WARNING: This post is a bit dark, and references suicide, childhood sexual abuse, and rape. Consider before reading and take good care.

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It was one of the earliest, most formative moments of my life. The sexual abuse was happening a few times a week, at least. I was never not in pain, physically or emotionally. The energy it took to distance myself from the horror i was living, was bleeding me dry. I was fighting for survival, but felt near death. I looked at myself in the mirror, and i could see a black skull and crossbones just underneath my skin, like a shadow. It looked just like the warning on the glass bottle of reddish, pinky-orange liquid (i now think it was probably mercurochrome) i held in my hand that was marked POISON. I looked into my eyes and immediately felt older, calm and strong. A voice inside me said, If it gets too bad i can drink this. Instantly, relief washed through me and i was able to go on with my day.

I was 4yrs old.

That was my first secret plan. I knew what to do if i didn’t know what to do anymore. I could make it stop if i couldn’t take any more. I’d set a boundary and it gave me an inner peace, plus strength to carry on. It was my Mj√∂lnir, and i could call it to me whenever i wanted, which gave me power. The downside was, that i intended to use it on myself – to destroy ME, rather than those whose actions had caused its creation and might precipitate its use. It was my only getaway plan for a very long time.

From 4 to 40, suicide was my Hail Mary.
Around then i was swept up in a mania; a big, bad, long one.

I looked up and saw a door opening into darkness. I looked down and i was sitting on an old, dirty mattress with no sheet. The walls were marked with dings and stains. The light bulb in the ceiling had no fixture.

My head was spinning and my stomach felt like it was undulating. I knew i was under the influence of something, likely booze, and maybe street drugs, as well. I got up and went to the doorway, only then realising it was an archway at the bottom of a set of stairs, not a door. I was in the basement of a house, and i could see light coming from a closed door on the other side of the room. I could hear low voices, and they were definitely male. I looked around me, but i saw no purse, no jacket, nor shoes. Terror was zinging its way through my body so hard my legs almost collapsed underneath me. I made my way up the stairs and out the back door as fast as i could, wobbling about on limbs that felt like water. Leaden, like a nightmare. Out into a freezing cold autumn morning, still dark. Suburban sidewalks quickly led to a highway through the city that i knew very well. An old phone booth connected me with help and home.

That was the first time that i’d felt the desire to LIVE! since i was very small. It was an absolute imperative, ringing through my entire body like a WWII bomb siren. It shook me out of my dissociative fugue and got me thinking. It was still many months before i was able to wriggle out of mania’s grasp. And unfortunately, i still found myself in a couple of similar situations. But my subconscious, along with my ever so helpful Peanut Gallery (yes sarcasm, but they mostly try to help), were busy working the problem behind the scenes. When i was ready, the lesson to learn was right in front of me.
Sacrificing myself to save myself was no longer an option.

You’d think that this is where the story turns brighter and more hopeful. And of course, walking away from the possibility of ending things was a great moment, and a definite turning point. Another formative point in my life. This was where i finally realised that i was not my enemy, save in the most esoteric sense. This was where, at last, i saw my true enemy. And i started making new plans. A thousand little plans for a thousand different occasions.

I’d always been fascinated by true crime stories, and getting into therapy and confronting my own true crime story kicked it into near-obsession. And once the internet opened up i had an endless supply to feed my interest. In some ways it comforted me to know i wasn’t the only one who’d been through such things. It helped to know that others found these stories terrible and disturbing, and that most people couldn’t even imagine these things, and could never understand those involved in such awful acts. It helped counteract all the programming i’d received, that i was a liar, i’d imagined it, it wasn’t that bad, i’d asked for it, etc. I saw this reflected in the face of survivors, and repeated for the cameras, over and over.

So many like me had stood alone, facing abuse at nearly every turn, and they’d faced these same admonishments, and been threatened with the same punishments. All these programs and documentaries i watched helped me walk away from the people-pleasing robot/slave i’d been raised to be. They also wound up giving me practise work for my plans. Plans that i’d only begun noticing i’d been making for some time. My system and subconscious at work again. Still. Always.

It started out with me talking at the tv. I’d shout out, No, don’t leave alone! or Watch out for that guy! or This situation is a red flag! Stuff like that. I’d ask myself what i might have done differently. Please understand that this is not a condemnation of any victim or survivor of any sexual or physical assault. In my books, if you survive you win. For those that didn’t, there may have been nothing they could have done. We’ll never know, and it isn’t for me to say. This isn’t about rape as a political or social issue. This is about how my brain works, as someone whose life was in danger from sexual and physical assaults for a lot of my childhood. Even when the frequency and severity lessened, it never completely ended until i got away at 21. I was never not on guard in some form or fashion. I was hypervigilant, but i sucked at protecting myself because i was so well groomed to be attractive and useful to predators. The indoctrination was often hard to identify and root out.

I was still assaulted after that, just by strangers. So i needed new plans.

As i’ve dealt with more of my past, i’ve gotten more healthy mentally and emotionally. I’m less dissociative, and more aware of my surroundings. I’m not the naif nor the social tumbleweed i once was. I’m getting good at not reflexively, desperately reading everyone’s affect for my personal protection, but i do give people and situations a perfunctory once over, at least. It’s just wise, good practise. People are gonna people, and some of us are vicious predators and oily opportunists. I prepare for that; i have painful, personal knowledge and experience with the truth of that.

Sometimes bad things happen. How i prepare my thoughts and my body for that truth potentiating in my life has grown and changed along with me. My plans are many, and though committed to memory, i go over them regularly. In every activity, in every place, with every person – i either have or am working on a secret plan to stay alive.
I don’t know if the watcher inside me will ever close their eyes.
I’m not convinced that they should.



IMAGE: Kevin Bosc

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