About a month ago I spoke at our Chittenden County Domestic and Sexual Violence Legislative Forum. The audience was made up of about 100 community members and 15 of our state legislators. I spoke for about 10 minutes from the perspective of a survivor of assault and sexual violence. The purpose of the Forum was to raise awareness of the issues of domestic and sexual violence among our legislators as they head into their 2012 legislative session. (I blogged about this previously at The Bady Partnership.)
The process of preparing and delivering the speech took much more out of me emotionally than I ever expected. I've talked about my experience of trauma with friends, family and congregation members on many, many occasions. Even so, in the week leading up to the Forum I began experiencing nightmares, insomnia and dissociative feelings associated with flashbacks. These old, familiar feelings rushed back reminding me of what it was like when I was in the midst ~ and at the worst ~ of my PTSD.
While the possibility of pulling out of the speech did occur to me, I decided to continue. While the PTSD symptoms were painful, I was not scared of them. Giving up would be giving in to the trauma. I felt that it was important to tell my story and, hopefully, make an impact. I gave the speech on January 30th and it was an amazing experience. It was difficult to share some of the more intimate details of my trauma and recovery, making myself vulnerable to a room full of strangers. I was helped by great support from church members who prayed for me and attended. Gary took the day off to be with me.
In some ways I feel like my story is out there in the world now. It's out there to, hopefully, help someone else in some way. When the legislators are making decisions about bills related to sexual and domestic violence maybe they will think of me. Giving the speech also gave me the opportunity to speak with other survivors and hear pieces of their stories.
I had hoped that after I gave the speech I would go back to feeling 'good' again, but it took some time. In fact, I think it has taken me the whole month to fully recover and feel back to my new-normal, healthy self again. Thankfully Bady and Gary and friends and family have been with me, supporting me, along the way. I am thankful that I had the opportunity and that I took it.