I can barely remember how my first therapy session went. All I can recall is that it happened shortly after I was raped in 2013. The therapist was an old white man (Sunninghill Hospital) who was very nice to me. I cannot remember what we spoke about or whether I cried or not. Maybe this is because I just wanted to forget about that experience and tried everything in my power to not think about it.
After that session, I was determined to move on with my life and, for a while, it seemed as if I was on the right track. However, a year later, things fell apart in my life and I found myself in a very dark space. When I told my boss at the time about my experience, she suggested that I see a therapist (through the company). I agreed and found someone in Sandton, and I had about four sessions with her. As hard as I try, I cannot remember much about those sessions. The only thing I remember is the therapist asking me to go back to that day (in my mind) and that scared me. It was as if the experience was happening all over again and I was stuck with that man’s scent.
I don’t think four sessions were enough for the kind of trauma I had experienced. It’s also very important to note that I now realise that I wasn’t ready to open up at the time. I also didn’t know much about healing, intention and self-awareness.
In 2017 I gave therapy another chance when I was admitted into a psychiatric hospital for two weeks. The time I spent there really helped me to not only make sense of the traumatic experience, but to also help me with my healing journey. I was fortunate enough to be exposed to, and have access to a psychiatrist and a psychologist on a regular basis. Of course, the experience wasn’t a pretty one; it was quite messy. I believe that this was the beginning of my healing as it introduced me to so many things that I wasn’t aware of. Another important thing to add is that at the time, I was really open to the idea of healing, no matter how uncomfortable it felt.
When the two weeks ended, I went back home feeling like a new person. However, a year later (2018), I once again found myself feeling emotionally weak. This time, I was triggered by a man who had followed me to my car after church. Imagine! He didn’t respect my boundaries or the fact that I didn’t want to talk to him.
I was so shaken and scared after that experience. A week later, I decided to contact the psychologist I was seeing at Riverfield Lodge. We made an appointment which was scheduled for 45 minutes. The first session went well. I told her about the man who followed me after church and the feelings that that experience brought up. That whole encounter took me back to the night that I was raped, and it made me feel powerless. My therapist listened attentively as I spoke, without any interruption.
Dealing with emotional pain
The session ended and we made another appointment for the following week (same day, same time). Friday came and off I went to my second session. What I thought would be another therapy session, ended up becoming a crying fest. I cried so much as I thought about the rape; I didn’t deserve to be raped. No one deserves to go through what I had gone through. I cried again as I thought about how lonely and isolating the healing journey had been. I didn’t understand why I had to go through such emotional trauma all alone.
While I’ve had very supportive friends and family around me, their presence didn’t make the process of healing any easier because some of them – good intentions at all – just didn’t have the capacity to understand or deal with what I was going through.
I am grateful that I was I’ve been able to see my therapist consistently for more than a year. I’ve also been fortunate enough to find a therapist that I connect with, one who gets me and now understands me. The journey hasn’t been easy because it has required that I deal with uncomfortable and painful memories. Despite all the challenges that sometimes come with vulnerability, I wouldn’t have things any other way.
Living my truth
Therapy has been a very big part of my healing and has also uncovered different layers of who I am. The process has not only allowed me to deal with emotional trauma, but has also introduced me to who I really am as a person.
I can’t say I always enjoy sitting on that couch and talking about my different life experiences. But I am certainly thankful that no matter how overwhelming and hard things get, I am always determined to speak my truth. This truth that can sometimes be hard to acknowledge and accept, is the same truth that liberates us. If you’re considering seeing a therapist, I encourage you to do so.
Remember, healing is a process. Be gentle and patient with yourself. You are healing.