The box says that trauma comes in a handful of forms: child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, war, torture, natural disasters.
That might be all right, but it also tells you what each one of these things are. It tells you what they look like. It tells you who does them. It tells you that they have patterns, and it tells you what those patterns are. It tells you what happened to you if these things did. It tells you that if something similar happened, something that didn't quite fit these patterns, that it must not have been as bad. Even if you sometimes wonder whether what you've seen is actually worse.
First, the child. They told us who to avoid in textbooks and in class. They told you what people tried to do: touch you in particular places, places that were covered by bathing suits. They told you what to say no to, that if you stood up to one of these people you had "Good refusal skills."
I was sure I had those. Even though twice a week (if I remember right) I left my class and went into a room where a woman wrenched my legs apart and held them there while I screamed and pleaded.
I still had my clothes on. Her hands or legs touching my legs and pushing until I pleaded. And even when I pleaded it wasn't stop. It was "won't my legs be kind of better if you only do it for thirty seconds no why twenty-nine thirty thirty one thirty-two no no please please I can't aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhghghghghghghggh how many seconds did it take me to scream just then?"
The county paid her to come and give me therapy. I was supposed to trust her.
I had no idea "refusal skills" could mean saying no to her. She didn't want sex. She wanted to help me.
Or so everyone said to me anyway.
(This is where I'm kind of flashbacky so if I sound a bit like a child that is why... I can't both pull away enough to sound reasonable AND tell this story)
and now the word "abuse." they tell you what this one means, also. Usually they say that it's a men and woman that get married. The man acts nice, and then turns into a monster, and acts nice again. That's the pattern. That's what's happening if someone's abusing you. I thought that if someone was always mean, it meant that must not be abuse. They must be right when they say:
deal with it to get better.
that's a persona.
to help you.
you hear the others screaming and she calls you names and she tells you draw a circle and you do you do you move the pencil so slow and it's not a circle and she says is that your cp or are you just stupid
and you ask
and ask and ask
"do you like me?"
because one crumb of praise
might make it less like walking
of your own "free will"
into the mouth of hell
with flourescent lights and brown speckled linoleum floors
AND THAT LAUGH
AND THOSE JOKES
she liked calling herself a torturer
was she really a sadist or did it help her hate herself less
if all of us crying was funny
i don't know
i don't know
and the box says it's families. The box says it's men. The box says it's husbands. The box says it's stepfathers. The box says it's something that men do to women and girls. The box says it's why feminism is important. Or sometimes the box reluctantly admits that it is something that men do to men, or that women do to women. But that means they're dating, and that means they're gay.
And it affecting you sexually means you were raped... or if not it means you're crazy. I remember trying to insert a tampon, lying on my back, remembering her over me. Trying to insert something into my body. I lost it. I screamed. I wailed. I cried.
My mother came running and asked me "Who raped you?" My response "no one" was completely unparseable.
She only touched my legs. The doctors who operated on me: only opened the skin and muscle and drilled into the bone of my legs.
My legs are not a vagina.
So why should I scream and cry at pulling myself apart and sticking something in one?
That's not, er... in the box.
To my knowledge, it was only something like a year ago that I was actually diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Admittedly, the shrink that I saw as a teenager after a cycle of surgeries on my legs that went wrong over and over may have diagnosed me with it as well, thinking about the acute trauma of those surgeries.
But therapists since then grappled with what to diagnose me with. Usually the thought that it would be most useful to diagnose me with the stuff relating to my sexuality, but I wasn't quite clinically distressed enough by that, so they chose things like anxiety.
And the thing is, talking to other bloggers with disabilities, what happened to me is not unusual. What I saw happen to others, people who didn't have the facility with language that I had, people who couldn't talk about what it was like, wasn't unusual.
It's not unique. It's not even all that strange. It's just not in the box.