That's the only way I can explain it. It wasn't something I pushed myself to do. I knew better than to put any pressure on myself over it. It's been a long road that lead me on a 15 year journey (earlier in the week I thought it was 14 until I remembered that it's now 2011). Until about 2 years ago, I didn't even know the road existed.
While giving my sister a tour of my gym on Sunday, I stood on the deck of an indoor pool and for the first time in 15 years, was completely calm. With no flashbacks or any signs of the post-traumatic stress disorder I had been diagnosed with 2 years ago, I stood there and breathed in the smell of chlorine that I've missed so much.
Back in high school I was a swimmer, lifeguard, and swimming instructor at an indoor pool. That place was my second home and my sanctuary. I was there so much that my bosses joked with me that I should have my mail sent there. I had the best bosses in the world and worked with my friends. We referred to ourselves as a family.
But eventually it was time for some of us to move on and new guards were brought in. And that's when it all went downhill. One of them seemed to be on a mission to wreak as much havoc as possible, doing things he knew would upset our bosses, escalating the situation each time. And then one day he crossed a line that would send me into a serious tailspin.
He assaulted me. While it wasn't nearly as brutal as what so many other women out there have faced, it left a mark- mostly in the form of scrapes on my legs from being pushed down on the deck and dragged around, bruises on my hip and side from being thrown into a set of metal bleachers, and his hand print around my biceps. It took a month for the bruises to fade, which seemed like forever.
Despite being terrified of every guy on the planet, I started as a student trainer for the football team 2 weeks later. It was a Godsend. The kindness and thoughtfulness I was was shown by those guys made a deep impression. It was an experience that I really needed, and not a moment too soon. That's the only part of my senior year of high school that I remember.
I quit the swim team. I told everyone that it was because of the pain in my knees, but it was actually the flashbacks I'd have when I was there that I couldn't handle. I know that I also trained the basketball and soccer teams, but I have no memory of it. Apparently at one point I had a boyfriend named Nate. I think he played soccer and had dark hair, but that's about all I could tell you about him or our relationship. Unfortunately I had another boyfriend at the end of the school year that I wish I could say that I don't remember. Heh.
There were years of looking over my shoulder everywhere I went, afraid that he'd jump out of nowhere and attack me again, irrational as it was. Twice I was sure that I saw him and had some serious panic attacks, despite being hours from where I grew up. I lived with a lot of fear for a long, long time.
I didn't seek help because it honestly never occurred to me that it was something that a person could get past. I assumed that that's just what life was after something like that. Eventually getting diagnosed with PTSD was somewhat of a relief because it meant that it was something that I could work through. I worked through most of it in therapy, but I knew that the rest would come in time, if ever. My Body Combat (cardio kickboxing) classes were a big help too. I've found them incredibly empowering and you can guess who my target was when I started.
A few weeks ago I realized that he was no longer my "target" in class. It was now just a faceless man in front of me (With the exception of the occasional member of the Baltimore Ravens or Detroit Redwings. Ahem.). I didn't need to fight him anymore.
I always knew that the day that I could go out on an indoor pool deck like nothing ever happened, that would be it. That would mean it was over. I never put a timetable on it. I figured that it would happen whenever the stars aligned and the time was right. On Sunday afternoon, I knew that the time had come.
Last night I swam laps for the first time since high school. That 3 day wait seemed to take forever. No fear, no anxiety, no flashbacks. It wasn't about trying to prove anything or being defiant. It was just me and the water, getting reacquainted. It felt like home.
During the meditation at the end of my Body Flow (yoga/tai chi/pilates) class this morning, I envisioned myself closing a door and walking away. Nothing dramatic or highly celebratory. I just peacefully walked away. It was time.
*Please, please, please- if you have ever been the victim of a violent crime, I beg you to go and talk to a professional therapist. I can't promise you that it'll be like nothing ever happened, but with work and time life can be so much better. I'm living proof.