A Nightmare I Can’t Escape

**Content Note: sexual assault (non-specific)**

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I woke up shaky this morning after a rare nightmare.

I know the scenario wasn’t real, but the visceral alarm I felt in my mind and body was based on real things I’ve experienced. This afternoon I saw some things online (which would already be upsetting to me on a normal day) causing feelings of sadness and anger, feelings which were only intensified by the bad dream I had just hours earlier.

I want to rest and take a nap, but I’m too jittery to relax. I tried, but my heart is racing and the muscles in my neck and shoulders and back are tense and sore. I shed a few tears on my pillow then decided to get up and write, my hands still shaky. 

This is what residual trauma does. It sneaks up on you when you’re not expecting it, not thinking about it, going about your normal life just fine. Then suddenly something pops up and you’re sucked back in to feeling anxious, unsafe, emotional. Even if there’s not something concrete to fear in the moment, no immediate actual danger, once your body and mind shifts into that high-alert space it’s hard to snap back out of it.

Just writing those words, that lived reality, brings pressure behind my eyes as tears threaten to spill out again.

In my dream, I was told I would need to work with someone who had hurt me in the past. I frantically tried to find someone in charge to tell them that I couldn’t be partnered with this person, that they weren’t safe for me. There was a panic rising in me because I wasn’t sure if I could get out of this situation, if I could find someone in time who would listen and care and help me avoid being around this person, someone whom my bosses saw as a normal, harmless, even successful person.

The person in the dream, the person I was trying to stay away from, wasn’t a real person from my life. It was a generic character who, in my dream narrative, had hurt me in the past. The people I was working with, the people I was asking to help me, weren’t real people from my life. They were generic characters who, in my dream narrative, had the power to put me in harm’s way.

And now that I’m writing, I’m realizing something, why this dream has me so shaken all day. I’m going to be brutally honest and vulnerable with you, and I ask you to listen and hear my experience, even if you personally don’t understand it and can’t relate: the residual trauma I carry from being raped at age 14, and from other experiences of sexual harassment and assault, has manifested itself repeatedly over the past two and a half years as D.J.T. (and #metoo and #churchtoo and most recently the B. Kav. hearings) has been in the constant news.

I am not alone in this. Countless survivors have reported the same. Some have described it as a nightmare we can’t escape. He, and the current ethos surrounding his presidency, is not safe to us. That word “triggered” is an actual thing, even though people who don’t get it have mocked it. This is me right now – tears streaming down my face, fingers fluttering, stomach churching, heart pounding. I am not weak, I am strong. I have worked hard for many years to find my healing and freedom. But being exposed to people or events that remind you of your own trauma can stir up a lot.

Right now I am gripped by anxiety and fear over writing this, giving it words, considering sharing it with a world that is often callous and unkind. Many have said very hurtful and hateful things to people like me, people who gather the courage to speak up and say that D.J.T. and his sickening contagious rhetoric is truly harmful to them. I have seen people laugh and brush it off, make sarcastic and snide remarks, troll ruthlessly, even threaten.

Sadly many people who have done this to me or others online have had something about God/Jesus/faith in their online profile. It’s scary, and it means I often don’t know who I can really trust because the label Christian has become largely meaningless in identifying people who model the attitude of Christ. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is.

I’m not sure what else to say because I’m emotionally and physically exhausted. I thank you for reading, and for trying to have compassion even if these experiences don’t resonate with you. It is my lived reality and that of many others and I hope you can honor that by being both careful and caring with your words and actions – in person and online.

Grace and Peace,

Andrea

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16 thoughts on “A Nightmare I Can’t Escape

  1. Kiya McElveen

    Andrea-
    I think it is a great gift to yourself and consequently for others that you can write and put your feelings down on paper. It will help your healing process.

    My sexual abuse healing took many forms over the years and as I have prayed through them, God always carried me through those steps and times.

    I am so sorry you had this awful experience and will diligently pray for you to be released from the trauma. Part of my release was when I experienced forgiveness for my abuser. I believe though that this type of trauma is healed in stages along our life’s path.

    For today, I am asking God to put a shield of protection around you and most importantly your heart. I am praying for peace that passes understanding encompasses your being.

    Love, Kiya

    1. Andrea Post author

      Thank you for sharing this Kiya. I experienced that freedom of forgiving, first in stages, but most powerfully in 2005 during an intensive healing prayer session. The mind and body are complex though and new areas of insight and pain arise in different circumstances later in life, such as having my own teen daughter and how that causes me to process things from another angle. It is really helpful to write about it, find solidarity with others, and see how I can be used to bring compassion and courage to others.

  2. Armand Aronson

    Encouragement is the art of “one person’s love touching another person’s fear.” Your spiritual gift of writing with courage is one way that Jesus continues to heal people today. I pray that many will read your words.

  3. Cindy VanderKodde

    Andrea you are very brave. Thank you for sharing and being so open and vulnerable. You hand will help a lot of people who will read this.

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