🖤🖤 ‘Secrets behind the collar’ is my story. It is the account of the traumatic events not only of 2020, but also of the abuse suffered during my childhood and teenage years. If you are reading my ‘Secrets’ blog for the first time, you may wish to go back and begin reading from where my story begins. My first post was back in January of this year and can be easily accessed on this site 🖤🖤
I begin the part of my counselling I’ve been dreading the most. It’s time to face once again my teenage abuser. This is more difficult than I can ever explain. He’s been there in my head for over forty five years. I’ve tried so many times to quash the feelings of dread he invoked in me, but I’ve never, ever, been able to rid myself of his horrible legacy.
Between what happened when I was seven, and much more particularly, what he did to me as a teenager, I’ve been left with a deep and uncomfortable mistrust of men.
However, I have become the master of putting on a smile and hiding my true feelings, whilst being in a state of total and absolute panic inside. This has manifested itself twice, most startlingly, in the past twelve months.
The first time was in a personal training session. I had been with my personal trainer for some time and we had always carried out the training sessions in the local gym. However, circumstances led him to have to move my training to his home. He’d set up in his garage. I happily agreed to give this a go, but I could never have predicted the unbidden reaction I experienced at the beginning of my first session.
He had everything ready and set up in his garage as expected when I arrived, and he’d done a great job, as he always did, in preparing for the workout. I was impressed and looking forward to getting started. But then he closed the garage door. I don’t know why it took me off guard, but it had never occurred to me that we would be behind the closed door of his garage. I was suddenly overcome by complete and utter panic. I was trapped again. He was bigger and stronger than me. How could I get out if I needed to?
Did he know any of this, anything of how I was feeling? Of course not; I did what I’ve become so adept at doing, I smiled outwardly and screamed and panicked inwardly. Only time was able to move me beyond that level of fear and allow me to enjoy my training sessions.
The second instance was in September 2019. I had injured my shoulder whilst on holiday in Greece. I was struggling with severe pain in my neck, back and travelling down the nerves of my right arm, which I could hardly use by the time we arrived home. I was desperately in need of treatment and opted for a visit to a recommended sports injury therapist. I arranged to see him as soon as possible after my return from holiday.
On arrival at the clinic, he invited me to sit in a reception area. One side of the reception area was all windows and we were clearly visible to anybody visiting the leisure centre where the treatment rooms were situated.
I certainly felt safe enough as his took a history of my injury and enquired about other aspects of my fitness and health in general. I answered his questions and was desperate to get some relief from the pain but all the time with growing anxiety that I was trapped because he had now moved us and I was in a small room with a man I didn’t know, and he was standing between me and the closed door. Beyond that door I knew was an empty reception area before the main leisure centre. I could feel the panic rising inside of me. I was trying so hard to focus upon his questions, but all I could feel was such severe apprehension. Once again this man was totally unaware of the turmoil I was experiencing. As he began to work on my shoulder he mentioned the tension in my neck and surrounding muscles. He had no idea that fear of the situation was adding to that tension. Again, why would he? As always, I hid it well. He could never have guessed the extent of unease within this new patient. It would actually be months later before I would share this with him.
All too often mental health issues are considered and treated with something approaching disdain; they are minimalized. But in my case, that feeling of loss of control, of being trapped is as real today as it was so many years ago. I cannot help the panic that rises inside of me. I don’t know if I ever will, even with the counselling and EMDR therapy. I have lived with this for so long, it has become part of my psyche. In the manifestation of the panic, my body really has ‘kept the score’ of the loss of control elements of the sexual attacks and the abuse I endured as a small child and as a teenager.