Beyond the Outward Appearance

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A picture I drew at 12am, in the dark, upset and couldn’t sleep.
June 2012, Kris Hannah

One year ago, I hit a devastating low that I never thought I would ever reach. No one knew the turmoil I was struggling with, as I hid it from everyone around me. Many knew some details but couldn’t handle or comprehend the depth of my struggles. I was in an abusive relationship, dealing with being raped in my past, and trying to take care of my little girl while holding down a job. We had just moved to Wyoming, where I was isolated from everyone and had zero support. When I hit that low, I had no clue where to turn or what to do.

After begging my husband to take me back down to Texas for a week, he finally drove me and I went into the hospital. I was super scared. I went to the Emergency Room at 5pm on Friday, was going through intake Saturday at 2am, where they searched everything and took whatever was prohibited, and by 5am, I was in my bed crying myself to sleep wondering if I had made the right decision. I didn’t wake up until Monday morning. I didn’t want to go to group, and only woke up long enough to speak to my doctor. Things felt hopeless.

I was only inpatient for 10 days but it felt so much longer. They had activities scheduled for most of the day. Group was 2-3 times a day, activity therapy, one-on-one therapy once a week, and we could choose to do family therapy if we wanted. Every morning, we filled out a sheet on how we were feeling and what we wanted to accomplish that day. And after lunch, we had journaling time for an hour.

The problem was we weren’t allowed pens, and the pencils they supplied were smaller than 3 inches. We were allowed to use markers, but they were worn out and run down or went missing. Even though journaling was encouraged, the circumstances weren’t ideal for anyone who truly wanted to journal.

The best moments inpatient were when I was laughing and coloring with the other patients. I realized that many were also depressed, just like me. When I went inpatient, my parents saw me as weak, but in actuality, the strongest thing I could have ever done was get the help I needed. This was the first time I was allowed to not pretend to be stronger than I felt. As I started reaching out for help and journaling, I finally felt a strength I hadn’t felt in such a long time.I flourished and finally found something enjoyable for myself. I took notes in every aspect of therapy, journaled like crazy, and even started drawing again. I went through FOUR composition books and my pages looked like rainbows. It felt great doing such a ‘childish’ thing.

I know many people don’t understand what would send someone into a mental hospital, but it is time to break down those walls. The people in my unit were not mentally insane. They were not crazy or psychos. They were seeking help in the best way possible. Just because their troubles were not physical, it doesn’t make them any less. Just imagine how many don’t get help and choose a more permanent solution. It saved my life and helped me get out of my abusive relationship.

When I left, I vowed that I would help future patients in the same way I was helped. I never realized how significant those markers and composition books were in my recovery, but they were. And I hope that by donating what I can, others can feel that also. Each month, I would love to be able to deliver washable markers, composition books, coloring books, and a set of resources for those inpatient.

If you have any suggestions or would like to help, please let me know by commenting or emailing me at krisahannah @ gmail.

Believing My Own Story

For the last two months, I have been struggling with my first rape. I seem to get nowhere in the “healing journey.” In fact, lately, I have been adding more blame to myself. I feel delusional and like I am making something out of nothing. Two days ago, I started to writing down my story and realized that I add a lot of excuses, explanations, and persuasion to my story. Maybe to someone else it doesn’t sound like that, but in my head, I HAVE to get others to believe me.

One of the many flaws of this survivor. Worrying that I will never be believed. And I am sure I am not the only victim that has felt like this. When these sort of things happen, my support tries to get me to see that if I don’t blame them, then I can’t blame myself… but that doesn’t always work. Could we really see someone in our shoes and think that they are innocent? In my case, it is hard to see.

For those who don’t know my story, when I was 11 or 12, I was bullied, abused (mentally, emotionally, physically, and sexually), and raped by a girl down the street. I spent the night at her house one night and she “wanted to show me how it feels like to have sex with a guy.” This is usually where I tell about how she was, but the simple truth is, is that I didn’t want to be touched or kissed or fondled, but it happened.

My biggest issue is when people start telling me that it is ok to experiment at that age or that it is ok to be gay. If you would have asked me a year ago, I would have jumped down your throat about me not being gay. Now, I know I am not gay but it still doesn’t make knowing what happened to me and placing the blame where it truly lies easy.

So how do we get to a point where we blame the perpetrator and not the victim? If society can’t do that, the how can we? People don’t understand how more difficult the victims healing becomes when the whole world is telling us to blame the victim. I told my mom about my second rape (my boyfriend coming into my home and raping me), yet she still blamed me. “You could have taken him,” “Why did you open the door?” and etc.

My family will never know about my first rape. Which is a shame because if they did, they might understand how difficult things really are lately. I just cannot put myself out there to be questioned and blamed all over again by my own family. I was strong enough to endure my mothers attitude but not with this.

This is why Survivors don’t tell people they were raped!

This Saturday was my family’s Christmas (dys)function. After deciding to report my rape to the police, I thought about whether or not it would be a good idea to tell my mother (and maybe other family members). So far I had told my dad, brother’s girlfriend (living with my mom), my cousin, and my aunt. I have a very small family, but very dysfunctional. From the people I told, it was almost the subject you don’t talk about and if something is said, its about “getting over it” because it’s “taking over my life.”

I did tell my cousin about it as we are closer than the other family. It took me six months for me to open up to her about my first incident with the bully. She now understands why the Love word and people hugging me get to me. As much as I care for someone, I CANNOT use the L word or hug a girl… not even to my own cousin.

So when this function came up with the whole family, all 16 of us, I debated whether or not it would be a good idea. My conclusion came while sitting in my brother’s girlfriend’s bedroom… No it wouldn’t be a good idea. A few weeks ago, my mom found out I was in counseling for things that happened in my past, but I never told her why I was going. When she walked into the bedroom, I knew that something was going to happen. In the end, I told my husband that she wants to know what my problems are, and he told me that my mom deserves to know. So I told her.

The first few seconds of the conversation she said: “why did you let him in the house” and “you could kick his a**.” My initial reaction was to tell her that it was NOT my fault and I will NOT be taking the blame because I did NOTHING wrong. She knew who he was, where it happened, when it happened, where she was, but that still wasn’t good enough for her. Within two days after me telling her, I got about 10 random texts and calls from her (when we go months without any conversation). I knew something was up, but I was secretly hoping that it was genuine concern for me. I was wrong.

When she finally got ahold of me the third day, the first things that came out of her mouth again was “why didn’t you tell me because it happened in my house.” It didn’t matter that I was in shock and denial for the better part of SEVEN years. All she cared about was the fact that I didn’t tell her. No, scratch that. She was upset that she wasn’t told first! She told me that I have now strained my aunt’s and her relationship because my aunt should have told her about MY problem. She then proceeded to tell me that she was “disappointed and upset” that I didn’t tell her because she thought we were closer than that. We haven’t been close for over 8 years! She’s just in denial. After I got the lecture about keeping MY rape from her, she then proceeded to suck every detail about that night out of me again. This time, more in depth.

“Who was your first boyfriend? (first and last name) I keep thinking his name is Jake.” (No ma. JS)

When did it happen? (Friday, March 5th, 2004)

Where did it happen? (in my bedroom)

“Why were you alone?” (I have NO CLUE!)

“Where was your grandma and brother?” (I don’t remember MA!!!)

“Was I (meaning her) out on a date with the magician?” (Sure, why not, IDK!)

“Was that the night you helped me get all dolled up? If so, that could have been a fun night turned really horrible.”

“if that happened in 2004, then that means your grandma was still living with us and you were in the blue room.” (NO DUH! I REMEMBER THE COLOR OF THE WALLS QUITE VIVIDLY!!!

By the end of her questionnaire, I was so UPSET that she expected me to know all of this and that I actually wanted to talk about all of it. There is a lot of stuff that I suppressed. I don’t remember what I was doing at school that day or what happened after he raped me. I don’t remember why I was alone or what happened when she got home. All I remember is saying NO over and over and my boyfriend continuing to rape me. I remember the room. How messy it was, how small it was, how he stood there taking off my clothes, starting at the door and the ceiling and the BLUE walls! I remember him running out of the room to go “finish” then getting dressed and leaving. I don’t need someone prying into my every detail. I wasn’t ready to tell her.

Once my husband got home, I told her a little about what happened and how she was placing the blame on me. My mom talked to him on the phone too and thanked him for getting me to open up to her. Then when they were done talking, he told me to take her feelings into consideration because she is upset that she wasn’t the first to know, just like he wasn’t the first to know. Neither of them understand the complexity of the issue in the beginning stages of dealing with something so horrific. This started a whole argument between the two of us where he just told me that I didn’t need to get all defensive. I told who I told when I was able to tell them. Can’t they just be happy that I was able to open up to them? I find that family is harder to tell than others I don’t know that well or not closely related to. It took me so long to tell my husband about my first incident. I did, but I had to work up to it.

Once I was finally able to get in bed. I was so mad and frustrated and upset. When I tried to close my eyes, it was like the rape was happening right in front of me. Ever hear about people who feel like they are watching it happen? That’s how it was. I could see him taking off my clothes. The rape was so in my face that I just wanted to escape. The more I tried to sleep, the more it felt like I was being raped all over again. No longer was I watching it happen, I was feeling it happen. The emotions, him on top of me, and inside me. The feeling that I couldn’t escape. I woke up so much that night trying to get away from emotions, but I couldn’t. Normally I don’t have flashbacks like that, probably because I suppressed it and don’t have all the memories “during” the attack. But with my mom’s questionare, it was hard to escape as I was stuck in that darn blue room.

I have come to the realization that I took this upon myself because I decided to tell her. I could have kept my mouth shut and none of this would have been a problem. I now see why so many of my friends who were victims stayed quiet. It sounds like the better alternative that dealing with parents who put the blame on you and force you into that moment to relive again or having parents who don’t care and tell you to “get over it.”

So what is the answer? How do we find ways of getting the support we need without hiding this part of us from the world? My “secret” and burden that I’ve been carrying around with me for so long is finally out. Now I have to deal with people knowing and repelling the blame others try to place on me. But for those who haven’t been able to reach out to their loved one or to those who have and still need to find support within their circle, how do we get them to support us? It seems like the answer is always, EDUCATION IS KEY. Maybe it is. All I know is that I would love my family to read this article on ways to help a rape victim. It would be so nice, if for once, someone would try to understand our feelings as much as we try to understand our own.

A little bit about my story…

When I was fifteen, I was raped by my first boyfriend. I was naive and stupid and thought that I could trust him and he would respect me. After seven years of suppressing and denying what happened, I could no longer hold it in. In June 2011, I was watching a rerun of Law and Order: SVU where they were talking about sexual assault statistics. For some reason, I told my brother’s girlfriend about the incident, and from there I realized that I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I started writing all of my feelings and thoughts and memories out trying to work through them, but I still felt so lost. He raped me seven years ago, but I am a happily married woman with a beautiful young daughter. How could I bring this up after so long and wasn’t I happy? Yes, I was, but at the same time, I wasn’t… because I never dealt with being raped. It had affected my life and my reactions, but I never realized it. Plus, after dealing with the rape and talking about how I was bullied as a young child, a repressed memory was triggered by a joke my husband made… one I would prefer to forget. I was 12 and assaulted by a girl bully who pretended to be my friend. Dealing with same-sex assault has been the hardest challenge I have faced, and one that I have placed on the back burner for now. Not trying to repress or suppress it, but trying not to overwhelm myself with too much, as one attack is hard enough. This process started six months ago, and I have come so far from that first night. I still have a long way to go, but I am now in therapy, my husband knows my whole story, and I have  online support that has been very crucial in my beginning stages of recovery.

Just thought I’d share a little bit about my story before I started talking about what else is happening in my journey (i.e., my therapist appointment yesterday and my decision to report a rape to the police). I’ll leave those for another post though.