Home My Journey From Triggers to Tears, and When Recovery is Hard

From Triggers to Tears, and When Recovery is Hard

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Consider this your trigger warning for sexual assault, violence, and general scumbag shit.

It was a bright Sunday morning.

While I was planning to spend my Sunday morning the same way I spend every Sunday morning – working, of course – there was a minor protest going on a few feet away from my desk.

“Don’t you want to come out here with me? That new show on A&E is starting now.”

Eddy pretty much resented the fact that I would spend weekends working instead of spending even a little time folded up on the couch with him, so I gave in.

The show he was referring to was the season opener for Bates Motel, which aims to create and illustrate a back story to Norman Bates and the story of Psycho, a movie I’d never seen. And, though I’m not a movie person, I do like thrillers… and figured it’d be an opportunity for me to pick up the flick and watch it with him later that week. See? Gotta find ways to win.

The show started.

I won’t spoil too much of it, but hell. It’s at least 3-4 weeks into the show by now. If you were gonna watch, you would’ve by now.

Norma buys a hotel and a gorgeous home for Norman and herself, from a foreclosure sale. A member of the family who once owned the property, a slovenly, drunk scumbag named Keith, shows up on their front lawn trying to size them up. A showdown between Norma and Keith ensues, and Norma sends him scurrying off with his tail tucked between his legs.

Later in the show, during Norma’s evening when she’s alone, Keith breaks into her home. Obviously still drunk, Keith comes in armed with handcuffs, duct tape, and an agenda. He tells Norma, very plainly, “This house is mine, and everything in this house… is mine.”

At this point, while watching, I put my hand to my chin. Not in shock, but in preparation for screaming. I could feel my blood running cold – if I were completely honest, my fingers and hands feel cold while I’m typing right now – and I felt paralyzed. Literally, incapable of moving.

He took the duct tape, and covered her mouth. He pinned her down onto the table, and handcuffed her arm to the table’s leg.

And he began to rape her.

My jaw slowly dropped open, and I only know this because my hand went from feeling chin, to feeling lips. My eyes rolled over to Eddy, whose expression read more like guilt than shock or sadness or disgust. He’d begged me to come out and watch the show with him, and I knew he now resented having me come out with him. He stared at the floor, lips tight, head slightly tilted. It was the kind of face you make when you just want to say “Damn, man,” but you can’t.

The shit couldn’t cut to commercial quick enough.

I was in shock. I felt violated. Not in a “why wasn’t there a warning?!” kind of way; remember, I came to the episode late, and would’ve missed a warning even if there was one. It was just too reminiscent. It wasn’t deja vu as much as it was like watching a nightmare. And, while I’m sure there’s artistic value in accomplishing making me say that, there’s also… terror in feeling what I’d felt that morning.

Commercials for toilet paper, trashy processed food and detergent came across the screen, and I couldn’t move. Eddy watched me like a hawk. A minute passed, and finally, there was a sign of life: a single tear rolled down my cheek. He left the room to grab a tissue for me, but when he returned, my shirt was soaked. A steady stream of tears fell. No sounds, no sobs… just tears. I didn’t want to alert the little one to the fact that Mommy was crying.

He took me by the hand, and pulled me into the bedroom. There? Full blown sobbing commenced. His shirt, soaked. Tissue box, emptied. It’s been a long time since I cried that hard. My blood pressure actually dropped. My entire body felt cold. I’m pretty sure he held me for an hour before I moved again.

I spent the afternoon just… talking. About everything. Aside from the occasional checking-in-on-the-kid, I just needed to talk. He was there to listen. By that evening, I’d felt like I understood more about myself and what I’d been through, and how it affected me.

But the real beauty of it all, was that Eddy reminded me of how I used to understand these feelings – I didn’t – and how I used to handle these feelings – I binged like there was no tomorrow.

I went through so much of my life without the self-awareness I have now. Knowing how I think, how I feel, how certain situations make me feel, respecting my intuition, and protecting myself from situations that challenge that in unhealthy ways… those are art forms. I used to lament the fact that I didn’t write these kinds of deep, thought-provoking, story-telling posts anymore, but that was actually a sign of my progress – my journey is actually a journey. I’m healing.

Sort of.

Recovery is hard. And, as much as it makes me cringe to say it, being a survivor is hard. So few people actually understand rape culture, so few organizations provide pervasive support and counseling to people who can’t afford it (read: my broke ass), that there’s no wide-spread understanding of how to support someone through this kind of trauma. We still, as a culture, frown upon psychiatric help – the very people most capable of teaching the coping mechanisms that survivors need. I needed it, and thank heavens for the sorority sister who gave me her insight when I was most vulnerable.

Recovering from my experiences has been hard, but I am infinitely grateful. Grateful for my sense of self, my self-awareness, my sense of self-compassion, and my understanding of how to cope with these triggering moments when they arise. Recovery is hard… but without this process, I don’t know where I’d be.

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14 comments

Santresa M. Wilkins April 16, 2013 - 1:51 PM

Erica,

I always get your blog posts and because I know they’re always helpful with recipes, motivation, and tips to eat and live healthy I tend to skim them and put them in my health folder to have when I need to refer to one for one reason or another. However, today something tugged at me to read this post in its entirety. I want you to know how much strength it takes to share that. How much strength it takes to be vulnerable and share that you’re still healing from that violation of who you are.

You’re not a survivor, you are an overcomer. You’re an overcomer because you’re still standing and encouraging women through your life….your journey. I’ve been there….I remember those tears. Stay encouraged, stay strong, continue to motivate the women you touch. Your past is a blessing for women everywhere. You have something they need and I’m glad you’re allowing God to work through you!!

Keep moving and keep being you!!

Always and many Blessings

Santresa Marie

Erika Nicole Kendall April 16, 2013 - 4:13 PM

*big hug*

Kenyeda April 16, 2013 - 3:33 PM

Hi! I am a lurker, but I love the site. I thought you would like to know that there is a petition push going on to have the FCC create a sexual violence warning label for TV shows like Bates Motel. The person that started it had a similar reaction to the scene.

http://www.change.org/petitions/fcc-create-a-sexual-violence-warning-for-television-shows

Erika Nicole Kendall April 16, 2013 - 4:13 PM

DEFINITELY just signed it. Y’all should, too.

KANEKA April 22, 2013 - 3:12 PM

SIGNED! This day in age American culture is so desensitized.

LouAnna April 16, 2013 - 3:47 PM

I have no idea why I hit the comment button because as I sit here, I have no idea what to say. I haven’t been where your feet have tread. However, my heart has heard you.

Erika Nicole Kendall April 16, 2013 - 4:07 PM

*hug*

Synethia April 16, 2013 - 10:23 PM

Hi Erika,

Thanks for having the strength to share; I am a survivor also.

There are times that I feel like I am totally healed until something happens and it seems to bring it all rushing back no matter how hard I want to forget.

The fact that it was a family member makes it even harder because so many in the family know about it.

Everyday is another step forward.

Aishah @ Coffee, Love, Health April 17, 2013 - 7:58 AM

🙁 you are an amazing, strong, and inspiring woman. This moved me so much, a post I definitely wasn’t expecting to see here but one that kept me reading. Lots of love your way because you deserve a lot of it <3

Aishah @ Coffee, Love, Health April 17, 2013 - 7:59 AM

correction… because you are WORTHY of a lot of it 🙂 xoxo

Doreen G. April 17, 2013 - 1:58 PM

Astonishing transparency! That’s courageous & selfless! Bless your heart! {{{{HUGS}}}}

Kasey April 17, 2013 - 9:08 PM

I have no words. Just hugs for you. Your courage in what you have overcome and generously share your experiences…that courage shines so bright Erica. <3

Nikia April 21, 2013 - 11:50 AM

*hugs*….make that *big, huge, bear hugs* Thank you so much for your courage and generosity of heart and mind to share some ing like that. You have probably touched so many other women just by being open and honest with us about everything. I read your blog all the time so I feel like I know you, I was so moved by this because I know where so many of my issues related to food, my self-esteem, and the reasons I made the choices I made in my life have come from. As you said triggers and tears…professional help encouraged me to deal with the events in my past rather than eating them but still now that is something I struggle with. I have lost 116 pounds and still want to reach for food when I hurt the deepest. I had the same reaction to that scene…I covered my eyes until it was over to be honest. I just want you to know that I appreciate your blog and I appreciate you sharing your soul with us. 🙂

CurlyCuse May 6, 2013 - 11:34 PM

I echo the hugs, and the appreciation of everything you say and do, Erika. Thanks for writing from the heart.

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