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Sexual Assault If trauma came with a rewards card, mine would be fully stamped. I need support.

I'm 31 and have been dealing with PTSD and MDD for more than 15 years. I grew up in a very small, conservative town and came out when I was 16. I was immediately disowned by my parents and had to live in my car. At 17, I was raped during a very violent assault by a friend and 2 classmates and almost didn't survive. My best friend (and first girlfriend) died in a car accident the night of my attack. I woke up from a coma with no family, no friends, no.... well, anything really.

I spent the next year and a half in rehab facilities learning how to walk and talk again. I didn't actively fight to recover, I just went into autopilot mode and did what I was told. To be honest, I didn't fight to recover; I just existed and hoped that I wouldn’t. I followed every direction given to me because I didn’t have the energy to think for myself, to fight for myself, or to even give up on myself.

I still have seizures and memory issues as a result of the TBI. I also developed aphantasia, which is the inability to visualize. I used to be a very creative person, and losing the ability to imagine things is... well, difficult to say the least.

The trial itself was pretty traumatic. I felt like I had to defend myself to the police and to the court because I was gay. I mean, I was almost murdered and quite literally had to learn how to exist again... and I was told that I should consider myself lucky they were charged with rape at all. They were never charged with attempted murder or anything like that.

Fast forward a few years... I spent 6 months in Sudan and Zimbabwe as an aid worker. It was a very humbling experience and I don't think I'll ever forget the people I encountered there or the lessons I learned. But at the same time, I witness a lot of death and violence and I have some significant issues with flashbacks as a result.

I came back to the states and married someone who was always emotionally abusive, but turned physically abusive on our honeymoon. He came out as trans and I supported him, but kind of lost my identity in a way because he was very... internally homophobic? due to his own experiences. I wasn't allowed to consider myself gay anymore because how could I be a lesbian and be with a man, but if I said I was bi (or even straight), I'd get accused of cheating or fantasizing about literally anyone else. He had a pretty severe disability, which definitely impacted his self-esteem, and he took out his frustration on me. Fast forward a bit and he got involved in a lot of shadier stuff (mostly drugs). Something he said to a dealer prompted a home invasion, which I was present for. I watched my cat get kicked to death while I was held at gunpoint. Later on, after the abuse got worse (and so did his drug usage), he had a psychotic break and tried to kill us both. I left him while he was in a psychiatric ward.

In 2018, one of my rapists was paroled. He had taken a plea deal, so he got less time than the one that went to trial. Immediately, he skipped town (didn't even go to his first parole officer meeting) and drove across the country, broke into my home, and threatened to kill me. He was re-released last year (with no additional time added to his sentence for what he did when paroled). The rapist that used to be my friend, the one that went to trial, was due for a parole hearing in December 2022. I wrote a victim impact statement and all that and prepared to speak at the hearing in person. 2 days before, he killed himself in prison.

I have a lot of complicated feelings about that.

A week or so ago, I found out my mother gave the rapist who was released last year my address. He sent me a letter. Now, I'm seeing him everywhere.

Last week was the anniversary of the attack and of my friend's death.

There's more, but those are the highlights. If trauma came with a rewards card, mine would definitely be stamped out lol.

I don't know why I'm posting this, honestly, other than my therapist told me that I need to disrupt my nervous system because I'm struggling so much. My mental health is always pretty garbage, but I'm having a really difficult time just doing basic things right now. I'm having near constant panic attacks, I'm terrified to leave the house (even to take my dog outside), I can't sleep, I have no appetite, etc. I'm re-married now, and we have a pretty good relationship, but he has his own mental health issues and hasn't really had the ability to be there for me in the ways I need due to his own stuff he's dealing with. Other than him, I don't have a support system. No friends, no family, etc. I'm experiencing more frequent suicidal ideation but I don't have any intent or a plan. It's passive. My therapist knows and I'm doing my best to use my coping mechanisms and all of that. But its just really hard, you know? Plus I have a lot of health issues that complicate things (arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, history of cardioembolic stroke, etc.) and it just makes everything feel way heavier because... well, would I be like this if the attack never happened?

I'm just having a really difficult time and I'm not sure where to turn.
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Welcome to the forum. That’s a lot to deal with. Glad you are in therapy and looking for ways to get out of the grinder. You’ll find a lot of people dealing with similar, or widely different, traumas and with all of the fall out and the climb out through recovery.

Other than him, I don't have a support system. No friends, no family,
This is a really common place for survivors to find themselves. Not going to sugarcoat it, it’s a ton of work to develop a support network and you have to have a lot of coping skills to deal with all the mistakes you will make and disappointments along the way, but if you can develop a practice of reaching out and continuing to work on mindfulness and self-acceptance it does pan out eventually.
Now, I'm seeing him everywhere.
I have a similar thing with my primary abuser. He lives less than a mile from me and I see him at least a few times a year. It sucks. I have considered moving just to not see him anymore. But there are good things about where I live too. I like my neighbor in my apartment complex, I live close to shopping and work, there are nice trees in the neighborhood. I have all kinds of coping strategies for when I run into him and I have strict boundaries about never engaging with him. Do I see him everywhere? Yes. I am hyper vigilant about anyone who remotely looks or sounds or smells like him. But I’ve managed to cope well enough.

I had suicidal ideation for about 30 years of my life but it’s gone now, or a non-issue when it arises. It is possible to have remission with SI.

Anyway, thanks for bringing your story to the forum. Hope you find the support you are looking for.

I’ve done the relearning how to walk & talk thing, and spent several years working for NGO’s (both as a combatant and aid worker at different times / changing over time)… and now that my kids are grown have been moving back to that life… although I had a different path there than you did.

My hands down favorite trauma therapist? Most counsels first responders, but spends several months a year doing NGO work abroad, and that level of connection? Was/Has been tremendously helpful. Both for the first person experience as well as the 6 weeks here, 12 weeks there, I got to take a step back from trauma… and just do life stuff… as well as watching HIM do the transition back into 1st world living, a few times a year. Those transitions? Differing truths? Are just a very real part of some lives.
hello tapdan. welcome to the forum. i'm loving your "rewards card" analogy. as a child sex trafficking survivor, methinks i filled several rewards card before i was old enough to knew what a rewards card was, much less how to redeem it. believe it or not, i believe there really are rewards to surviving such harsh ordeals. i believe i have levels of awareness and compassion i could have gained no other way, in addition to meeting many heroic souls i never would have met without the healing needs.

my own most consistent trauma therapy has been through alanon. i have worked with many pros over the decades and that work has been valuable, but it is my therapy peers who help me translate all that psychobabble into daily functions. my very first shrink was a firm believer in peer support and encouraged his patients to think of him as a reference book which never leaves the library. our job is to get him back on the shelf as quickly and cleanly as possible. our hope is to have each other's back in the trenches. i took that counsel to heart and believe in it ever more. did you guess already that he was an army shrink?

but that is me and every case is unique.

steadying support while you sort your own case. welcome aboard. you are not alone.