© 2018 by Kate Ryan.

I was a kid. 

It was other neighborhood kids that were about seven-ish years older than us. 

It happened alongside two other friends.

With three of our stories, we figured out between the ages of 4 and 8 there were multiple incidences of abuse.

 

At the time I didn't actually know.

It was very game-based. 

And it was very secretive.

I remember almost wanting [it], because it just felt like attention and a fun thing. 

 

I figured it out was when I was in 5th grade, maybe 6th grade. 

One of my friend's younger siblings brought home this comic book going through what to tell parents or adults about. 

We were joking on it. 

And then we got to that page.

Both of us had this moment like, "Oh my god.  That happened." 

And then we started to talk about it.

Once you start to release some of those memories, other ones fall out. 

 

In some ways, [what happened] when I was little set the stage.  

Senior year of high school I started dating this guy.

The first time he hit me was six weeks in. 

 

What I knew about domestic violence and interpersonal violence was what I saw on Lifetime Movies.

I didn't know what was happening for so long. 

I think that for people that don't go through it, that sounds insane. 

When you get conditioned at an early age, you just don't really notice it. 

I don't know why I feel the need to qualify it so much.

 

I think he could tell that I was trying to make moves to get out. 

That's when the sexual violence started.

You feel so powerless when that happens. 

And when it happens with your boyfriend, you think that it can't be what it is.

 

*

 

I didn't know how bad it was until I started to tell people about stuff. 

I didn't know that other people didn't get hit. 

I didn't know that it wasn't normal to bleed after sex. 

My brain made this justification like, “That's probably my body's defense mechanism. 

Because he hates having sex with me when I'm on my period.”

You can justify anything so easily.

 

I went to Providence College. 

And that's when a lot of this stuff became more clear. 

 

When I was a kid and a teenager, and even into college, I was just this mess. 

I was getting into fights all the time. 

I was battling bad with anorexia. 

I was just being very self-destructive.

I thought once I got past that phase, I shouldn't have to go through anything. 

I'd gotten so much control back.

I was just starting to get on my feet and starting to place sex in a much more positive place. 

 

*

 

My senior year of college, the more haunting experience happened. 

It was some sort of party situation in an apartment. 

Everyone was just sleeping over.

I was sharing a bed with this guy that I thought was a friend. 

And I woke up to him fondling my breast. 

 

I completely froze. 

That lizard brain took over, and I couldn't move. 

I couldn't talk.

The only thing I thought to do was, "Just pretend you're asleep.  Just stay asleep." 

 

I remember my roommate’s alarm clock going off. 

I thought, "Thank God.  She's getting up.  Then he'll stop.”

She snoozed it and rolled over.

And then he started again. 

 

It felt like such a betrayal, because I had come so far.

I felt like I'd conquered so much.

And then to go back into that frozen paralyzed state…

 

Eventually my roommate did get up, and he stopped. 

I have no idea if he knows that I know that that happened. 

And I don't know what to do with that. 

I was married. 

I was teaching at a college.

 

We were in this sales competition. 

Everyone did well. 

Myself, as one of the advisors, and one of the other faculty members, under my impression, were all meeting at this one location. 

When he and I walked there together and we passed some people, I told them, "Here's where we're going." 

And they're like "Yup, soon."  

Another student was there. 

I'm thinking everyone should be there soon. 

I must have missed some exchange, but suddenly that other student just got up and left. 

 

It felt weird immediately. 

He sat down next to me on the couch. 

And I was like, "I'm excited, because everyone's going to be here soon.” 

And he's like, "It might be a while." 

And he just kept coming closer. 

 

I remember that same feeling.

“I can't stop it.  I don't know what to do.” 

He got as far as kissing me before I was able to talk myself out of it. 

And me saying, “No,” wasn't enough. 

I was finally doing what I thought was the reason I couldn't prevent anything else that had happened. 

And it didn't work. 

Only when I told him that I thought it was unfair to my husband did he stop. 

Only when he felt like he was betraying a man. 

 

I really spun downward after that. 

I couldn't tell anybody. 

I felt like my career would be on the line. 

 

*

 

I started getting very strange physical health symptoms.

I was getting numbness in my legs and arms. 

They checked me for brain tumors. 

I had bulls' eye rashes all over my body. 

I thought I had Lyme disease. 

 

I received the Complex PTSD diagnosis. 

 

When I have flash-backs, I'll often go into full body spasms, muscle spasms. 

If Bagley's home, he'll just try to tell me things like, "It's 2018.  You're safe. 

You're at home.  You're in your own bed." 

 

It's amazing how real flashbacks can be. 

Sometimes you only have the fear. 

Sometimes you only have the imagery and you have nothing else. 

Sometimes it's like you feel everything. 

You can feel the body over you, and you can smell everything and feel whatever was behind you. 

Things like grass. 

I hate the feel of grass, because when I was molested we were laid out on the grass. 

Snakes. 

The only way to get away was to crawl through this bush area, and that's where snakes lived.  They knew that we were terrified, so that's where they would position us. 

 

I find too that my anorexia's been back in action recently. 

Anorexia also served almost as a self-harm mechanism, which is very cathartic unfortunately.

 

*

 

I go to a really great therapist who is doing EMDR {eye movement desensitization and reprocessing} treatments with me. 

Going to therapy very regularly and doing the EMDR, going to physical therapy regularly, eating consistently is good for me. 

And doing more not to work all the time. 

I tend to only think I have worth if I've accomplished a lot of things in the day. 

 

I do have my medical marijuana card, which is the best medicine I've ever encountered—so much better than Celexa.

I can function for longer periods of the day than I could before. 

I don't have panic attacks on the way to work.

Or an Incubus song comes on, and I don't start sobbing. 

Being a mom has been a little dose of medicine. 

It definitely brought up things.

I remember when I was pregnant and I found out that he was a boy, there was part of me that was relieved—because, statistically, less of a chance. 

But then there was part of me that was like, “Oh my god.  What if he turns out to be a rapist?”  That would kill me.

 

As you get to the ages when I first got abused—a lot of paranoia. 

 

Immediately I taught him all the right words for his parts. 

I never want him to think he has any rights to anyone else's body. 

And I never want him to think someone else has any rights to his body. 

 

When you have that aunt that demands a hug from all the kids, you have to be like, “No not happening.” 

And I have to do the standing up for him now. 

It starts young. 

 

Also having the responsibility to someone else, it keeps you in check for problematic behaviors.  I’ve got to eat, because I got to feed him. 

Especially now that he's gotten older, he'll call me out if I'm not eating. 

He'll be like, "Mama, why aren't you eating?  Aren't you hungry?" 

And I'm like, “Keeping me in check, kid.  Good job.”

 

It also is very healing, because I can see such proof of how innocent that age really is. 

One of the first things that happened happened when I was four years old. 

I know what four-year-olds are capable of consenting to and not consenting to. 

It would never be his fault.

It cannot possibly have been my fault. 

 

I have the data points to know that all of those bullshit things don't work. 

Because it's happened when I've dressed sexy. 

It's happened when I've dressed like a slob. 

It's happened when I was a kid. 

It’s happened when I was a full-ass, grown-ass adult. 

Every excuse I have why it could be my fault has been disproved.

And yet, that's not what it feels like. 

I'm getting married. 

This is the first relationship I've ever been in that I can say I'm with someone that understands me. 

And granted, this is the first time in my life I'm understanding me. 

Sometimes even his touch I can't handle. 

We'll just be driving the car, and he'll reach over and touch my thigh, and I leap a mile.  

I'm in this place where we can talk and develop a safety language with each other.

I can say, “I'm symptomatic this morning, and I need space.  I don't recognize you as you right now, and I'm afraid of you." 

And he'll give me a little bit of space.   

We actually will say, "I love you before and after." 

 

I teach a comedy class. 

Performing has always been a place where that side of me is untouchable. 

I never have flashbacks while performing. 

I never have fear while I'm performing. 

I would rather speak in front of hundreds than be in a too intimate setting with someone. 

He'll drop me off and pick me up at night. 

And that makes me feel just a buzillion times safer than having to get in my car at night alone.

It makes my transition into the night so much better. 

 

*

 

I'm trying to do more work of trying to help others when I can. 

I wrote a story about the interpersonal violence relationship and gave it to Women and Infants.

They published it on their Facebook.

 

I'm on the interpersonal violence task-force in the hospital and trying to develop improv training for trauma survivors.

I think that improv has done wonders in building up my confidence and making me feel like I actually can control the narrative of what's happening. 

I think that's a lot of it. 

In so many point in my life I didn't feel like I was controlling the narrative.

 

I try to do stuff like that, because that for me helps validate my existence. 

I hate that I'm still battling that. 

I hate that I still feel like I have to have a reason to live, that I have to have a reason that I can even take up space in this world. 

 

That's what finally being in a loving relationship is helping too. 

Because he forces me to celebrate.

And be proud. 

And he's proud of me. 

It's amazing what love can heal with him and my son. 

It does do a lot. 

‚Äč

-Melissa