At its best,
post traumatic stress
is that feeling of being constantly on edge,
like when your feet hang out the covers
and touch the monster under the bed,
except the monster’s still inside your body
and poised ready for attack,
you better not ever close your eyes,
you better not ever turn your back.
He’s hacked your nervous system
with a pistol to your head
which you’re convinced is loaded
so your muscles remain frozen
and you’ll spend years beating yourself up
for not trying to escape instead
and hating your body for how it can’t change
it’s natural, evolutionary response
to threat of death.
You can’t even simply control your breath
as the tightness in your chest
becomes a self-asphyxiation,
lungs compressed in hyperventilation
as something reminds you of your degradation,
as an act of supposed love and fun
becomes none of the above,
and this concept of ‘recovery’
battles with your constantly intrusive memories
like his hand on the back of your neck.
Then how he gathered up your hair
as you’re dripping in his sweat,
body weight forcing open your legs
stained with bite marks
that took over a week to fade.
Now you try and tell me
that there’s nothing to be afraid of,
that leaving my house is safe,
that I could spend a night at someone else’s place
without being kept wide awake
and sitting up with the light on,
heart racing, skin caked in fear
that something bad could happen here.
It might have been almost three years
but the monster is always near the surface,
rising when you least expect it.
There’s a red car there that looks like his,
there’s at least ten men his height
with his haircut in front of you at a gig.
You fantasise about killing him.
Triggers still make you physically sick
as your mind tricks your body into thinking
that night is still happening
and he won’t let you leave till the morning.
It took too long to stop self blaming
and exchange shame for its real name
of false imprisonment
but sometimes that reality is still too draining.
Sometimes when touched by a lover
you’ll react like you’re still being hunted
and you’ve got to stay in front.
It doesn’t bear to think of what would happen
if his hands caught up
and you know he knows where you live.
Your skin replaces sensations of pleasure with numbness,
it took over six months for you to come
with someone else’s hands over your pants
and over a year with penetration.
You’re an expert at dissociation
and though it’s defined as lack of concentration
you’re not sure you agree.
At first it took a lot of focus and attention
to leave your body
but now spacing out is easy,
so much so that you’ve forgotten what you did on Friday
or how you got that razor blade cut to your thigh,
it looks like it was painful
but you don’t remember letting out the slightest cry.
You can’t stand in the shower,
how can you wash and towel dry
and you hate going out in summer,
that warm weather with skin uncovered
could only spell out danger
and you won’t eat on dates.
You’ve got no appetite, no sense of taste
and you’ve got to control your food intake
in case this gets to third or fourth base
and your anxiety belly gets in the way
and you lose your ability to say
that you’re not comfortable.
Because your mouth is bound
with imaginary sticky tape
and the last thing you want
is for him to know that you’ve been raped
so just fake how great it was,
rather than explain that these shaking limbs
are a stress response
to panic defenders wearing thin
and say you’d love to stay over
but you’ve got to get off home.
Make up some excuse
about forgetting your phone charger
or having other plans,
but really you just need to be alone.
Crawl into the hottest bath
and plaster over the cracks
where your past got passed the sensors
because you started to relax
in the arms of another man
and almost forgot that such comfort is banned
because last time you trusted someone
look what fucking happened
and do you want that to happen again?
Wouldn’t you rather spend your life
in a state of red alert?
You know what? No I wouldn’t.
Vulnerability is a strength
and this is going to fucking hurt
but I deserve better
than co-existing with this monster
and he’ll be gone but not forgotten
the more I write him into words
and now everyone in this room has heard
what you are.
I’m bathing in the medicine of self care
and whilst all you’ll do is shrink
I’ve got plans to still go bigger.
See my name in the paper,
my face on your TV picture,
on the BBC Breakfast news sofa
talking about violence against women,
about self love and recovery from trauma
and you can’t run from the truth anymore
as yours will eat away at you
and I’ll ruin your life the way that with mine you tried to.
I’ve chosen the method for your
slow and lasting torture
and each step I walk forwards
draws my pen closer to your slaughter.