My dog loves sticks.
It’s her thing. For Poppy any stick in the garden is fair game and way more fun than balls or expensive Kongs. Sticks can be chewed, dragged into the house and loved. I wish you could see her face when she brings me a new stick – she absolutely beams with pride. I use the word ‘stick’ but you must understand that most of the time, they are not ‘sticks’ but rather ‘branches’ or small trees.
This week, Poppy and I have been given a video this week to help us master basic training commands. It is absolutely what I needed. The video is of Daniel and his dog Hera. The idea is to use it to see his body language and the commands clearly as he works through the basics with Hera.
Being a theatre girl, I love it! My brain finally understands that dog training is about cues. Am I giving Poppy the right cues (both verbal and nonverbal) to help her understand what I’m asking? The truth is that most of the time I don’t. I think I am, but when I compare my own actions to Daniel’s I have a lot of work to do! And a vocabulary to build!
Dog training is actually about human training. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to work it out!
Still, in the video you can see Daniel throwing a ball for Hera and her returning it calmly and dropping it at his feet. In my world, I throw the ball for Pops and she fetches the ball but her return to me is like an express train on full speed. My brain is asking me whether I really want to stand there and get mowed down by Poppy returning? It makes my heart laugh out loud. I really need to work on the ‘calm’ command with her! Let’s just say: “Work in Progress. And watch this space!”
Emotionally this week has been rough and triggering. I received an unexpected phone call from a stranger in crisis mode late one afternoon. No, flat out panic. His friend had just been raped and he was looking for me to help. Without allowing me a word in, he barreled out hugely personal and triggering information about his friend’s condition.
I still don’t know where he got my phone number from and why he would imagine I could have helped in that moment. I am not a crisis facility. The police and medical fraternity are. And it is important for me to clarify this here. In the telling here of my own rape trauma, I am not stepping up to say: ‘phone me when you’ve been raped – I can help’. There is no way in the world that I am: medically trained to deal with ground zero in someone else’s trauma and absolutely there is no way I would assume that because I’ve been through it, I can speak to somebody else’s journey!
In my own writing, healing and sharing of my story, I’m rather saying ‘Look here I am. They did not win. Rape does not define who I am now or who I will become in the future.’ It is an important distinction for me to make here.
Here is what I do hope: that in the sharing of my story about Poppy and I, other survivors will see that this is a journey and that it is possible to step back into the light. That there are remarkable organizations out there who are equipped to deal with rape crisis. And I when I did finally get a chance to speak back on that phone call, I did direct him to the Jes Foord Foundation. It was all I could do. And it was more than has ever been asked of me on my journey so far.
I’m not going to put myself on the front line to step up for others on day one of their trauma. You can appreciate how triggering it is for PTSD survivors to do this. I need to protect myself and heal myself first. And I suspect that because it is a life long journey, I will never be able be on the battleground for others. I will step up however to say this: Get the medical help you need. Start the process of healing when you are ready. Find people to support you and love you along the way. Find people you can trust. Know that although you will never be the same person again, healing is possible.”
One day I hope that she reads this.
I curled up in my bed and sobbed for a long time after that call.
Asking myself why the madness continues.
In my own journey forward, it has been important for me to be involved with helping others where I can – fundraising for the Jes Foord Foundation, or helping with a party for child survivors or packing a handbag with toiletries that a survivor will need after her forensic exam. I realize that these are small things in a world that is still very broken. But it has been important for me to do something, to counteract the madness out there, with a little kindness and love. It is the only antidote I have.
If everyone does something small we can collectively make an impact. It’s the only way. And here is what I do know: I can’t do this alone. The Jes Foord Foundation can’t do this alone. The police can’t do this alone.
The impact of all of us standing up might not be on day one or ground zero of somebody’s trauma but it will make a difference in the long run. Get up and do something. Just one thing. And make it kind.
I need to believe in that kindness and love will always conquer the darkness.
I have looked that darkness in the eyes and I don’t want to live there.
And Poppy doesn’t either.
My woof climbed under my duvet with me as the rain pelted down outside and I sobbed.
Here is what Poppy’s heart space told me: I don’t have to fix the world. I have to step up and protect me. It’s enough. My story back to light is enough. No apologies needed.
And “please mom can we go fetch another stick now that you’ve stopped crying?”