repression

Most of us are familiar with the concept of repression, and to some extent, I think most of us probably engage in it from time to time. Me? Yeah, well… I’m the Queen of Repression.

I’ve always been a peacemaker; that was sort of my place in my family while growing up. And in order to achieve peace (or at least, convince myself that I had achieved peace), I had to blow by a lot of things that happened and pretend they didn’t matter. “FIDO” was my motto: Forget It, Drive On! I sacrificed myself upon this altar of desiring peace and didn’t realize how much work I would have to do in order to move past the repression of unpleasantries.

I mentioned earlier that my husband (then-fiancĂ©) was the only one who had known about my sexual assault in college. I didn’t have the strength to deal with it when it happened, and for whatever reason, I only recently gained that strength. I remember the day after the assault talking to my mom on the phone and hearing her say, “You don’t sound like yourself today…what’s wrong?” I replied that I had a “bad date” the night before and when she pressed me, I gave an evasive, “He wanted more than I was willing to give”-response. In her own way, she took that answer and gave me what she knew: Scripture. And she quoted 1 Thessalonians 4 (vv. 3b-4): “Keep yourselves from sexual promiscuity. Learn to appreciate and give dignity to your body, not abusing it….” I realized then and there that I didn’t possess the strength to “go there” and deal with it or to cause distress for my mom, and so I told myself that it didn’t matter.

It “didn’t matter” when, for the next 7-8 years, I got depressed around mid-February. It “didn’t matter” that I had turned off an entire side of me and my personality that would have to engage the assault and what it meant to me. It just didn’t matter.

Or so I told myself. The fact is that it did matter — very much. That depression every February? That was my subconscious mind reminding me that February was the month of the attack and that I hadn’t dealt with it. And only recently did I realize that my “love language” wasn’t what I thought it was, but that in the aftermath of the assault, I had simply turned off part of me and that my personality was stifled because of it.

As I came to grips with the assault and actually dealt with it recently, I realized that not only did I want peace in external things, I wanted it internally too. I didn’t want to have an attitude that punished my husband for something he didn’t do — just because he has a penis. It was time to stop punishing myself and my husband for something that happened 19 years ago.

Yes, you read right. Nineteen years have elapsed since the assault. For 19 years, I pretended that I was fine. And with the exception of the date-rape scene in “Thelma & Louise,” I managed to keep up that facade. But I found a photo of us when we were engaged the other night and I was shocked at what I saw. There was no life in our eyes, only emotional deadness. They were vacant, empty, and distracted. They were deadened with the secrets we bore.

So I began to unpack the assault. I did so with a friend of mine and told her, “He had no right to do what he did! He didn’t take me out for a nice dinner, I wasn’t wearing a low-cut top, and he didn’t buy me a drink. I didn’t lead him on, either.” My friend looked at me with horror in her eyes and said, “But even if you HAD done those things, it would NOT have given him the right to assault you!”

Shit. Even after 19 years, I’m making excuses for my assailant?! You’ve got to be freaking kidding me. Did I desire peace so much that I would continue to blame myself and perpetuate untruth? No. I didn’t. But it took some un-doing of my attitude and thinking in order to receive and accept the Truth that my friend uttered.

I. did. not. deserve. it.

Another shock to me came when my husband and I took a short quiz about our love languages. Gary Chapman wrote several books about how we give and receive/perceive love, and categorized five different love languages. “Acts of Service” was what I thought mine was, because I appreciated when my husband helped me out around the house and was considerate of my chore-load. So my husband dove in and began making the bed in the morning; helping out in the kitchen and doing things around the house. At first, I truly appreciated the effort, because I know he wasn’t raised that way. But as time went on, I began to take those things for granted. When he wouldn’t make the bed some mornings, I would gripe in my head that he hadn’t instead of appreciating all the times he did. I resented it when he did things (because I felt as though it was “my job” and that he was doing it because he thought I was slacking) and I resented it when he didn’t do things. Such a witchy wife I was! :(

So I took this quiz and had to take it again because I didn’t believe the results. It came up identically the second time as well…my primary love language wasn’t Acts of Service. It was…Touch? How could that be?

As I considered that question in the days and weeks following, I realized that I had shut down the part of me that responded to touch, because it triggered my mind back to the assault. So instead of dealing with the events of that evening, I simply closed off that part of me. There were hints that Touch was my love language and looking back now, we can both say, “Well, duh…!” but it wasn’t obvious to us at the time.

The worst part of the repression for me was what I did to my husband because of it. Because of my inability to deal with the assault and aftermath, I didn’t engage my husband in emotional honesty. I avoided him in the bedroom because I was uncomfortable with the fact that his anatomy resembled my assailant’s anatomy (for that matter, any man would have been in the same boat, not just my husband). I put him on a hamster wheel that went nowhere as he looked for ways to express his love to me…all because I couldn’t be honest with myself and deal with something that really did matter.

My prayer is that if this describes your life or how you’ve dealt with things in your past, that you would gain courage from my honesty and transparency. Life does not have to be as hard as we make it. Bad things happen, but God is good. God didn’t cause my assault; He didn’t prevent it, either. But He has used it as a catalyst to bring healing in my life and taught me that through all of it, He is still there, loving me.

He’s still there loving you, too. Fall back in to that embrace and let His extravagant love enfold you and give you the courage to deal with the hard things in your life. It’s worth the risk and you’ll find that He will bring you the peace and healing you desire.

His and his,
~Cori.

This entry was posted on 020815H Jul 2008 and is filed under Anger, Forgiveness, Path to Healing, Sexual Assault. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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