A Not So Fresh Start

I’ve been pretty quiet on here over the last couple of months. I decided to take some time away from my blog to focus more on myself as I knew the time of year would potentially be quite difficult. From the beginning of the year I’d been worried about how Christmas 2019 would be, given what happened the previous year, and as Christmas got closer my anxiety spiked. Conversations about Christmas started around September time which meant I couldn’t avoid the subject and therefore couldn’t avoid the feelings and emotions that I felt about it. I was worried. I wanted this Christmas to be the best yet so that I wouldn’t feel as guilty about how last year turned out. In the end, me and my parents decided to go away from the 23rd to the 27th and booked a cosy little cottage in Masham. It was exactly what we needed and I had a really lovely week. It didn’t stop there being times when the sexual assault would cross my mind. I still woke up on the 26th knowing this time last year I was sat in a medical centre, and on the 27th waking up knowing that was the day that I did my video interview at the police station. Of course those thoughts were still there, but taking myself out of the ‘normal’ Christmas situation this year meant that I could truly enjoy it and my anxiety stayed under control. When we got back from our Christmas break we got together with the rest of the family who we’d been unable to see on Christmas Day, and that was also really nice. This year was never about ignoring Christmas, it was more about realising that it would be difficult and therefore making the whole period as pleasant and relaxed as possible.

It’s a bit of a strange feeling knowing that I’m now 371 days post sexual assault. What makes it strange for me is the fact that I naively assumed that by this point I would have fully dealt with it and it would no longer affect aspects of my life. The reality is in fact very different.

At the start of December I realised that I needed to go back to counselling. I actually thought I was going for one thing, but when I got there it turned out that my issues were much bigger than I’d realised. I’ve spoken before about going to counselling and talked about how much it helped me, so going back this time wasn’t something that I was particularly worried about. I’d made the decision to go back to the same counsellor that I’d seen earlier in the year. It was an easy decision for me to stick with the same counsellor as I knew how much she’d previously helped me. As everything was shredded once my last sessions stopped, I wasn’t certain that she’d still remember the details of what we’d discussed months before, but for me it was worth risking her not remembering rather than starting over with someone that I knew definitely wouldn’t know anything. Thankfully she had space for me and I booked my first session.

I still don’t know whether my first session did or didn’t go how I’d planned. Part of me assumed that we’d have to discuss what happened last Christmas, but part of me thought that I may get away with not talking about it. Before I went to this session, I genuinely thought that I was ok. I thought I’d dealt with everything and was being able to control my thoughts around the situation. So I honestly didn’t think there would be any need to talk about what happened. What actually happened was that by the end of the session, my counsellor told me that I’m suffering with PTSD. I was shocked. I thought I was handling things well, but it turns out that I’m actually still suffering. There are still a lot of underlying issues that I’ve either not dealt with, or situations that I’ve not yet had to deal with that have now caused me to still be suffering more than I’d realised. I had noticed over the last couple of months that there had been certain situations that had maybe bothered me or upset me more than they should have, but I didn’t think too much of it. I put it down to the time of year and my emotions being high. As my counsellor explained, these things were actually triggers and were causing me to feel ways that I felt a year ago when I was actually going through it. It might be that a physical situation was a trigger, or a person who resembled my attacker was a trigger. I was also having a recurring dream that involved my attacker, and every time I had this dream it would be exactly the same and cause me to wake up panicked. This again was something that showed I perhaps hadn’t dealt with things as I thought I had.

It was a big shock to hear that I have PTSD. I’d only ever heard of PTSD when relating to people who had been out at war. I never expected it to be something that I would have to deal with as a result of the sexual assault. I was fed up. Throughout the entire year of 2019 I’d kept telling myself that I just needed to get to the end of the year and then 2020 would be a fresh start. I could put everything that had happened this year in the past and know that it happened an entire year ago. As it is, I now need to have more therapy sessions which are designed to deal with PTSD. I will also have something called Rewind Therapy which from what I know so far, seems to have similarities to hypnotherapy except you’re awake. It’s a completely safe process however you’re in essence forced to relive the trauma with the end goal being that you’ll find a way to move forward so that it doesn’t continue to impact your life in the way that it currently does. As I wasn’t able to fit any other counselling sessions in before the New Year, I have to start my therapy in January which means what I thought would be a fresh start in the New Year will actually now be focused on overcoming the trauma from the sexual assault.

Now I don’t want to sound like I’m seeing this as a really bad thing. Of course I’m glad that I’ve been to counselling and found out that I have PTSD so that I can get the therapy I need and I can move forward. I’m incredibly lucky that I’m in a position where I have access to and can afford to visit a therapist, and I’m grateful for that. But it doesn’t mean that I’m any less frustrated that one man can continue to cause issues for me, all because he made horrific and selfish choices. It just doesn’t seem fair.

However despite this going on, I am looking forward to 2020. I’m looking forward to a new year with new opportunities. I’m certainly not sad about saying goodbye to 2019, but it’d be wrong if I said the entire year has been bad. Of course it has no doubt been the worst year I’ve ever had. I’ve been challenged more than I could’ve ever imagined I would be, and back in April, I very nearly didn’t see it to the end of this year. But there have been so many good times as well. I’ve realised just how strong of a person I am. I’ve realised that I have the best family I could ever wish for. I’m grateful for everything and everyone in my life, and I have plenty of good memories to look back on too. So here’s to going into 2020 a stronger, more motivated and determined woman. I can’t wait to see what good things this year will bring. Happy New Year!

Much love,

Steph xo

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