My company had recommended I see a certain psychologist who specialized in traumas. During the time I was “sequestered” at my sister’s, I actually looked forward to these appointments. As much as I was out of sorts about not being back at work or in my own home, I was not devastated in the way I thought I would be. I mean, I was pissed off, and I was worried, but I wasn’t catatonic or having bad dreams. I felt matter of fact about things: this crappy thing happened, it’s going to disrupt my life for an indefinite time, and I will move on. Still, this lack of depth to my feelings concerned me that maybe down the road, I’d have some sort of terrible reaction, a delayed response. I thought to myself, “What if I am at a meeting at work and someone locks the door in the conference room we’re in and I suddenly flip out and go ninja on my coworkers?” You read about stuff like that.
I expressed these thoughts to the psychologist who took his time with me. And I learned that my response was okay. He told me that after 9/11, people had one of three responses: total devastation and disruption of their mental state, temporary disruption of their mental state, or resignation that what happened was awful and sad, but life goes on. The last group is attributed to resiliency. He told me I am resilient. He said I knew a terrible thing happened to me, but by surviving it in the way that I did, I proved to myself a belief I have always had: that I can defend myself if I ever need to. Furthermore, he said my decision to report Marco and prosecute him was my attempt to take control back from my attacker to find meaning and purpose in what happened to me. Yep, nail on the head.
He told me he didn’t need to see me for 6 months but that I should look for signs of post-traumatic stress. And he sensed my work on my case, as long as it did not become all-consuming, would be my way of working through the trauma. He was right. It was.
If you are assaulted in any way, get thee to a psychologist (after a medical doctor, of course) as soon as possible. I beg of you. Your mind is what’s running your body. If it isn’t right, you don’t stand a chance at getting yourself to a healthy place.
EXTRA THOUGHT: I did not return to the psychologist 6 months later as I felt I was dealing pretty well with things. But in hindsight, I should have checked in a few more times. When you are under a great, prolonged stress such as prosecuting your attacker, the weight of other experiences (arguments, stress at work, house stress, etc.) can affect you in ways not readily apparent. I wound up getting sick A LOT and run down. I had two inexplicable rashes that attacked my arms and legs no matter what steroid my doctor gave me. And I just felt harder hit – and harder on myself – by situations I normally would bounce back from more quickly.