A New Normal


Two weeks and 1.5 days ago, I was attacked while walking down my street to catch a bus.

The attack came from a stranger, and it was violent in that I was pulled to the ground, choked, my mouth forcefully covered to muffle my scream and my body pinned down with his whole body. He didn’t take anything, and I’m not sure what his reasoning was for the attack. I don’t care, either. I have no empathy for him, and don’t plan on working on developing some.

I was shocked at first, but after that I was derailed. I’d been pretty physically sick with winter infections and whooping cough for a run of about two months, but other than that and the impending departure of my partner to Canada for four months, life was great. I had a new job, was passing all of my subjects, and my relationships with friends, family and partners were at an all-time ‘high’.

On the 6th of July, two days after my attack I wrote this in my personal journal:

Jo (psychologist) is doing a house call at 3:30pm. Georgia came by at 11am and baked me muffins and cleaned. Like a resentful arsehole I got tired of her company by 12 and wished she’d go home. But I chatted on like I was enjoying it, all the while thinking about how it could have been if I’d stabbed The Man with a stick in his crotch or eye. The sound it would make. Pop? Squish? Crack and soft warm squelch?

I want to lock this man in a room with some heavy heavy floggers and a few singletails and no. safeword.

I want to find him and hurt him, crush the small bones of his nose to paste and grind with my hand until he is breathing blood.

My two states are numb/grey and violent fantasy generation. I prefer the second one. The first feels like falling down the rabbit hole.

And I remember every single tiny detail of the attack and the struggle with perfect clarity that recycles and comes back with more definition each time. This happens every ten minutes. I hear his words in my ear and feel his hair on my face and his skin on my skin and feel his legs heavy pinning my legs and further back, the SWOOOP of him running at my back and clutching my breast and belly, his forearm pulled against my throat and his words in my ear and MY FUCKING SCREAMING WHO IS THAT SCREAMING IT IS ME SCREAMING I DIDN’T KNOW I EVEN SOUNDED LIKE THAT

and then his hand closing over my mouth and me saying with a sob/scream I DON’T HAVE ANYTHING and his hand closing tighter

and how heavy his body pressing my body into the cement like he wanted to push me through it his arm still locked around my throat

I wish, I want to push that stick deep into his eye socket.

I have no fucking empathy. I don’t care what happened to him. I DON’T CARE.

We all have issues. We don’t all choose to attack people as they walk happily to meet their fiancee for a beer.

So yes, now my brain is now a mess of squiggles and shapes I don’t understand. I have flashes, and sometimes sustained days, of rage. I fantasise in great detail about doing this man violence, or my ex husband (who also assaulted me during our marriage), or the next person/man that tries to physically hurt me.

I feel alienated from my body. I stand in the shower and start crying because I am afraid to be naked. I feel asexual much of the time, and during intimate moments I have to fight very hard to push away the feeling of his body close to mine and remember that I am safe, that the breathing I hear is my partner’s breathing, that those are his hands.

I am outwardly angry and inwardly angry. I rage on social media. I have no remorse. I have too much remorse. I want to explain my experience in great detail or I want to be left alone and not talked to or asked any questions. My interpersonal communications are more self centered than usual and I struggle to care about other people’s problems, and then feel like a selfish jerk for this. I have offended people I care about, and while I am sorry, I know I have not a whole lot of control over myself right now. I tell my father that I want to kill anyone that touches me in anger again, I say kill with pleasure and terminal force. Because I mean it, right now. I am so very angry that for the second time in my life, my body has been violated in this way.

Today I feel fragile but functional and I have many of those days. Yesterday I cried intermittently all day. I am so sad to live. It seems that living carries with it an inherent sentence to be set upon in violence and while I know there are some that accept this, my brain can’t. Maybe it is the fact that I work with children and all day play the authority, soothing and teaching and scaffolding an ascent to a non violent playground. I cannot tell them that it is useless, and the girls would be better off learning how to pop someone’s knee or learn to defend themselves from a horizontal position in bed because if their attacker is not a street stranger, it’ll be their boyfriend. Father. Wife. It hurts to compute all this bleakness and telling them use your words ad nauseum feels so pointless.

In short, I am erratic right now and I don’t know any more than you do what is about to come out of my mouth. And part of me – a large part – doesn’t mind because fuck your feelings right now. I have too much trouble with mine. Leave me alone. (and this is, of course, the quickest way to lose friends and alienate people, unless you happen to have a few very understanding friends who can stand you at your not-self-inflicted worst.)

I am trying to deal with it. To ‘process’. I talk to my psychologist. And while I don’t want to stay here, stuck in a place of terror and hourly reliving and nausea and tears and wanting to punch walls (and actually punching walls).

I get frightened that I am being judged and evaluated for being a pile of goo. I become paranoid and convinced that my partner is tired of me and my wailing, wishes I’d pull up my socks and get on with it. I am afraid of becoming a feminazi Alannis Morrisette-loving stereotype who views all men as rapists (they are not) and wears her shredded heart and hopes on her sleeve and writes zines about killing boys at birth. I do not want to be her, though an amalgam of lived experiences inform that cliche and they are experiences of outrageous pain.

Sometimes I wish I could bury this, that I was not a feminist who knows how very very wrong this is, and how gendered my attack was and how born of a culture that cultivates violence against women. I have a political brain. It doesn’t turn off. It compounds the misery because I know that this happens to so many. I am not alone, but that’s far from comforting.

I don’t know what I’m saying. That I’m not doing great, I guess? That every day is a challenge, that yes I know I’ll ‘get there’ and ‘it takes time’ and ‘this too shall pass’ and I should ‘be gentle with myself’.

When I am alone with my thoughts trying to fall asleep, I think about his heavy breathing in my ear, not your kind advice. I am stuck with that sound and the feeling of his hair on my face and his low voice telling me to calm down and be quiet.

My teacher yesterday told me to stop trying to cope, to process, to do anything productive. She said I should instead be a big bucket of goo and chuck all the expectations of life before this out the window.

“You have to find a new normal. Your old normal is gone and you will feel shit about that. But your new normal is here, so don’t fight it. It includes crying daily, hating people for wearing blue shoes, and punching trees until you graze your knuckles. It involves more sleeping, more asking for help, more alone time, more buying yourself treats, and more feeling sad for weeks at a time. The old normal is dead and it is ok to have a new normal.”

I think I spent the last two weeks thinking I would be a healthy little cherub and go to therapy and get back to my old normal.

My teacher said the most helpful thing anyone has since I was attacked. She gave me permission to be a strange angry sooky bastard until such time as I stopped needing it and said it was ‘normal’.

In a sense this has also helped me feel less useless at work. Teachers are awesome and even if we can’t fix the problem of gendered violence and traumatic experiences, we can pass on our coping methods.

So this afternoon, I will get on the bus, go to work, go to study and deal with what I can. I’m going to try to stop holding myself to some invisible standard and just do what I can, as I can.

I have no zippy end to this post. Life is pain, princess. Anyone who tells you any different is selling something. Thanks be to the gods for tea and therapists.


About laketothelight

Feminist. Tea drinker. Cat snuggler. Canadian marryer. Queer. Fat. Lover of movement. View all posts by laketothelight

One response to “A New Normal

  • Peter Langston

    Big bucket of goo with the odd thermonuclear equipped submarine sounds about right. “New you” is right, from experience. It won’t go away, this latest millstone but every day you’ll heft it a little better. Right now, it just feels fucking heavy but that’s because you are still trying to lift it … good for you, fuck giving up. No one can make you do that.
    As for the final paragraph … it looks that way for now but best ask enough people before you pass sentence. Good enough to say it can look no other way to you YET. Hard to see the ocean when the mountains are in the way.
    Important for now is to keep saying how you feel and that those that matter agree with you. Too early for any other conclusions and they wouldn’t be relevant anyway.
    I, for one but surely not only, admire the shit in your eye and the the way you set your jaw. There are many who wouldn’t but then, you aren’t one of the many … thank God or whatever deity first comes to mind.

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