The first of October

Today I stand in front of the mirror of the ladies’ toilet at work, and I stare at the face I see. This week, this month, I don’t recognise it as my own. The hair is the same blonde mess it always is; my face is still carefully painted on. But that hair and face and smile is who I am for eleven months of each year. Now it is the first day of October, and I am the girl I was 6 years ago.

I’m sitting on the toilet having a wee. As I feel the liquid trickle out, I am picturing the fading scars inside me, those pock marks and lines and swells that must linger on my flesh. They will be less obvious than they were last October. But they’re still there.

I’m sitting at my desk thinking about the supermarket. Last week I pushed a trolley down the table sauces aisle, gripping the handle tightly, pleading with myself not to lose it. I closed my eyes, took deep breaths, counted to ten. Rushing past the broccoli and the toothpaste and the liquid detergent, I smiled blandly at the checkout girl and made it to my car, breath ragged. My hands were shaking so much I knew I couldn’t drive home. So I sat outside and tried to calm down by appealing to nicotine. I sat and smoked a rare cigarette, and miraculously it worked. The anxiety attack I had expected to arrive full tilt was held back, and I was pleased about that.

And yet, the panic is still there, threatening me. Six years have gone by and, these days, the trauma of the past is lying just slightly out of reach. I know I should be proud that it does not dominate me any more. But instead I feel it hovering out of sight, threatening this life I have painstakingly built, and I know I have only a slender white and gold cylinder, leaving a foul taste in my mouth, to help keep it at bay.

This is the confirmation I dread every year. It is the first of October, and I’m still not fine.

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  1. #1 by C on October 17, 2012 - 11:05 pm

    Liza,

    It’s hard. I don’t think it ever totally goes away.
    For me there are two dates – May 5th, the first time it happened, and September 11th, the day it finally stopped. There are many other dates in between, but on both of those I have what I used to call a “dark day”. Now I call them my “light days”….because now on those dates, I look at what I wrote in my journal on that date the previous year, and I write a new entry about how things have changed, how I’ve healed a little bit more, how something that was too scary a year ago can be dealt with a little better now.

    But still.
    For me, it’s been 11 years and I’m still not fine.

  2. #2 by ivebeenstrippedbythis on October 31, 2012 - 1:41 pm

    I have 2 dates as well: the 1st has somehow become my ‘taking stock’ day; and the 29th is my rapeiversary. At the moment I’m struggling with progress being slow, year on year, but I hope that soon they’ll become my ‘light days’ too. Lovely idea! Fingers crossed for 2013. You’re right – we’re never fine, but each year we’re a little bit stronger.

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