(CN: for sexual assault and trauma)
Public restrooms have always been terrifying for me. Something about them makes me nervous. Yet somehow I guess I’ve had to teach myself to deal with them. But sometimes even now I can walk into one and be hit with panic attacks or a combination of a flashback with panic attacks. Those tend to leave me completely disoriented for the rest of the day.
And you’re probably wondering if something happened related to that which would cause the anxiety. And the answer is more complex than even I’m prepared to deal with, but the short answer is yes. (but also no…bear with me)
I fear what did happen and that it could happen again. Or that it could be something much worse the next time.
For background, the man who sexually abused me as a child followed me into the bathroom once. And for the longest time my mind blotted out the rest. I didn’t think it actually happened but I have this recurring nightmare about it.
(Side note: I don’t like the word molested because why do we need a special word for childhood sexual assault. that’s what it is, and maybe that word’s more specific? I find it confusing and kind of triggering. More later on that.)
This week is the week (March 12-18) approx. five years ago while on spring break from college that I remembered the abuser’s face and details from that part of my life. Before that the memories were really foggy (repressed memories are quite common with childhood abuse). Trauma is weird like that and I hate it. I thought I was in the clear because my spring break this semester was last week. Usually that’s the trigger and I didn’t have any issues. But again, trauma doesn’t allow for predictability.
I’m writing this now because anniversaries of trauma are hard and because around 11:00 today I had to use the bathroom at work. Annnnd…cue flashback stuff. In case you’re unfamiliar, flashbacks tend to be extremely disorienting, I felt like the walls of the bathroom stall were closing in and the abuser was there.
He wasn’t, of course. But flashbacks make you feel your past in the present like you’re experiencing it all over again. Even if it happened 20 years ago. It’s been a while since I’ve shared a story like this because it’s been a while since I’ve had any major issues. Which is good, and today I was reminded this stuff is going to stick with me perhaps for the rest of my life. It’s important to share especially in de-stigmatizing mental illness.
This also came up after the Orlando Pulse shootings. It was particularly traumatic for those of us in the LGBTQ+ community. Watching traumatic things on the news can be difficult for those of us who have already experiencing trauma in other ways. And…a specific trigger for me was reading reports that victims hid in the bathroom from the shooter. That event sticks with me and many other queer people and it doesn’t seem like it’s been 9 months ago.
And all that to say trauma sucks. It can rob you of joy of living. I’ve lived through a lot and things are getting better. That’s encouraging. But today…was a bad day. So, I dunno.The world seems like it’s on fire all the time right now. Let’s remember to be kind to each other and support each other.