Dark and Twisty, Yet Strangely at Peace

Trauma has a paralyzing effect.

Trauma has a way of making you want to stay some place dark, safe and secure.   It makes venturing out into the world a terrifying prospect.  The anxiety can get so all consuming that it makes you too scared to even be around your friends.  Then that makes you too scared to confide in your friends the truth about how debilitating PTSD, anxiety disorder, and depression can be.  You don't say anything because you are afraid they won't understand, or worse they will decide that your friendship isn't worth the drama. You can try to explain it but that means the dark and twisty parts of your life, parts that only one or two people knew about, will come out.  This is a lonely place to be.

I have been keeping secrets for the majority of my life.  I kept quiet about being sexually abused by my asshole cousin for 5 years, give or take.  I stayed quiet about the emotional and verbal abuse at the hands of my high school/freshman year of college boyfriend for months.  Most of my friends didn't find out about it for about a year after the fact. I stayed quiet about being raped the first time for 10 years. I stayed quiet about the fear I had of the boyfriend after him...that was until the stalking behavior began.  I stayed quiet about the second rape for 2 years...all people knew was the circumstances of the pregnancy (that resulted from the rape) were not ideal. And people wonder why I am single!  I hate secrets like these.  They can be very detrimental to the person keeping them.  They can isolate, damage, and destroy.  I kept the secret the things that BC, LD, JS, DG, and FC (even writing their initials feels like a tremendous accomplishment) did to me. In doing so I gave them control of my life.  I gave these bastards a paralyzing power over my life.  They will never have power again.  I may have a long road left to travel, I may fall down, take steps backward and at times feel like I can't continue going, but I will stand up again, start moving forward again and will always keep going.

In November, I was able to go back to Rome, Italy with my mom. She is the best travel buddy imaginable.  As soon we arrived I felt at home again.  I have only been there twice, but it feels more like home to me than most places I have been. I was 4,368 miles from my home and yet I was strangely at peace. As our car drove up Via Nazionale drove toward Piazza della Repubblica I got my first glimpse of what in sessions Bonita and I called "my happy place."  Santa Maria degli Angeli was right ahead of us.  It was so beautiful, more so than I remembered. I immediately had to fight back tears.  It was the strangest feeling...a mix of calming peace and complete anxiety.  I found myself very apprehensive, even scared to walk into our beloved Basilica.  I needed to heal, and I hoped that this was the place to help that process along.

The week in Rome took us back to the Sistine Chapel - and, yes, I was able to sneak a few pictures. We were able to sit in the Chapel for 45 minutes studying every inch of the ceiling, altar wall, and surrounding walls. There were people every where, but it felt like we were the only two people there...like we existed just to take in all that surrounded us. I was completely aware and present in those moments.  I wasn't worried about emails I could be missing, what my friends were doing on Facebook, or what was going on back home. For the first time in two years I felt totally at peace and safe in my surroundings. I felt like I could take a deep breath. I was in the Sistine Chapel and I was going to let its majesty fold itself around me.

We spent the next day in Florence.  We stood in front of greatness - The Birth of Venus.  Then we were whisked through the rest of the museum at a dizzying pace.  As we made our way back to the restaurant for a lunch with our tour group we were shown a stunning replica of The David.  It amazed me that the guide was more interested in showing us where to shop than where we can see the art. Across the street from the restaurant stood the Basilica of Santa Croce. My mom and I made our way there and stood among greatness.  This Basilica is the final resting place for Machiavelli, Galileo, and Michelangelo.  The beauty of Santa Croce, and all of the history contained within, is enough to make you cry.

The next day we quite literally stumbled into an audience with Pope Francis.  We went to St. Peter's to spend time in the Basilica only to be told it was closed until after the Papal audience.  We needed tickets for the audience and we didn't have them.  We asked a member of the Swiss Guard where we could stand since we didn't have tickets or where could we go to get tickets.  He showed us to seats and we didn't ask questions.  In listening to Pope Francis speak, even though I had no clue what he was saying, I feel what I can only describe as cracks in the cement vault I locked my heart up in after I lost the baby and I started to cry.  I am not very religious, but this was a beautiful experience.

We had some amazing experiences on this trip.  The Angels and Demons tour was definitely one of the best parts of the trip (if you are ever in Rome take this tour because Massimo, the tour guide is AMAZING!).  We saw beautiful places, ate amazing food and discovered a tremendous wine - Corvo Bianco Terra Siciliano 2013 - but I had yet to find the healing that I had hoped to find.  On our last night we went to our church so I could take some more photos.  The priests were singing and you could hear it throughout the the church.  We sat down and I just let the music fill me up.  In doing that the flood gates opened and the cracks in the cement began to deepen.  I thought about my baby.  I thought about everything that has happened to me.  I thought about all that I have kept locked away as a result and I started to cry.  The tears came easily, but wouldn't stop. We sat in the church for a while as I cried and for the first time in a long time I saw the light at the distant end of the tunnel.  I was overwhelmed by this moment.  It was what I needed more than anything else and I found it in the exact place I found it the first time, our church, Santa Maria degli Angeli.

So, what's on tap for 2015?  A new year, a new outlook, new opportunities to continue to heal and new chances to take chances.