A friend of mine asked me, after reading the first half of the book, what were some things I tried to help cope, only to find that they were not actually “remedies”, as I’d hoped.
It was a wonderful question, and one I had not been asked before. I have compiled some of the things I tried, and encourage you to add any failed “remedies” you may have met with during your own recovery for trauma. Our experiences are unique, but the details in your story may be the difference between life and death for a girl or woman in need.
Marijuana and Gospel Music.
I know it sounds eerily disquieting to marry these two. I believe it came from a yearning to be back in my safe space. Gospel music always centered me, made me feel comfortable, loved and at home. The reason it, when paired with getting high, did not aide in recovery was that after hearing lyric after lyric about God’s love and mercy and grace, I felt more guilty than ever. It spoke to my sense of self worth, and whereas those same lyrics once cheered me up in times of trouble, they now reminded me of God’s love. A love I no longer believed extended to me. This self-medicating combination often sent me off emotional cliffs and left me feeling more ashamed and embarrassed than before I started to smoke.
They say art imitates life. Because this is true, and I was not yet aware of my own strength, I began to create pieces that pushed me deeper into depression. I joined a poetry club at UVa called BEATS, but never performed any of my morose pieces. Eventually, I stopped performing altogether. I created art. Dark art. When I write now, even if I am down, or sad, I finish the piece I am working on, close the laptop and walk away. I step out for fresh air and help myself to lemon-infused water because those two simple actions help pick me up. Write, draw, paint, sculpt, create. Express yourself however you are created to do so. Then, when the piece is complete, let it breathe before you revisit it.
I eventually learned that if I drank enough alcohol I could induce a trance-like state, and feel numb to the mental and emotional duress I was under. Alcohol, however, is a depressant, and the thin line that existed between enjoyment and abuse, manifested in the quantity I consumed. I no longer purchased a mixed drink while out with friends, or a bottle of wine to enjoy during a movie night. I began jogging to the neighborhood mini-mart in my college town to purchase beer as early as I could. I would drink beer, a choice that always tasted terrible to me, because it was inexpensive enough for me to buy frequently and drink for hours without getting physically sick. This cycle only stopped because a good friend caught me in the middle of the act one morning. He later became responsible for me once it was established that I was a suicide risk.
Exercise is an excellent way to manage stress. I used exercise to medicate, to the point where I eventually played professional tackle football. I love sports, and have a special place in my heart for football. The issue with it, however, was my desire to injure other players. As a lifelong athlete, I was always fit, agile, and competitive. I was not – at least not before being raped — violent. Some say football is a contact sport. I disagree. It is a collision sport. I used it as a vehicle to be vicious, ugly, and mean. Every snap gave me a potential opportunity to give someone a concussion or other injury. I never hit dirty, but I hit extremely hard. I was very good at being a tough-as-nails safety. That is, until all the hits caught up with my 5’4”, 148 pound frame. I was not built for long term damage, and I now have to use exercise and sports participation to ward off muscle and joint pains I acquired while trying to maim other women on the field.