Monday, October 19, 2009

Chapter 3, Part 2

January 2004 I had a violent episode of remembering. My body re-lived two terrifying, traumatizing events from my childhood. The re-living, as an adult, was traumatizing.

My husband and I had been fighting. After patching things up, we had just started to make love. I mean just started, I may have still been wearing an article or two of my clothing. He had one finger inside of me and had begun to stroke gently. He told me later that he didn't think he'd done anything unusual, but for me it felt very different. In fact unlike anything I'd felt before or since. His touch very quickly made me weak from pleasure, weak and helpless to do anything but surrender to it, and it was so immediate.

We were in counseling at the time, both seeing the same psychologist, sometimes together and sometimes separately. Twenty-two years of marriage. Sex was our main issue. One source of contention was the disparity between the amount of time it usually took for each of us to climax. I thought he came too fast and he thought I took too long. Plus, I had never had a vaginal orgasm, but there I was hurtling like a runaway train toward towards one, within moments of his finger entering me. I remember having the fleeting thought that our psychologist, also a medical doctor, must have taught my husband some technique to help him with his performance because this was incredible. I was on the verge of orgasm and opened my mouth to laugh, only to be choked by my own screams.

All the air left my lungs as I screamed and I was unable to take any back in. I couldn't breathe and was instantly catapulted into panic. Frantically, I pushed my husband away. My arms flailed desperately as I struggled for breath. A terrifying eternity seemed to pass before air was able to enter my lungs at which point I collapsed into convulsive sobbing. Then, like being bowled over by an ocean wave, screams would again force the air out of my lungs and again I'd be drowning in panic. As I fought for breath, my arms flailed wildly as though I were submerged under water and they desperately grasped for the surface. My fingers and toes clenched and unclenched rapidly, reflexively while I endured... something. I'd catch my breath long enough to sob only to be engulfed in panic as breath was forced from my lungs, suffocating me again and again, tossed helpless on some weird tide, back and forth between suffocation, terror and short periods of time when I could breathe, but only in convulsive sobs.

Then I became aware of a child's voice, repeating over and over in my head, "I'm so afraid... I'm so afraid... I'm so afraid". As soon as I had the composure to speak, I told my husband. As soon as I said the words "I'm so afraid" out loud, I had the impression of being very young, four or five.

Waves of grief and sobbing followed waves of terror and suffocation. I'm unsure of the time. Perhaps ten minutes passed, maybe longer, before I was able to speak. First I wanted to reassure my husband that he hadn't hurt me. This was something inside of me. But as soon as I tried to talk about what had happened, put it into words, fear and panic once again overwhelmed me. Again, breath was forced out of my body, only this time it felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. I was even making those barking seal noises as I struggled to take breath in.

I had the presence of mind to know that my body was re-living an excruciating, terrifying, life threatening, experience. Obviously I had survived the living of it, I would survive the re-living. Even so it took every iota of self-control to calm myself enough to enable breathing.

As soon as I could speak, the first words out of my mouth were "I know what happened... I know what happened". And I did. Someone was tickling me, making me weak with laughter. The tickling moved to inside my vagina and all of a sudden I was slammed to the ground, the wind knocked out of me. I was held, face down, chest pinned, unable to breathe. I knew from the frantic flailing of my arms, from the spastic, reflexive, rapid, clenching and unclenching of my hands and feet, that my suffocating body was facing death. I believe I lost consciousness. My guess is that when I came to, it was without the slightest idea of what had happened or why I was in pain.

In the here and now though, I was aware of pain, everywhere. The injuries felt deep, structural. My spine, beneath the shoulder blades, hurt, so did my sternum. A back rib behind my heart was so painful, I wondered if it has been cracked or dislocated. My right sacroiliac, right knee and left wrist were also injured in the attack.

Waves of pain, sorrow and panic tossed me in an ebb and flow of intensity. Eventually the experience loosened its grip enough for my husband and me to leave the bedroom and go to the kitchen to make tea. While standing in the kitchen, waiting for the kettle to boil, I became aware of an insistent voice in my head, repeating the name of a male relative, over and over until it was drumming like a throbbing headache. As soon as I told my husband, as soon as I spoke that painful, pounding, name out loud, it stopped. Instantly my head was clear, calm, quiet, and I knew who it was. I know the cruel, selfish, monster who had almost killed me in his attempt to rape me. This was the same disgusting man who'd shoved his tongue down my throat, at a family party, on new years eve, when I was thirteen.

We had our tea and discussed what had just happened. I was grateful for my husband, grateful for his calm, witnessing presence. I was badly shaken, shocked and stunned. How could something so vivid have been held within me, yet withheld from me, and for so long. I was forty-seven years old, three weeks away from my forty-eighth birthday.

Unbelievably, to me anyway, there was more to come.