Facebook memories remind me about anniversaries; things I know are approaching but I don’t remember the specific date until I see it pop up under the cheery “on this day” header. Every year they sneak up on me again, I’m always surprised that it’s been (another) year – that it’s only been a(nother) year – and spend a while reading what I wrote at the time, reflecting on how my life has changed since that point, how the event itself has shaped me, and how I want to move forward.
A little over a year ago, I saw a client who changed me.
I don’t think about him much anymore, and I’m glad for it. But I still carry him with me, can still feel how the way I shifted since that date mar my relationships if I’m not careful. I struggle to relax around other people these days – I know exactly when I decided to push people away and, while that was the right choice, I think I forgot how to trust myself and others enough to let them back in.
Reading things I wrote during the weeks following the assault makes my body feel as if I’m on the verge of panicking, as if I’m right back in those moments again, and no matter how many times I tell myself to just relax, I still struggle to swallow back the fear.
Anniversaries like these are hard.
It’s just the time of year, it’s okay, you’re safe.
I need to remember what safety means.
I ran far away from myself that day; tried to outrun flashbacks and bruised bones, fearing the breakdown, struggling to not split away from myself too far. I was hurting, and I didn’t know how to balance the betrayal that I felt, so I pushed back, I pushed away.
I remember how it felt to not have his shadow creep up on me, tainting the people I meet. I miss feeling the secure way I trusted in my relationships before. Instead of security, I fight split-seconds of panic when trying to get to know someone, when deciding how to share myself, when allowing myself to be touched.
Where’s the line between self-preservation and self-destruction?
The thing about trauma anniversaries is that they force you to relive what happened, to feel the emotions all over again. My collarbone aches with the memory of his hand, the force of the grip, the cold tile of the shower wall slamming against my back.
I remember the moment I gave in and accepted that I had no control.
You did not die there. He did not win.
My lungs don’t remember what full feels like. They join my head, my heart, my bones, in aching.
I’ve come so far since that day, even though it changed me.
I’m seeing my first client since that dangerous one and I feel like I’m going to puke everywhere but he seems sweet so wish me luck! 🙃
Update: exhausting as heck but it went well and now I’m going to sleep for a year zzzzzzz
He was probably the best I could’ve asked for as a first client back, but I’m still not sure I trust myself to be able to do this.
I know that he still affects me, I know that he still impacts the choices I make, but I don’t feel bogged down by him anymore. I know that I can do this, that I’ve beat him, even though if I sit for long enough I can feel the weight of him – of all of them – pushing against my walls, pushing against my bones, making me want to tear my skin apart.
The funny thing about being a writer is that you can tell people all manner of personal things about yourself with ease, but never actually let them in. It’s fairly easy to pump out articles or paragraphs about your feelings, to build up a sort of intimacy, without actually letting your guard down at all.
Letting people in again is harder than it is to lock them out, but I’m stronger now than I was a year ago, despite the newer scars – I can teach myself to relax again, to trust. I’ve been rebuilding, meeting people and developing those sparks, and I will continue to do so.
It may be hard sometimes, but the memory of him is distant most days, and I can hear my own words again.