When I was fifty-eight, sixteen years after Tropical Spastic Paraparesis paralyzed my legs, I died on an operating table and experienced the bliss of what I thought might be heaven. But I was revived and suffered through a hellish recovery full of vivid delusions and nightmares. I could not endure another waking hour of the trauma, and again suicide coaxed me. For the first time I feared going to hell, and that fear held me back.
What I did have was a drug store’s worth of pills in a bookcase next to my bed. It would’ve been easy to swallow handfuls, but that strange force held me back. I hated it. If it was God, why would he allow me to continue suffering? What kind of God would put anyone through this?
Those types of thoughts reinforced my I blamed myself for my abuses, rapes, and time with my traffickers.
The mirror in the bedroom where I slept covered almost a whole wall, difficult to avoid. Overcome by the grief from the loss of my brothers and my parents, I had no wish to see my face. But one morning the unavoidable mirror took hold of me. My eyes looked like empty holes filled with water. My face was pale. Deep lines across my forehead and perpetually quivering lips divulged my deep mourning.
Then Linda, a trusted confidant, and my counselor suggested that I “vomit” my horrors onto paper. I did. However, writing my story evoked sensations I could neither understand nor control.
My nightmares worsened. Writing about my molesters, rapists, and traffickers evoked odd feelings and sensations I could not understand nor control. I did things that were out of character for me such as joining adult websites. It gave a strange sense of power over men (I despised all men). But, it frightened me and filled me with shame.
I didn’t grasp that when I wrote about my rapes and time with sex traffickers, my catharsis became a loaded gun. Each sordid detail pulled triggers and catapulted me into worlds of terror.
I tried to find a therapist online. I was about to give up when I found Dr. M. at a reasonable price. A survivor of childhood sexual abuse, Dr. M. somehow found his way out of his pit. He gave the credit to God, whom he said healed him. His therapy sessions consisted of mainly Bible verses. That turned me off, but out of desperation, I made an appointment with him. Our sessions took place via Skype.
After Dr. M. had heard my story, he explained to me that I suffered from four things: post-traumatic-stress-disorder, Stockholm syndrome, reactive responses, and learned behavior – foreign concepts to me.
However, after three sessions, Dr. M. told me he was not sure he could help me. That cut deep. I had spilled my guts out to him, sharing intimate details, learned these four life-changing realizations from him, and he gave up on me. He directed me to a Nigerian female therapist in my area. His suggestion freaked me out. Nigerian accents are similar to Jamaican. I knew the sound of the voice would trigger that loaded gun in me as my traffickers were from Jamaica.
When I was in the hospital again in 2013, it didn’t help that a male CATT scan technician—who even looked and sounded like my Jamaican traffickers—molested me.
How I wished I had the guts to slice my wrists open. A pair of small scissors sat in a basket on my over bed table, five inches away. I begged the God I struggled with to take my life so I wouldn’t have to. Each time I opened my eyes in the morning, I wondered why I was still alive. Surely if God loved me, he would set me free.
I jumped at the slightest disturbance—a door opening, a key turn in a lock, sudden noises. I tried to muster my disintegrated faith in God. But it was pieces of a puzzle I could never put together that were now scattered on the floor. Suicidal thoughts besieged me as I wrestled to resist and hang on to my sanity. I longed to move my feet to the rhythm of my favorite songs again. My soul was slowly dying.
Guilt, a prosecuting attorney, accused me of everything that had happened in my life. I submitted and blamed myself, convinced this was my punishment—the past, present, and future—for “allowing” my abusers, rapists, and traffickers to hurt me and sell my body. I forgot that I had no choice in the matters.
Wasn’t a girl freed from her abusers supposed to get better? I didn’t know. I didn’t even know how to talk about it.
Then, a friend said I engaged in prostitution. A hammer to my jaw would have hurt less. My friend’s comment offended me deeply and set off a trigger.
“How can you say that to me?” I said.
“You sold your body for money. Isn’t that prostitution?” he replied.
“I never sold my body. Sex traffickers enslaved and marketed me. Prostitutes choose to sell their bodies. Sex slaves are beaten, drugged, and forced.”
He honestly didn’t realize the difference.
After recognizing this trigger in me, I realized the importance not just of writing my story but also telling it. I want to educate, not reprimand, and bring awareness to the horrors of child abuse, rape, domestic violence, and human trafficking. But I don’t want to stop there because too many people think that once a victim is free, then they’re okay.
No, they are not.
The plight a survivor suffers in the aftermath can also be horrific. This plight needs to be known. Survivors need compassionate help, healing, and rehabilitation.
My trashed self-esteem and PTSD symptoms still linger alongside a strong, determined woman who counsels and helps others. It was as if some outer source was channeling through me. As I speak to individual victims, I am able to address their needs, answer their questions, and direct them to other resources that could help them. It empowers me to educate myself more in areas of counseling victims, I study classes online and continue to do so. My life’s mission became clearer and clearer – to help victims of rape, child and domestic abuse as well as fight human trafficking. The person inside my body chooses to smile. I now have a purpose.
Sudden noises, a knock at the door, and the turn of a key still make me jump. I forget that I’m safe and need a moment to readjust. Even now, in my sixties, I’m still sometimes blindsided by abrupt panic attacks and bouts of depression. I bury my head and cover my face with my blanket, even though I am now claustrophobic. But hope springs and my soul awakes. I believe you are never too old or too damaged to make a difference.
I hope my story encourages someone else to vomit their trauma onto paper puts them on the path to healing as well.
“Like wildflowers; You must allow yourself to grow in all the places people thought you never would.” ~ Ernest Victor Thompson