I was very angry with anyone that appeared to be happy with their lives. I had a river of venom that resided within me that I was unable to control and I did not understand what triggered it. Over time, it became clear that it represented the depth of my fear and pain. But that was later and as a young adult I was, at times, not easy to be around.
I took a great deal of satisfaction in keeping any other young women that might otherwise have been friends away from me and I did everything I could to intimidate them. Now, it is easy to see that as I had been taught to be ashamed of myself for having been sexually assaulted, I did not want anyone to get close enough to me to identify that and, subsequently, shun me and encourage others to do the same. That had been my experience and I did not believe that it would be different, nor did I want to find out. It was easier to isolate myself before they did it to me. At least, I could convince myself that it was my preference.
While my anger-shield was effective in isolating me, it did not serve me well. Sure, it gave me space. Perhaps in some ways, I needed that space, particularly in the beginning when my life was confusing, chaotic, and terrifying. Eventually, and many years later, I gained enough insight into this behavior to see that I was sabotaging myself and getting in the way of my own emotional and mental health and well-being.
It was at that point, that I recognized that this anger-shield had also protected me from the feelings of vulnerability that comes with getting close to others. I was still not ready for that. So I found a half-step. I had learned to be silent early in my trauma. As I began to lower the anger-shield, I retained and raised the level of secrecy around my life. It was a double-edged sword.
The lesson that I gradually understood from this was that while keeping those secrets from everyone, they were only getting close to the picture I wanted people to see. That meant that I had to portray that picture every day. Secrets breed shame. I knew I had to fully accept that wounded child and young adult. I had to integrate those pieces with the accomplished professional and loving wife and mother I had become to be whole. This would be the only way I could drop the toxic shame forever, stop the secrets, and truly acknowledge that these horrible things had happened to me. They were not who I was, and I would not allow them to control me.
What I also recognized is that there is justifiable anger and that it can be a constructive tool. I should be angry that I had been raped, that I had not been treated well by the community, that I had not received the medical help that I needed, and that my family and friends isolated me. But I can also recognize the fear and hurt behind those things. I could either continue to let that push me into destroying my life and possibly ending it – or I could make a change. My anger can be used to drive productive changes in my life and the ability to reach out to and educate others in our society. So, after many years, here I am.