Monday, May 5, 2014

Fishing with the guys. Part I. To feel included

I just got back from a week long camping/fishing excursion with BJ, Brad, and Ben. I wrote about my desire to go, and the excitement of going last month.

I was going to tell you all about the fishing and the grand adventure, but I'm going to start with the therapeutic part of the trip.

Our first night, we set up camp and then went fishing. We were on the river until 9, then Brad made dinner, and we (eventually) went to bed. We'd arranged the cots so that BJ was next to me and between me and Ben and Brad. I was in the corner, because that's where I felt safest.

Everyone else went to sleep. I did not. I heard them breathing deeply, snoring slightly. I heard them all get up to pee. I listened to the frogs. I listened to the other critters scampering around the campsite. About the time the frogs stopped and the birds started, I fell asleep. About an hour after that, the sun came up. I stayed and tried to sleep a bit longer, but it didn't work out as well as I would have liked...

We spent all day fishing, and the next night tried sleeping again with no luck.
(I wasn't sleeping, because every time one of them moved or breathed, my entire body would tense up. Every time I started to fall asleep, my brain would say, "WE'RE NOT SAFE! WAKE UP!" and I would be wide awake again.)

We got up and spent the morning fishing, but the sun was intense, and I was tired. I tried to rest, but the hyper-vigilance that kept me up at night wouldn't let me rest during the day either.

Something else started going screwy with my brain too. I was sure they didn't want me there. I was taking all the good fishing spots, and I was in the way. I'm aware that lack of sleep makes me emotionally vulnerable, but it is REALLY hard to enjoy fishing when you believe you don't deserve to be on the water, taking up space, and nobody wants you. I was doing everything I could to fight the crazy thoughts, but I was losing.

In the tentative plans for the trip, we had talked about going to a play in town that evening, and maybe staying in a hotel that night. None of us were super excited about going to the play. (There were fish down there, and no one had caught enough yet!) BJ suggested we still break camp and go into town to get a hotel room.  His reason being that he wanted me to get sleep before the next day of adventures.

I was uncomfortable. I had made grand plans to take care of myself, but when it came right down to it... I didn't want to inconvenience anyone. I didn't want to talk about me. I didn't want them to do things for me or to help me.

We sat and talked for forty-five minutes. There was only one room available at the only hotel in town. While I think being in a bed would have helped - being in a bed in a room with two men seemed to be causing as much anxiety as being in the tent.  Ben and Brad were trying to be helpful to me, but I wasn't expressing myself well... I told them that I wasn't comfortable with all of the sounds, and although I knew I was safe, I was having a hard time feeling safe around them because they were men, but I didn't want them to feel bad...

Finally, BJ just said, "Jen was violently raped in her sleep. She has a hard time feeling safe when she's starting to fall asleep because it takes her right back to what happened back then."

Instantly... they said, "You guys will go into town and sleep in the hotel. We'll stay here and camp. We'll come pick you up in the morning. No big deal."

I cried. Brad gave me a hug and apologized for not being more sensitive. I tried to explain to him that wasn't what I was feeling. They were all great, but I didn't want to even be worrying about it. I felt like a failure that I wasn't sticking it out. I wasn't strong enough, and I couldn't handle camping. I also felt sad, because I was enjoying being there... and it sucks that something that happened fifteen years ago is still fucking with my life.

We got back to fishing. I finally caught one fish. Brad thanked me for taking care of myself. Ben said he was sorry that I had ever been through such fucky shit. (And I got to use my favorite joke, "Or just really shitty fucking.") He laughed, and then said he felt bad for laughing. We ate dinner after dark, and cleaned up what we could before we left Brad to do the dishes and Ben drove us into town.

I took a shower, and I slept.

They came and picked us up and we went fishing. Nobody treated me with kid gloves. They didn't treat me any different at all. I still felt like I belonged, and I was part of the group. I REALLY appreciated that Ben was already planning next year's adventure, and maybe the year after that. 

As we said goodbye, Ben gave me a hug and told me he was really glad I had come... and that he was looking forward to our next grand adventure. Brad said he was really glad I was there, and we'd get together again soon.

I cried again. I had honestly thought they wouldn't want me to come back, because it was such a burden to have to deal with me and all my problems.
The four of us on the Yakima River.

It was really nice to spend time with guys that were just nice, normal guys. And to feel included, even though I'm a girl. Even though I have issues. Even though I was once raped, and I still have to deal with side effects of that. Words just can't quite describe how loved I feel, and how much safer the world feels today.

1 comment:

  1. I've been reading your blog for quite a while now and was a little worried on your behalf when you mentioned the fishing trip a while ago. I'm glad it all went well and that they were supportive without making you feel awkward or a burden! I have trouble sleeping myself in such situations too. A few years ago, I went to a hostel with a group of friends and we did have a separate bedrooms for women and men but the toilets were far away and did not even all have locks! So visiting them in the middle of the night with unknown people still awake and loud in the men's bedrooms was pretty frighting. Fortunately nothing happened but it still was quite an unsettling experience.

    I hope you continue blogging. Your journey, though individual, gives a voice to others on similar ones, whether it is about struggles with religion, eating disorders or PTSD. I for one can take solace from knowing I am not alone in my feelings and similar difficulties in life.