in me…still.
Working with my clients now I see an end to an issue with sexual abuse and/or assault. I don’t see recidivism, I see letting go and healing. I see forgiveness. Yeah I see guilt and shame. Yeah I see tears. But I don’t see anyone wanting to make the same mistake twice.
Now when I think of the individual who had the audacity to rape me, the individual who had the courage to molest me, and the individual who thought it was ok to burn the skin on my thigh with a cigarette: I don’t see the recidivism stopping. I see individuals, dare I call them human? I see individuals doing these things over and over again. It makes me feel guilty as in I didn’t report the issue so the recidivism can continue but that’s not on me. That’s on them for not seeking help as hard as it may be. Not everyone changes. I do believe humans have the capacity to grow, change, and evolve into better (or worse) beings. But for those who have no conscience, no guilt or remorse, that’s what scares me. That’s why I leave my lights on at night. It is why I don’t go to strangers’ homes until I get to know them.
So how does one let go of such a trauma? How does one get out of the habit of leaving the lights on and sleeping on the edge of the bed when you have had a trauma for 4-5 years, or even longer? You ask for help. You don’t do it alone. You need people now more than ever, people you trust. I think talking about any issue for that matter makes the situation alive and real and there is no more pretending that “it’s all in your head” or that the pain is insignificant. Feel your feelings. Because they are there for a reason and you need to find each feeling you have a proper home whether that be stored back up in your brain or dump it in the trash.
I am in the process of feeling my feelings and dealing with the consequences of my actions or inactions. Just like mental health doesn’t give you a reason to act like a jackass, neither does trauma. However, trauma responses and triggers are NORMAL so forgive yourself for getting triggered. Let others help you through your trauma responses rather than pushing them away.
My goal is to sleep with the lights off but I am giving myself the grace that this won’t happen overnight. It may take a while, but it is worthwhile.