4 Year Mark

I am just about to the 4-year mark of being raped. Each year this season brings about a whirlwind of emotions. However, they are different each year. This year has been all about change. I began working on my master’s in social work, moved, started a job doing case management and community-based rehabilitative services for individuals with severe mental illness, and I began a serious relationship with a wonderful Godly man. All of these things have been great, and I love this new chapter and season in my life. I have purpose, drive, and determination. I am doing more than I thought was possible. This has been a year of tremendous growth. It has been a year of harvest. A year of genuinely seeing the fruit of God right before my very eyes. It is amazing and I sit in awe sometimes wondering how I got to where I am today and the only answer I have is God. He took care of my every need and He had a plan that is so detailed, intricate, and precise that I can never doubt His ability to work through the hardest of situations.

Despite all of the good, this time of year proves to be a struggle. It is one of the most frustrating things about PTSD. That one day I can be on top of the world ready to conquer the world and the very next I can feel completely crushed and torn down. There are tools and skills that I have learned that can help, but sometimes none of those things work. This year the snow has been my biggest enemy. The cold, the snow, the dark, the season it is all a trigger and together they form a whirlwind of havoc. It may not make sense, but let me share what the snow seems to do.

First, the snow serves as a reminder. The first few snows especially, my brain seems to struggle with remembering that snow does not equate to danger. There was snow on the ground when I was raped, and my brain sends off all of the warnings to trigger the fight or flight responses which creates anxiety, worry, and panic. Next, the snow triggers body memories, one thing I have learned is the body remembers weird things. It’s the reason I practiced free throws over and over again to perfect that shot so that in a game it was routine and all muscle memory. With trauma, the body also remembers. The snow causes my body to tense up and my shoulders and neck to become so tense and tight that they hurt. The snow and cold will also sometimes cause my body to hurt as if things had just happened, there will be soreness all over. Snow can also trigger nightmares because my body is so tight and tense that relaxing at night and falling asleep can be difficult, the tension can lead to nightmares that sometimes result in waking up unsure of where I am and having to become grounded in the present again. The snow also just creates a heightened level of anxiety and stress, in part because I know what all the snow brings up, and in part because my brain has such a strong association with the snow and that night.

The difficult thing about the snow and cold as a trigger is that the thing that helps overcome a trigger is exposure. It is being around the trigger and facing the anxiety and panic. The sound of cars driving behind me, car doors closing, and walking alone are a few examples of things that used to trigger me, they no longer do, they are simply part of my everyday life. But I had to face them and do it over and over again. Sometimes these small simple things still cause anxiety and panic, but it is a lot easier to combat those thoughts as I have faced them time and time again. With the snow and cold, it is a little bit harder to do that. Snow melts, it warms up, and as I get to where I feel a little bit better the season ends. Then it goes away for a year and my brain does not think or worry about it, then it reappears again and there is a period of having to relearn how to deal with this trigger. This has actually been the snowiest December I have seen since that night. Ironically after moving to a place that sees an average of 9 inches of snow per year, it is the snowiest December in over 20 years for this area.

There have been many nights of panic, anxiety, and feeling overwhelmed. I have said hurtful things in the midst of my anxiety. I have made mistakes and acted impulsively. I have cried and struggled. But, the one thing I have not done is lost faith. Because I know the truth, I know that I will make it through this season just like I have every year in the past. I also know that I have a God that loves me and has a plan. He cares for me. I know because on one of the hardest days I have had after many sleepless nights He showed me his love. He orchestrated my friends and throughout that whole day I had friends messaging me, I never went more than 2 hours without someone asking me how I was, asking if I needed anything, or simply someone saying I love you. Some of these friends had no clue what was going, others were aware of the struggle. But God perfectly orchestrated them and put me on their hearts and minds so that I did not have to go very long without a tangible reminder of how loved and cherished I am. The song that sums up this year is called No Mistaking by Love and the Outcome. It captures the moments of feeling alone in the struggle, it captures the moments of tangible love, and it talks about the fact that I have seen proof and His hand working in all my life the good and the bad.

This journey is still crazy. I still get taken by surprise in the midst of some of the struggle. But I know that there is hope, I know to keep going, and I know that God has a plan for me. So I am able to approach this 4-year mark with confidence and boldness. I can proclaim assuredly that this struggle with the snow, the cold and the season, it too shall pass in its own time. That I get to have joy and enjoy these new chapters of my life. That I can experience the array of emotions knowing that at the end of the day I am loved, cherished, and adored by my heavenly father. That I am a daughter of the King, fearfully and wonderfully made to fulfill His plan. And that is what He has taught me this year. There is no mistaking His presence there is no room for doubt because His hands have been in this journey every step of the way. It is an amazing gift to be able to rest assured that His plan will continue despite if the day was good or bad.

Thanks to all of you for walking through this journey with me. Thank you to my friends and family who have been the hand of God, who have been consistently present in the midst of the struggle. Thank you for doing real life with me and showing me what God’s love looks like, unconditional and constant. Thank you for sacrificing time to talk on the phone, to send a message, for sending me a card. Thank you for encouraging me and speaking truth over me when I am not able to do so on my own. Thank you for responding when God nudges you and places me on your heart and mind. I am grateful for the support system I have, for the love and grace I have experienced. You all have been the hands of God and that is pretty awesome.

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