It has been suggested that in order to pursue my career in psychotherapy, I must come to terms more with my rape(s).
That’s quite a big statement. It suggests that there is a way in which I can come to terms with “what happened to me”, and that there is some sort of scale, or goal within which I am supposed to reach in order to become a fully acceptable human once again; that there is a level I must reach in order to be allowed to help others. Whilst I do agree that I would be an absolutely useless psychotherapist to any/all of my future clients if I were in pieces about my experiences, unable to cope with my daily chores, that is not a position I am in.
If I couldn’t bear to talk about anything related to men or sex (not to presume everyone’s experience is mine) or if I was still waking up with night terrors, battling a severe lack of sleep and I was cranky as hell, physically unable to do my job…fine. But having a severely disturbing experience (what an understatement) in my background does not prevent me from being a great counsellor. It doesn’t hold me back when I am being present for my clients, nor does it negatively alter the way in which I hold myself within our safe space.
I asked, where am I supposed to be? What is it that is expected of me? Would I be human if I didn’t flinch at the thought of such powerless vulnerability? Would I be a decent counsellor of any type if I were to be removed from such pain?
I have sat in that other chair. I have told my story. I am yet to hear the “right” words back. I wonder if perhaps I might be able to find them for someone else. I’ve been told that I’m telling my story wrong, that I tell it too lightly, that I don’t admit to the hurt, the pain, the life-altering reaction I had to the power which was stolen from me. That I make it difficult for my listener to understand what I went through. Why would I, when you choose to put my pain above my triumphs? What is the point of mentioning the hurdles I have leaped when you only want to focus on the hurdles themselves?
You didn’t know me before, so you haven’t borne witness to my journey. You were not there the night I walked around Montreal with a strange boy I couldn’t bring myself to look in the eye in case he thought I was agreeing to some unasked question; in case something about the way I held myself, or what I was wearing signaled something I wasn’t trying to say. You were not there that night in the ER when I had to have a vaginal scan and I responded to that wand with a panic attack. You didn’t witness me laughing with fear at that boy’s cock as it came towards me, nor did you hear me stammer those three little words that immediately quell any passion: “I was raped.”
You don’t know the difficulty I still have with the act of sex itself, how some of the positions I used to enjoy still elude me because they seem degrading; how hard I have had to fight the voices in my head to believe that sex can be something to enjoy, used to give pleasure, not power. And yet, I still bite and I still scratch, and I still need to fight sometimes to feel alive.
The act of rape itself is singular to any other. This is not losing a parent, or a partner, or a dear friend. This is not a break-up, or a physical attack. It is all of the above and more. It is your own death. It is the murder of everything you thought before. It is a loss of innocence. If you are unfortunate enough to know the person who does it then it is a loss of faith; in the people around you, and in your own judgement of those people. It is the knowledge that if someone really wants to cause you harm, they most likely are going to do it. It’s a club with a select membership, the dues of which I wish to hell you never pay.
It’s also the knowledge that you’re still standing. That you don’t cry yourself to sleep anymore. That you do now have sex again, and that you can still enjoy the hell out of it. That you can rise from the ashes. So that previous me is dead. I can mourn her if I like, but what’s the point? I can talk more and more about what I miss about her. But why? I have a ton more experiences ahead of me to focus on. I have tonight’s meal to focus on. I have weekend plans and essays and vacation plans to focus on. Her fight may define a side of me, but they don’t need to be shouted from every orifice every second of every day. I don’t need to be reminded.
In lots of ways, I’m lucky that I do know what triggers me. I am aware of possible clients I may not be the best person to work with. In the exact same way that I know I’d like to avoid palliative care, because I don’t think that is something I could get through without crying. Maybe when I’m older, maybe not. But that’s not something to be held against me — I never said I could do everything. That can’t be asked of anyone. I can work with children though, and those suffering from addictions. I could work with domestic abuse. I am more than welcome to the idea of working with prisoners. I’d really like to help support the military.
My rapes will forever be a part of me. They are woven tightly within my life’s rich tapestry, and whilst they aren’t the be-all and end-all, they are a huge part of me. They completely rearranged how I approach so many situations; and they give me an added hatred of gynecology appointments. I will never get over them. I don’t need to. To get over them would be to end up dismissing a huge part of me that — dead or not — I don’t need to vocalize, nor bury just yet. They made me, me.
Without them, I potentially wouldn’t be able to be so empathetic; I wouldn’t have been able to man those peer support hotlines; I may not have even followed a psychotherapy career. So quit trying to push me further than I need to go. You don’t need to “punish” me with a further freudian investigation before you let me loose. My future clients can benefit from my attitude. It will give them the space to find their own autonomy too, to choose where they want to be and the timeframe within which they wish to meet those goals. Which, in my opinion, is the only way I could morally do my job correctly.
I am where I am.
And that’s just fine.