My life is no longer taken up with survival, either from domestic violence or from the mental health implications of it: post-traumatic stress disorder, flashbacks and panic attacks and nightmares and all the challenges of life with an anxiety disorder. Suddenly, after two years of freedom, I’m starting to feel free from the fearful responses of my own battered mind.
Now, it’s time for a new job. Now that I’m no longer living my life by simply trying to get through each day, to keep my symptoms under control, to hold down a job and keep my friends and my place in the choir when my inner world was shaking, my mind is freed up a little bit. My soul and my self are freed up a little bit.
Now the storm’s over, and it’s time for the clean-up.
Now it’s time for me to learn to make room within myself for what happened to me – literally hundreds of assaults; rape and sexual abuse; ten years’ worth of drip-drop acidic belittling, denigrating, undermining my worth. And that’s hard, because it involves actually looking at this stuff. Looking at what was done to me, things I survived, and not becoming overwhelmed by them, but no longer minimising them. Looking at them honestly, without the gentle layer of numbness – alcohol, or dissociation, or that quiet imperceptible fog of detachment which allowed me to take a beating, or live through a rape, and then get up, brush myself off and go on with my day. Looking at them openly, and in vulnerability, accepting their horror and allowing myself – for the first time, really – to feel it: not the fear I’ve lived with for so long, the fear that actually distracts from the reality of that pain, but the pain itself. The pain, and the anger.
And that’s the hardest bit, or one of them. Where do I put that anger? I have learned to trust myself that I won’t lose control, hurt myself or someone else. I won’t take my anger out on some innocent who simply bumbles into my path – most of the time. And I’m not stupid enough to seek a confrontation with the person towards whom my anger should be directed, even if I knew where he was – so what do I do with it? How to I learn to hold it gently, to find room for it? To uphold it as important, to allow it to keep me safe?
It’s a big thing to find room for, anger.