On Sleep: A Sexual Assault Survivor’s Daily Rituals with PTSD

Trigger warning: This article contains mention of rape, which could be triggering for survivors. 

“You’re constantly scratching yourself when you’re asleep,” my friend says after the nth night she spends at my place. “Your toes curl up and your eyes flutter, like you’re having some sort of nightmare all night.”

I end the day with a sore back and a heavy heart. Fatigue sits on me like a boulder, my aching limbs too exhausted to carry the weight any longer. “I think I’m going to go to sleep. No, I’m not really hungry,” I tell my roommate.

This is the third night I’ve skipped dinner.

“I shut my eyes and the world drops dead,” Plath once wrote. Except that it doesn’t. I’m still conscious of everything that’s happening around me. I can hear the whispers around me, some real and some from my imagination.

Vivid lights flash before my eyes as my sleep paralysis demon makes his daily appearance.

“Hello, old friend.”

I am no longer scared of it. We keep each other company in the depths of the night as the sounds outside pass us by; I lay there paralysed, yet unafraid. It’s an everyday affair now. He’s just an old friend paying a visit.

The demon seeps back into the shadows and there’s a knock on my door. The same knock I anticipate with mind numbing anxiety every night. The room seems to be empty. I wonder where my roommate keeps disappearing.

Also read: But Why Was She Wearing That?

He enters with a smile on his face. “It’s your fault because you let him into your room,” the words keep playing in my head over and over until he pushes me down and uses me.

I don’t fight it anymore. I don’t beg for him to stop anymore. I just lay there, numb and hollow. “It’ll be over in a minute,” I keep repeating his line in my head until he decides that he is finished with me. I quiver in pain and exhaustion. My beautiful linen sheets are soaked with tears and blood.

He lets go of me now. “Just one thing,” he says, without fail every night. “You have to be quiet about this.”

He pulls out the weapon from his back pocket as he aims to shoot the very heart he breaks every night. I don’t really believe in god but I chant a quick prayer for my family and wish them safety and health. In the midst of my desperate pleas to god, I hear the trigger go off and the bullet slice through the same chest that drops at his sight every time I see him in my dreams. A loud noise accompanies it, but I am quite deaf to the sound of violence after it having become a daily ritual now.

I wake and see the day break. It’s time for another 24 hours. I prepare my farce and practice a smile on my face, hoping with all my faith that the pain does not seep through today. The boulder on my back feels heavier than it was the night before, but I welcome it in a masochistic way – perhaps with the goal of making the day easier.

Auntora Mitra is a survivor who has immense courage in her convictions when it comes to feminism, LGBTQIA+ rights, mental health awareness and body positivity. She aspires to write as a form of protest and activism.

Featured image credit: Pexels/Pixabay