The End of the Beginning

Posted on May 25, 2012


What a wild two weeks. Absolutely wild. With the release of my book cover coming at the beginning of finals week, and then this past week being the very first of summer vacation, my head has been in a bit of a whirlwind with everything that’s going on. Perhaps I should start at the beginning?

I have known about the book cover and what it looks like for a little over a month now, but until the morning I posted it on this site, I wasn’t allowed to share it with anyone (nature of the book business I suppose, want to make sure all the t’s are crossed, i’s dotted etc.). So when I was finally approved to release the book cover, I’d been sitting on it, thinking about it, mulling over every small detail that one obsessively does when one is prohibited from talking about something. The red tint on the one side of my body, the fact that I was appearing (appearing) nude – though covered – on the cover of the book, the look in my eyes that felt very sad and strong and sure and totally unsure. I saw someone on here say something about them deciding to go with a picture from my past, and truth be told, we took that photo specifically for this cover. There was nothing historical about it.

In my past, it would have been arms spread wide, mouth open slightly as if begging for… The body language would have been available, open for business, welcoming. But the facial expression would have been one of domination, tinged with absence. This was totally different.

When I shot the cover, I brought white and black t-shirts, jeans, and a few summer dresses. There were no plastic heels, no skirts that could have also been belts, nothing that would have shown more than I, in this stage of my recovery and life, would have been willing to wear on the street. Yet, it felt like the picture was still so guarded, and truth be told, I don’t know how to photograph wearing clothes. Unless it’s joking. Or jokingly seductive. Or with someone else. The or’s are infinite, but the simple truth of the matter is, I am not a model anymore, and quite possibly, never really was. The other truth in this is that I no longer wish to be in front of a lens all the time, which I think speaks volumes to the power of recovery, the program and specifically, therapy.

When we decided to go topless, it was amazing how transformative the seemingly small action actually was. Where I had been nervous, I was now confident. Where I had been hesitant, I was now sure. Where I had questioned an expression, I know knew. Terrifying really, how quickly one can slip back into old patterns. Anyway, I put my shirt back on and checked out a few of the photos. Blake Little, the wonderful photographer with whom I worked, let me look through the pictures with him, and sure enough, the comfort I felt internally once I’d removed my shirt was reflected in the pictures themselves.

Maybe it’s that I’m fairly certain that the viewer will be distracted by the toplessness, and I can do/act/be however I want.

Maybe it’s that I spent eight years naked in front of a camera.

When we released the cover here, on Twitter, and all the sites (Amazon, B&N etc.), I was again, totally nervous. When the feedback started rolling in, I felt high, higher than I’ve felt in a long time, high like, Nothing in the world matters because I’ve been up for days and everything is going my way, high. As soon as I caught those feelings, processed them, and realized it was the high from attention, I knew it was time to reconnect with recovery and disconnect with here. You also throw in the seismic repercussions of starting a site devoted to the healing of rape and you have some pretty intense feelings. About that…

When I started the website, I did so not really understanding that I have a plethora of my own healing to do. I felt like it would be a wonderful resource for many of my readers because oftentimes people reach out and share stories (about childhood rape, trauma, adult/stranger/acquaintance rape, addiction, sex addiction etc.). There seems to be a vast number of people in the world and a vast number of people who visit my blog, who have been affected either by rape, addiction, pornography or the three in cocktail form. When I started Surviving Rape, I thought, This will be a good website for them. This will help them. For some reason, it failed to occur how the site’s creation and maintenance would affect me. Needless to say, there was and is work to be done.

The stories of healing were inspiring, but more and more, I received emails about what had happened (in terms of the rape trauma), and more and more I realized how ill equipped I am to deal with those still suffering from the pangs of rape trauma. In fact, I have a difficult time processing the traumas I’ve experienced. This was not “their” fault, in fact, it was something for which I’d asked – however indirect. When I shifted into the Daily Meditations, I felt that this would be something I could handle, the daily dealings with recovering from trauma. Yet again, I was surprised when I became emotionally overwhelmed, and with the crescendo of finals and the book cover release, I threw my white flag into the air and surrendered to the possibility that I’d taken on more than I could handle. Fairly normal behavior for me. I met with my Feminist Ethics professor, Dr. Cartier, and we had a long conversation about surviving rape, about the website, and about my own traumas. She said that I could think of it like a balloon, and that one day, I would not be holding that balloon close to me. It would be floating on the horizon. And I wouldn’t have to keep looking back to feel like I know which way is forward.

And so it is that I came to a few of my own conclusions. A few about the website, a few about trauma, and a few about addiction and recovery.

1.) I will not be a good rape crisis counselor. I do not have the solid emotional boundaries that it requires, and I do not have the energy that keeping those boundaries intact requires. I am also not good enough with “self-care” to do this kind of work. Which is fine and good to know.

2.) I do not want to keep looking back at those balloons on my horizon. In fact, I would like them to float away entirely and be popped by the glorious heat of the sun. That is not to say that I will ever forget what has happened, but it is to say that it’s time to think/do/focus on something else.

3.) If I do Daily Meditations about healing rape, I will also be doing daily thinking about something I wish to move past. This seems and feels counterproductive.

4.) If I do Daily Meditations about recovery and addiction, it will be a comprehensive tool that covers all traumas, compulsive thinking/behavior, and it will be me putting my program and recovery first- the first 10% they say – so that I can have the other 90%. I will ramp back up in early June…

5.) I am pretty good at following through. Whether the idea is good or bad (or neither or both), I am becoming a woman of my word and a woman who does what she says she will do. This feels good.

And so it is that in the same cluster of days, I took my finals and completed the first semester back in the California State University system, released the cover of the book, recommitted to recovery, and allowed myself the space to grow and be human. This has not been an easy two weeks. I’ve done tons of crying (watching Hugo, watching So You Think You Can Dance, talking to my professor, looking at, talking to classmates, getting my grades, pretty much big into crying now), and when there are tears, it’s nice to know they have sober cheeks on which to fall.