Triggered and triggered
Saturday, Feb. 06, 2021 - 10:19 am.

The first week of the month-long summer break has come and gone. Andrew and I have spent it inside the house, following the same routine we've had for a year, but not having to work has made all the difference. It just feels good having all the time for yourself and for your significant other.

We have done stuff, though: I went to the dentist on Monday and he came along, to keep me company and make the chore less frustrating, as well as for him to catch some exercise and fresh air. We also went to see a GP to start our medical assessment for the adoption process.

Still a long way to go for that process. The psych and social assessments are outsourced and we'll only get on a waiting list around March or April. It's slow enough without a pandemic. There's nothing to do but be patient and look at the bright side: more time to prepare, and for Andrew to come up with more dad jokes. Ever since we finally *felt* we got this process rolling, his dad-jokes portfolio has grown admirably.

I did have a hard time on Thursday night, and I'm still reeling from it. Trigger warning: this is about rape. I was reading this great book about African British women, and suddenly one of the characters goes through that. Well, not suddenly, The event is anticipated in the story, a few pages prior. Still, that alone gutted me. I was anticipating it, dreading it, oh, god, what's gonna happen?

The event is told, nothing graphic, nothing with a name, but a couple of details, just enough to fill in the cruelty blanks. I was numb, and put down the book when the scene finished. I stayed in bed for a bit, then went to the bathroom, then lied down. And started to cry.

Andrew was locked up in his studio (the apartment is not big, but we're lucky enough that it has three bedrooms), playing with his friends online. I thus felt with enough freedom to nearly wail. It was that kind of crying as if someone is wringing your body to get you to shed all the tears and to exhale all the air.

My mind was empty. My back, from my shoulders to my buttocks, was clenched. I felt nothing except the very urgency to keep crying. It's not the first time that this has happened to me, but it's also very rare. And I feel like crying now just by remembering the clenching.

Then I realized I'd been exposed to stories of sexual abuse all week. Ocasio-Cortez confessing she'd been abused as a child when she was talking about the trauma of the Capitol assault a month ago in the US. An actress confirming that her abuser was a well-known musician, which brought to mind all her accounts Iabout the physical, mental and sexual abuse she suffered. A BBC article about atrocities inflicted on women in Chinese concentration camps. Then this story of gang-rape in the book. It all added up in my body, I guess. I didn't notice it was adding up.

I cried a lot, on the bed, in the bathroom. Finally Andrew came to bed and found me, and my first reaction was to tell him not to worry, nothing had happened (bad news come so easily these days). I told him that the book I was reading had a rape scene and I bursted in tears again, and he just pulled me to him and held me.

He let me cry. Didn't say anything, didn't ask questions. He just listened to me crying with his arms around me. That was all I needed. He's the best.

Later on he was caressing me in bed before falling asleep. I thought how lucky I was that I am with someone so loving to me that his touch just feels like love and care and benign desire, even after being devastatingly triggered.

I felt better in the morning, but I kept thinking about what had happened. I doubt now that "nothing happened to me" as time goes by and my body reacts that way, along with the feeling that my body is "at last my own" ever since I came out (and thanks to Andrew, and later on to my girlfriend). I'm not puzzled, I'm not in a hurry. A voice in me said calmly "it will come to you".

(I am also amazed at how much my situation right now mirrors a subplot in my book, with my favorite character, the larger-than-life adult he is, and the abuse he suffered as a kid. I'm wondering if I wrote in it more about my own story than I was aware of)

I waited until the evening that day to tell my girlfriend. She's a childhood abuse survivor and I wanted to be careful, knowing well how triggers lurk in the most casual words. So I told her, and she was sympathetic. By then I was very much over the episode, so I didn't feel like lingering on details and I was ok with moving on to other topics.

Then she asked me if I wanted to receive something from her. By that she means nudes or sultry voicenotes. In my head I went "did you not listen to what I said?". Yet I felt bad about rejecting that "something", because it's her being vulnerable with me, and I figured me passing on this offer would come up at some point as a light complaint. Not in a manipulative way, more in a way that we could both laugh off under the right mindset. I was not in the right mindset.

I said, yeah, sure, I may not appreciate them right now but I will later. This was me trying to persuade her: don't, just not right now. A few minutes passed and instead she sent me a photo of a show she was watching that I'd recommended. I felt a huge relief and grateful that she'd caught on. She went silent and I figured she'd gone back to watching the show.

Then out of nowhere I got the nudes. And a voicenote. Not even one or two pics, and not a seconds-long voicenote. And it felt a kick in the stomach I imagine you feel when you get an unsolicited dick pic. I felt like crying. I felt betrayed. I felt unheard.

I was about to go off on her. I wanted to, I wanted to tell her to fuck off and leave me alone. But I was well aware that I didn't want to hurt her. I just said thanks, I'd save them for later when I was in a better headspace, and that I had to go. She asked me if she had upset me.

I wanted to giver her a resounding YES. Instead I said I'd had a horrible moment last night and I probably wasn't clear about that, but --I finally said it-- I didn't want anything to do with sex at the moment. She apologized for not being mindful about what I'd said earlier, and I know she realized her mistake and she was feeling awful. I hated that she was feeling awful, and I was glad I signed off respectfully without lashing out at her.

She's an amazing person that is inexplicably head over heels about me, someone who cares for me and roots for me and supports me and my work 100%. She's gone to visit my parents two times and plans on doing it again while she's in our home country (somewhat stuck due to the pandemic and some family issues). I love her, and I can't praise her enough for all that she's done for me.

Yet, of course, I'm deeply hurt and dissapointed that she didn't take my story seriously. This one, the one she'd be the most familiar with. I kept thinking, "you, of all people". I was back to wanting to cry, to having my muscles clenching. I woke up this morning feeling like this, like not wanting to get out of bed, but I hid it from Andrew so as not to burden him anymore.

More frequently, I've been thinking that I should break up with her. I feel less and less capable of responding to her the way she needs me to, as a girlfriend. I'm not sure about all this. I don't want to make an impulsive decision over what happened yesterday, it's not that. I don't want to stop talking to her nor make her feel like she did something wrong.

For now, I'll just find stuff to distract me and make me feel better. I have this familiar feeling that I had all though 8th grade and then here and there for the rest of my life, of drawing funny comics and singing out loud in ecstasy while I'm falling apart in pain. I've always wondered if my pain was warranted, but it does make me want to curl up in agony, so that should count for something.

Anyway. Summer break continues and the people I love remains healthy. I do fear for my family back in my home country, with a scary political turmoil building up, but I can only trust they're safe enough.

Clearly, I can't finish this entry on a good note. Stay safe.

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