So, confession. It’s about my personality. I think it’s a flaw…I fixate sometimes. If you’ve ever seen the movie “The Aviator” then you might recall how Leonardo DiCaprio, portraying Howard Hughes, would repeat a phrase over and over – unable to stop it, unable to control it. Only to have it completely overcome him towards the end of his life. I live in fear of it. Not even kidding.
That fixation has served me well, in my career at least, as it compliments my ambition. I’ve often times turned “you can’t” into “you did?” and made things work for me. However, sometimes my fixation can be a bad habit. I will fixate on a flaw, a mistake, a problem long after it’s over. I ruminate over how I could have done things differently, how I could have missed something, how I could be so stupid or careless.
Sometimes, fixating only serves to stoke a fire that has never burnt out. Like I said, I ruminate, and often time I will fixate on events in my life. With all the talk about sexual harassment lately, because of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, there have been a lot of people coming forward with confessions of assault and harassment. There was even a trending hashtag #MeToo that capitalized on the fact that so many have had this happen to them. Yes, I include myself in that group. No, I did not publicly share my story(s) but after hearing new stories on every communication channel for days on end, I found myself fixating on my own assaults and how they’ve shaped who I am.
There are only a handful of memories, of being assaulted by different men, stretched out over my life. I guess I should count myself lucky that there are only a handful. Yet, there should be none at all. The first time I was assaulted I was 14. I never told anyone and I still don’t have to – there is no point in relaying specifics in my mind. I don’t have to tell you who, or when, or where…because my story could be told by anyone else who has ever been assaulted. Regardless of how we handled the harassment, with either fight, flee, or freeze, it still boils down to someone exerted their power over us. Power, control, and blind desire drove another human to the point of no compassion. There was no empathy or consideration, no pause to think of the other person, no sense of boundaries.
The reality is that I only realized that I could actually call these events “assault” and “harassment” after re-living, re-thinking, and fixating on them years after the events. It’s never been a constant analysis of each situation, but it’s the odd things that trigger memories and cause me to suddenly withdraw into myself. I have only come to terms with much of this in the last year. I had to admit to myself that I did suffer some emotional and psychological trauma as a result of processing all of this alone. I think, no, I know that I felt like each time I was assaulted, it was because of something that I did wrong. It was my fault, because I let it happen…
I know that when in crisis mode, my instinct is not “fight” or “flight” but instead to freeze. I’ve had the experience of watching things happen, frozen, while inside my head I am struggling to even breathe. If I truly can’t figure out how to handle a situation I am paralyzed and silent – which is misleading, because I’m an introvert, and quiet is how I prefer to be. So, without me having the courage to talk, to share, to say something, most who know me would assume that nothing is wrong.
So, in a way, I am thankful for these experiences because they taught me a lot about myself. These people who tried to overpower me physically and emotionally actually made me a better person. Better than they ever could hope to be. I learned how to communicate and not stay trapped in my own head, thinking no one understands, wondering why no one would help me…I can’t expect others to read my mind. I had to overcome fear, pain, guilt, shame…in order to put my past in it’s place – in the past.
I am more resilient, more understanding, more compassionate; I am more than enough. I will use my heart and mind to help others, not necessarily my voice, because sometimes you just have to listen. That’s the good thing about fixating; I have fixated on what pained me and know that there are different “tones” to silence. I can hone in on what is what is truly silence and what is really a frozen sob.
Writer, Wannabe Artist, Overthinker, List-Maker, Photographer, Chronic Under-Salter