I have a friend, my best friend in fact, who I have known now for 14 years. His experience and his wisdom has been invaluable throughout the years. His lessons are simple, but it is only today that I realised I understand.
On many late nights (often intoxicated), over Instant Messenger, I told my friend of some of the horrors I had endured. You see, while we have met, our friendship is primarily online. It seemed easier somehow, to tell him things I could never imagine uttering out loud.
When he and I met, I was 17 years old. I had just been raped by a group of strangers and I was still being abused by my abuser. I was deeply troubled, in physical danger and traumatised by my past. Our friendship has evolved over the years, changing as I have grown. We have chatted regularly and at times even every single day. We kept in touch by email when circumstances in our lives pulled us apart. I think he saved my life, on more than one occasion. As I teetered on the edge, he was always there to pull me back.
My friend has warned me many times, of the dangers of asking the question “why?”. For that I am most grateful, no good comes from that thought path and from the downward spiral it pushes you into. When why cannot be answered, I know it is better not to ask.
He was the first to ever make me realise that it is always OK to feel whatever I feel. Such a simple concept, which is so easily overlooked. He would say “how can you not feel what you feel”. And of course he is right. I remind myself of that advice often, when I am being hard on myself.
When he spoke of the answers being within me, that the control had always been mine, it was beyond my comprehension. How could I possibly understand?
I sometimes found it upsetting. How could it be me? How could I be doing this to myself? Surely, I did not have any choice? He was never trying to put the blame on to me, in fact he told me it would be a journey, one I will always be on. Though now I see what he meant, back then I took it as criticism and became angry at myself.
The last few months have been a turning point, with a huge revelation which has had a massive impact on my life.
In therapy, I have reached a level of control that a year ago would have been unimaginable. While I cannot control when I am triggered, I can control what happens after.
With my therapist, I can explore those memories, carefully, while in control. That is not to say it does not hurt, quite the opposite in fact. At home, work and in my life in general, I know it is up to me to put away those intrusive memories. To ground, to reassure myself and if necessary to bring it up later in therapy/ in my journal. It sounds so simple, but believe me, it isn’t and I am not completely there yet, it is still a process I am working on. I still have many memories that are not ready to go away so easily. But it is a start, a turning point and another huge step forward on my journey.
There are many more changes, that I cannot and will not go into here, but I now know what my friend has been talking about, even if it has taken 14 years.
Just this morning he said to me “that control is now you, you no longer have to look for it, it is a part of you”. And finally, I can honestly say that I understand.