Tomorrow is October 1, and I’m terrified.
Each year, October rolls around, I am reminded of the most horrific time in my life. Last year was especially bad. I honestly don’t know how I made it through, but somehow I always figure out a way. I have been working with my therapist since July to prepare for the month, but I find as the day has arrived, all the nausea, anxiety, nervousness, and fear have returned.
My flashbacks have been pretty bad, seven over the past week, including three last Friday. They take days to recover from. I’m still not sure if it’s because October is coming or because I have been working hard in therapy to address some things as well as set up new coping mechanisms and supports to help me through it.
In addition to October, the day after Labor Day is the most difficult single day of the year for me. This year turned out to be okay, mainly because of the conscious decisions I made to try to change the narrative about the day.
For 36 years, I have relived the rape. Last year, I went hiking with a friend on Labor Day, which helped, but the flashbacks were still waiting for me the next day.
This year, I attempted to change what this day has been. I went to see my therapist, drove to Fort Robinson State Park to hike for two days, then drove to see my therapist before returning home. Nebraska received a rare snowstorm that day. I hiked in the snow for a little over four hours. I was drenched by the time I got back to my hotel. I poured out two little puddles of water when I took my shoes off.
As long as I was hiking, my mind was focused on things other than this day. When I returned to my hotel, my thoughts were split in three directions. I was trying to stop a flashback while also trying to debate whether I should email my therapist or text another friend about what was happening. Fortunately, my friend texted me. She calmed me and we talked until I fell asleep.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t contact anyone around 2:30 a.m., when the flashback woke me up. I cried on the floor as I was too exhausted to do anything else.
And so, I sit on the precipice of October. I experience several different flashbacks during this month. Some have arrived early. I texted my friend on Friday because things were bad enough I couldn’t see clearly. I didn’t do anything stupid, but I sit here at my computer, five days later, still exhausted and trying to recover from Friday.
There is no way to adequately explain how incredibly supportive my friend has been over the past three months. I get random checks to see how I’m doing. She texts me silly TikTok videos and caring and warm memes that uplift my spirits in more ways than I can explain.
Yet, I sit here looking ahead to October and think, “Can I make it through?” I know I will. I just don’t know how bad it will be. I’ve already had three weeks where I’ve done little else than go to work. The thought of going outside and being with someone else is exhausting. Everything, including making a cup of tea, requires extra effort. I’m overwhelmed even at the simple things in life.
I have a stack of things from the last two months that I have started writing, but haven’t been able to complete. I’ve only written one thing in the past two months, and it took me 33 days to write it.
I look at the clock and I see I have five hours before I have to go to work. I help with a program at the middle school and, honestly, I want it to be canceled today. Normally, in those five hours, I could bang out two or three stories and edit them later. My couch, some breathing exercises, and more sleep are far more enticing. I want October to be over and it hasn’t even begun.
This post is only 849 words long, short by my standards. It has worn me out completely. I’m not happy about this reality, but it is my reality right now. It likely will be for another 31 days.
I will keep working toward a day when October comes and I don’t give two thoughts about it. I’m not there right now. This is the first time since 1984 I have tried to change the outcome of this month. Changing the narrative of a single day is easier – even that wasn’t 100 percent successful – but changing a month of unrelenting intrusive thoughts is more difficult.
I’m not going to “win” anytime soon. You can’t flip a switch and turn off 36 years of nightmares. This year, however, I’ve got supports to help me walk through the next 31 days. It won’t be all sunshine and roses, but it’s a start.