Is My Trauma Traumatic Enough?
T/W - Sexual Assault, Abuse, Gaslighting
Compare and despair comes in all shapes and forms. As an actor and an artist, I brush my fucking teeth with it. Yes, I am inspired when one of my friends does well. Yes, I want all of my people to book things and make a shitload of money. Yes, I can still be jealous while inspired. The two are not mutually exclusive. I've grown accustomed to living a life where I'm one phone call away from getting everything I want, but on those days where one of my peers gets the call before I do, I can't help but feel the burn.
Anyway, I'm avoiding talking about what I came here to talk about because it scares the fuck out of me. This week's post is about comparing my trauma to others.
Let me get it out of the way: I was sexually assaulted on two different occasions a few years ago. Once by a "friend", the other some random stranger at a party. I just stared at that sentence for a while and I really don't know how to elaborate without people I know attempting to sniff out who it is, but should I really care?
Of course. I'm scared. It's fucking scary. Because what do I have to gain? Retaliation? Utter the words "why wouldn't they just go to the police" in front me and I'll punch you in the fucking mouth.
For context, I was at a party. A friend, whom I had a troubled relationship with, entered the bar and grabbed me, aggressively, by the crotch. He pinned me against the wall and rubbed that area in front of a group of people, saying something to the effect of "oh man, your dick got bigger". I froze at first, and eventually shoved him away. This was his way of "making amends" with me. I didn't talk to him the whole night, and this upset him. He asked mutual friends what was wrong with me, why I was being so cold to him.
Here's the thing - my brain did not register it as sexual assault when it happened. I was shaken, humiliated, angry, confused, so many things. My body knew there was something wrong, but my brain talked me out of it. I was implored by some other friends to "make it right" with him.
And I did.
So, what creditability did I have? We hung out several times after that, till another incident (non sexual-related) ended the friendship for good. Therapy helped me understand what it was. And once I understood, it fucking wrecked me. It changed my relationship to sex, brought on a whole new onslaught of fears in public and social situations that I still haven't gotten over, and probably never will.
Well, fuck. That was not fun to type.
Let me circle back to why I brought that up. And take a second to pace and drink more coffee. The culture of this guy, in all his "grab her by the pussy" glory, would never entertain the thought of what he did was an act of sexual violence. To him, it's "guys being guys", fraternity house bull shit. And you know what, I'm 100% sure he's done it to plenty of other dudes. But blindsiding me in that way, doing something that I did not consent to, in public, when him and I were not on good terms, was a fucking sexual assault. It's astonishing how many times I've had to reiterate that to convince myself. Imagine trying to convince this person?
When I hear other people's stories of sexual assault and trauma, I always find myself questioning this incident. Does this qualify? This other person was raped, this other person was molested as a child, how the fuck can I put my experience in the same ballpark as them? How can I bring my little grabby bro incident to the table when other people have had more serious things happen to them?!?! Why can't I fucking shake this after nearly a decade???
Then, I ask myself the million dollar question:
Was it really THAT bad? Is my trauma justified?!
HOW FUCKED UP IS THAT.
It's not just this incident - I could write a thesis on the amount of incidents that trigger PTSD in me that I find myself downplaying whenever I hear other people's stories, as if there's some sort of trauma meter that doles out a trauma-rotten-tomato-score at the end of an incident.
Oh, getting heckled and humiliated by some drunk kids at a Mets game because I asked them to stop screaming in my ear?
14%. Come back when someone throws a punch, dickhead.
Yes, but CitiField is my favorite place in the world and now every time I set foot in a baseball stadium I panic and anticipate another group coming to do the same thing and it somehow being worse and now the one place where I always found peace has been tainted forever because I could still feel the kid's hot breath on my neck while the entire section laughed at me.
Come on… did you see the video of that guy in the Rams jersey who got donny-brooked by like 15 guys? You had it easy.
Punches don't have to be thrown for it to be traumatic.
Well… why didn't you just get security?
It's your fault.
OH FUCK YOU.
"It could have been worse" is a sneakily toxic line of thought. For real. Because my brain immediately goes there. Why? Because people fucking tell that to each other all the time. When I was a kid, my leg was punctured by a picket fence I was trying to climb. Lots of blood. Lots of stitches. Yeah, I could have torn my scrotum open, which is what the doctor told me. It could have been worse. BUT I WAS STILL A THIRTEEN YEAR OLD CHILD WHO WAS IMPALED BY A FUCKING PICKET FENCE.
Can we take a second to sit with what the fuck just happened before immediately putting the "oh we were so lucky…" bandaid on the gaping flesh wound?
For fuck's sake, with the toxic positivity and self-gaslighting.
I'm at a loss for a hopeful way to end this. I'm not sure that exists. I think I just need to stop typing before I get into "it could have been worse" mode. Or, better yet, "we'll see what happens" - that preemptive "if I fuck this up, I'll at least have warmed up the oven for you and myself."
I won't say I'm fine, because there's no being "fine" after putting that on paper. This will fuck me up for a few hours. I will be okay, though. I have plenty of resources to keep me from self-destructing. Therapy, medication, and journaling, folks. Join the party.
If you are struggling with your mental health, there is no shame in getting help:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of over 160 crisis centers that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 1-800-273-8255. It is available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.