I was just sitting watching television in my rumpus room in Australia when the familiar ‘beep-beep’ of an incoming text message sounded on my phone. I non chantlantly picked up the phone and read the message. I froze to the chair. It was a dear old good friend in Ireland saying hello who casually dropped into the message that another mutual acquaintance was coming to Australia on holiday and wanted my address to look me up. Sounds innocent enough I hear you say? No. That mutual acquaintance was once of my abusers thirty years ago and had made my life misery for five years. I had not seen them since migrating.
Why would he want to see me now?
I was dumbfounded. I just handed the phone to my husband who read the text with just as much disbelief. I immediately replied saying, “On no account give my details”. She swiftly replied, “No problem, glad I asked”.
I had no precedence for this. I had never prepared myself to meet one of my abusers. I thought I was safe in Australia and that the past was behind me. I was fighting to survive Complex PTSD and living with Dissociated Identity Disorder as a result but I was winning the war. Everything came back in a rush. Flashback, after flashback, assaulted my brain. Rape, after rape. It all came back in a rush as if it were yesterday. I was plunged back to living in Ireland in the 1970’s again aged fourteen. Powerless and with no control over my life. My husband just held me as I sobbed in a heap on the floor of the room.
I had been abused as part of a paedophile ring since the age of four which was organised by my parents and then when I was fourteen was sent to work as a domestic worker at a local wealthy family’s residence. There the eldest boy abused me for a further five years. HIs father was one of the men who were involved in the paedophile ring. Would it never end. I was worthless and now with this one text, it was all happening in my mind all over again. I was being re-traumatised.
Luckily the next day I had an appointment with my Psychotherapist. What a blessing. I relaid the story to her and we worked out a strategy which involved of course not seeing or having any contact with that man. I was to not to be the one to answer the home phone, answer any texts, respond to emails or Facebook messages. We live on a remote farm so the likelihood of him turning up on the doorstep is nil. That set my mind at ease somewhat but I was still so scared.
We also agreed that a significant difference between then and now was my husband. He would keep me safe no matter what. I am on suicide watch twenty-four hours a day so he is at my side constantly so I am never alone. He is my ‘emotional shield’. An emotional shield is a person who can support you while you are confronting your abuser. It should be someone who pledges beforehand to act as a buffer between you and your abuser if you start getting into trouble. My husband has pledged to be that person. That makes an enormous distinction.
My suicidality and urge to self-harm were through the roof since that text came in as my ability to emotionally regulate was nonexistent. We worked hard on this at this session and did EMDR to process my ability to take control of the situation. The last thing any of us wanted was for me to end up back in the Clinic again. I had been doing so well but I could feel the depression coming over me and the urge to cut as punishment for what had happened to me so long ago (I blamed myself as so many survivors do) coming back.
So just when you think the war is over another battle begins. PTSD is a mammoth war with guerrilla warfare coming at you from every side but you can never give up.