And I feel the words slipping away, find my body not responding, feel my mouth clamping shut. My lips feel as if they're stuck together, like I'm gagged and mute and bound. I'm utterly helpless, frozen like a rabbit caught in headlights. My thoughts race or else empty: I either over-inhabit my head or I'm gone, carried away in a wave of nothingness. The thoughts there are slow, detached: those of an observer, mildly interested. At the other extreme, I experience myself as utterly trapped, chained to this body and disabled by it: I command it to move and it doesn't, shout in my head for my lips to move but they don't. I feel like I'm drowning and I can't shout for help. I can blink, but that's where it ends.
The cause of this extreme shutdown response? Anything that triggers the worst of my past. My head and body reel with re-living the trauma, I'm overwhelmed by it, engulfed by it. I pray for the detach response: the other stuck-ness is too painful, too lonely, to be borne. Encountering it in therapy the other day I experienced myself trapped in my past, torturous technicolour images of the abuse burning through my mind and body, incapacitated and alone there.
I don't want to go back there on my own any more.
Everything is connected. One thought, one memory triggers another and another and it's off, an ever-widening circle of horror replaying for my eyes only, for my mind only. I want to scream 'help me, please help me, be with me here, help bring me out of here', but no words come. My lips remain welded together, impervious to my commands to open.
It shouldn't surprise me that at times I struggle to open my mouth, whether to eat or to speak. My mouth was sorely misused when I was sold: I retched and gagged on cock after cock thrust down my throat, lungs burning, eyes streaming. Feeling unsafe now, my mouth refuses to cooperate.
As for words, for speaking, for asking for help, that shouldn't surprise me either. When I opened my mouth I risked his fist, so I stopped talking. And words failed me anyway, were inadequate anyway, fell away anyway. How do you convey the terror that is gang rape? How to convey the debasement that you experience every day of being beaten, being sold. Narrative becomes disjointed, the result of blackouts. Feelings? God, you have no idea what you feel. Fear beyond description, pain beyond words, the numbness of going beyond that, beyond.
Everything falls away in the end. You detach and observe yourself beaten, yourself raped, yourself near death. You have no power over it, no escape. It's a little like observing the world from under water, at a distance: sounds seem far off, actions seem slowed down. A slow motion car crash without the emotion.
Then the sickening fall back into your body, back into the feelings, back into looking with your eyes, hearing with your ears, feeling what they do. Back into the fear and the racing thoughts, the shaking and the being. Reunited with your body, the pain rushes back in and stifles you. Your chest constricts, your throat closes up.
My current experience, then, of PTSD, is an exact re-living of how I experienced the trauma of being prostituted at the time. The fluctuation between detachment and over-embodiment remain, though the external circumstances of my life differ. I am no longer subject physically to the abuse I suffered. But the mental scars remain, and have a physical effect. They incapacitate me as they did then, but no longer serve a purpose. At the time, it was what my mind and body did to survive. Now, it serves to isolate me.
Trust doesn't come easily to me, for good reason. But now I need it more than ever. I need to be honest and ask for help. And I need a lot of help. I doubt this job'll be a quick fix. Until I'm able to open my mouth, I thank God for the ability to write. Without that release valve, I'd be as I was then - absolutely fucked.