thank you for your patience
– an essay by Katherine Klietz
The morning after, we drove home in silence. Small, intermittent periods of conversation and crying, accompanied by more silence. It’s funny though – in my memory, that car ride wasn’t silent at all – there was a screaming in my head that didn’t go away for months. To this day, there are times when I’m in the middle of some benign task; I’ll be showering, washing the dishes, walking – and all of a sudden, I’ll think of him and that screaming returns with a force that makes me lose myself, if only for a moment. But in that moment, I wonder if the past nearly two years of healing have meant nothing.
After we parked and grabbed the bags filled with clothes I would immediately throw down the closest trash shoot, a friend of ours walked by. Hey! How was your weekend? It looked so fun!
In that moment, I realized the car ride was a numbness, a temporary shield of silence before I had to return to the real world. I don’t remember if I responded to him; all I remember is getting to my room as quickly as possible so I could sob. I needed to clean myself, wipe away all the evidence and shame of anything that had happened. If I could pull myself together, it would be like nothing happened. Everything would be fine. Only once the shower water hit me, a new panic emerged:
The shower water couldn’t make me clean of what he did…if the shower couldn’t, what could?
The week that followed lasted a hundred years. Every single action took such immense energy out of me that I just wanted to fall into a perpetual sleep. But every time I managed to fall asleep, I was haunted by everything I remember from that night. The world didn’t feel real. I didn’t feel like me. My body felt foreign and I didn’t trust it. I didn’t want it anymore.
Telling my mother what had happened was more terrifying than the assault. I so terribly feared that she would blame me, shame me, because I drank myself to a state he could take advantage of. My whole life, all I’ve ever wanted is to bring pride to my parents and I felt that because of this I’d only brought them shame forever.
My mother was more supportive than I ever could have wished her to be, and she and my father have remained so encouraging and supportive ever since.
You need to go to the doctor, Katherine. Please. If nothing else, you need to be tested.
I knew she was right and despite my growing apathy to life, I skipped my class and went to the Health Center to receive an STD/I test. I figured this is college; there must be twenty kids a day going to get this test. This should be quick and easy.
Why are you requesting this test today?
We ask that you provide us with a response to why you are requesting an STD test.
Oh. I started shaking from my feet up. I…want one.
The nurse stared at me as we sat in silence for a minute.
I don’t remember how I told her, but she held my hands as I did and gave me the tests. She then handed me a bunch of pamphlets for survivors and led me up to the Counseling Center where I spent the rest of the day recounting everything that had happened to me. Eventually, the psychiatrist stated that she thought it would be best for me to go home for a few days and be with my family. Take some time to “relax” and “feel better.”
When I returned, I decided I would deal with my problems by drinking and smoking and partying – anything that would make my mind numb. This strategy worked until my anxiety got the best of me; I couldn’t take a shot of Fireball without having a full-blown panic attack, screaming at anyone who made the unfortunate mistake of making eye contact with me. One moment I would be dancing to whatever trash was playing through the speakers and the next I was suddenly back in that twin bed, frozen while he loomed over me and stole my sense of body and peace of mind. I was convinced I was going batshit crazy, but I found out later these were symptoms of PTSD. This continued for months. My grades, friendships, and emotional state crumbled. I didn’t have a concept of self-worth. Time felt fake.
I figured the world was a shitty place and I was tired of living in it. I didn’t want to live with myself anymore.
Sometimes I wish I would’ve let the people at the party call the cops, but I don’t know if I could’ve handled the added pressure of having to relive that night on other people’s times. I’ve had to relive it over and over on my own to heal; I don’t know what I would’ve done if I had to take on the added burden of a battle to find proof.
I was lucky: I didn’t know him. I wasn’t assaulted by someone I knew and trusted. In my memory, he is nameless and faceless, and I am thankful for that. However, I did lose trust in myself. My feet weren’t planted firmly on the ground anymore; I was floating, unable to land.
I didn’t know if up was still up or down was still down.
I stayed with my grandmother that summer. She let me cry and scream to her every day and always remained patient and encouraging – always telling me how much she loved me, how much my parents loved me, and how happy she was that I was there with her. She helped me heal, even though I spent so much time feeling like I didn’t deserve it.
I can’t lie: the healing has been really fucking slow. It took me a solid six months before I could begin to see any real improvement in myself. Now, almost two years later, I’m still healing. There are still nights when I get nightmares and crawl onto my side and wail, my pillow between my teeth so my roommates don’t hear the noise. I force myself to remember –
When things get dark, I take a deep breath and write down a list of everything I can think of that I’m thankful for and I feel better. I feel whole, and I’m thankful to see that. I’m thankful I’ve found a new normal. A new piece of me has emerged from what was lost, and I love her.
Please try to remember that you’re not alone. Please believe me because I know how you feel – I know how the world feels so dark and so empty right now. There are so many of us who understand, and we are here for you. Please don’t give up, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel – you’ve just gotta stick it out to see it. I promise you there is a light.
I’m eternally grateful to Mommy, Daddy, Nana, Aunt Dar, Amanda (I’m looking at both of you), Cathy Elisabeth, Sydney, Claire, Julia, Smithereens, Eric, Brittany, Michael, Justine, Kenzie, Brian, Estacia, Alli, Ivy, Audrey, Meghan, Sam, Dr. Guinness, Xenna, and last but not least, each and every nurse who held my hand and let me cry. Thank you.
Katherine is a junior majoring in Art Studies with a concentration in Art History, minoring in French and Arts Entrepreneurship.