I almost hate to bring it up. It’s over now, right? It happened. It sucks. We should move on, not dwell on the past, instead seek to do better in the future. But, if I don’t acknowledge these feelings, if I don’t speak my truth, how can I do better? How can I move forward?
I know that I am not the only one who finds herself in this emotional space. So many women wrote of their trauma, wrote of the anxiety, pain, and stress they were experiencing, and re-experiencing, while the Kavanaugh hearings and inevitable confirmation were happening. I just hadn’t expected myself to be one of them. Honestly, I didn’t imagine myself impacted on a personal level.
But then, in the middle of the night that week, I woke up, a hot sweaty crying mess. I had been having a nightmare. It was my stepfather. Again. 30-something years later. I dreamed of being unable to say no, being unable to stop him. Feeling helpless. Scared. Angry. And worse, not only remembering those feelings, but waking up shaking because I was actually feeling them all over again.
30 years later!
Much of the next day, heck the whole next week, I remained in a very fragile emotional state. If you even looked at me crooked, I was apt to cry. I felt like all of my relationships were off-kilter and I felt so insecure, even though the only thing that had changed was the dream, no wait, the nightmare. I texted with my best friend who sent me lots of love and support, but really, there wasn’t much she could do with an ocean and half a continent between us.
The next night it happened again. In fact, it happened every night for a whole week.
For the past 10 years or so, if I dream of my experiences with my stepfather at all, it’s usually a dream of power and strength. Up until that week, the dream would be of me, finally and loudly, standing my ground, screaming at him to stop, to go away. It was me standing firm and telling him what a creep and pervert he was, preventing him from hurting me and my sister. Not that week.
That week I was reduced to the actual experiences. I was shell shocked and quiet. (I am never quiet.) I took the unusual step, for me, of telling my partners what was going on and how fragile my emotional state was at the time. I needed the support and the understanding in case I broke down into a sobbing mess in front of them, they needed to know why. They were amazing. They held me up.
During that week I was so close to the surface with my feelings. I almost broke when friends posted on Facebook- “Yes! We did it!” to announce the confirmation. I did break down to a sobbing tearful mess when my mother’s Facebook page linked multiple Fox News articles and proclaimed a “Christian Victory” in the confirmation.
I remember sitting with Roland, tears falling from my eyes, asking, “How can she be the person who raised me? She always told me to ‘trust my red flags! Don’t be afraid to call a man out for his behavior.’ How can she be this person now?” But then I remember, she stayed with my stepfather until I was in my 30’s, despite me ‘calling him out on his behavior’ from the innocent age of 9. So… there was that.
I am so thankful that Benjamin was able to visit me that weekend. I woke up, tearful and afraid the first night but was able to sooth myself by curling up against his back and absorbing his quiet strength. The second night of his visit, I woke up with a huge startle, shaking the bed twice, and crying out, loud enough that he woke up. He pulled me into the safety and security of his arms and asked if I was ok. Then he asked, “Do you want to talk about it?” I said no, and simply lost myself in his embrace and fell back asleep, reassured I was safe.
The next morning, over a cup of coffee, relaxing on my balcony, he again asked if I wanted to talk about it. At that point I did. After the security of sleeping in his arms, I felt emotionally spent but finally ready to move on some. Talking about it helped release the last of the anxiety, for now, and his understanding, love and ongoing support help buoy me up.
I haven’t had either dream of my stepfather since that night. Thank god. I wonder how many years I will suffer from these intermittent dreams? How long will my mental well-being be impacted by my experiences as a child? Maybe forever. Maybe only during those times when that well-being is threatened by the collective of our conservative society (most of the people I knew and loved growing up) serving up trauma inducing memories by ignoring women and their experiences for the furthering of the Religious Right’s agenda.
I don’t know. For now, I need to figure out how to keep my own heart from being overwhelmed by the current affairs I see on my screens. How do I prevent a week like that from happening again? I wish I knew. I am doing my best to be the healthiest person I can be, despite past trauma. I guess for now that is all I can do.