Before you read:
I need you to know that this post comes with a trigger warning.
If you’re already feeling a little vulnerable and raw today then go ahead and star/save/bookmark this post and circle back. Because it IS important that we talk about these things, you can’t heal what you don’t acknowledge. But I want you to read this when your heart is ready.
Still with me?
Good, let’s do this.
I want to begin by saying I LOVE The Morning Show. It’s got brilliant writing and outstanding acting. Seriously, it’s phenomenal, you are emotionally invested in every character and the show has you riveted until the very last scene.
Anyway, I was watching The Morning Show over the holidays and it triggered me profoundly. As I’m sure it triggered many other women as well. Specifically, it was episode 8 where they showed a remarkably honest portrayal of sexual assault in all its terrible detail. And for that…I applaud them. It’s the first time I’ve seen a show detail both perspectives and the fallout of that experience.
But what I wasn’t ready for was how this scene would so clearly echo my own experience. My own personal story. Hmm, how do I say this, it basically sucker punched me in the emotional fortress I built in the sub-basement of my soul.
That’s the only way I can think of to describe that trigger in words and it somehow still doesn’t do it justice. Perhaps I should start by telling you what happened.
My story took place at the end of September, 2001 just as I was wrapping up an adventurous and liberating year abroad, travelling alone across Australia and South East Asia. I was super excited to be in Koh Phangan for the infamous and fabled full moon beach party.
And it was everything I’d imagined. A clear sky full of stars and a brilliantly bright moon. Hundreds of people from all around the world were partying barefoot on the beach. The drink de jour was ‘vodka red bulls’ which felt like both a privilege and a risk because red bull was still illegal in most of the world at that time. The drinks were served in big plastic sand buckets, the kind that you see kids using on the beach. They’d pour in the vodka, the red bull, and a smattering of straws and you were off to the races.
I giddily sashayed my way to the beach with my new gal pals and I was simply elated to be dancing on the sand in the warm tropical air. You can picture it, right? The smell of frangipani flowers, the thumping beats from the tiki hut DJ, the fresh salty air, and that feeling of the hopefulness and freedom of youth. It all felt so surreal.
I soon locked eyes with this handsome guy across the beach. I’m not even kidding when I say it was a full on Hollywood movie moment….we stared at each other, he slowly moved closer through the crowd, we didn’t break eye contact the whole time, until suddenly, magically, he was in front of me. He coyly smiled, placed his hands on my hips and we started swaying together under the light of the moon. I quickly discovered he was Irish and my heart swelled (any man with an accent is my kryptonite). My friend even noticed the instant chemistry and kept checking in with me as we seemed to become more enveloped in each other. I smiled and assured her I was fine…more than fine.
And shortly after that, is when things start getting a little grey..a little foggy.
I remember leaving the party and slowly walking hand-in-hand with him down the beach.
I remember arriving at his coveted beachfront cabin.
I briefly remember being in a shower.
Then it goes from grey to black.
Then I remember sensing I’m in his bed and he’s on top of me.
Then it snaps back to black again.
Then I briefly come to and realize he’s inside of me. But I’m paralyzed. I literally can’t move a single limb of my body.
I can’t speak.
I can’t push him off.
And it snaps back to black again.
Then I remember groggily waking up and wondering where I was. Trying to piece together what happened but struggling to remember much of anything.
I collected my things and slowly managed to make my way down the beach in the early morning sun. When I got to where I was staying, I saw my friend who so lovingly kept an eye on me the night before and her response was exactly what I needed to hear. With relief in her eyes she says ‘Tammy, what happened to you?!’ and I told her “I think I was raped last night. But I’m really tired and just want to sleep.”
When I woke up my pelvis was in pain so my dear friend took me to the pharmacy. This Thai pharmacy was more or less set up like a drive-thru window, which was weird on its own. Even weirder was how I struggled to articulate what it was that I needed since I wasn’t entirely sure what happened. The woman at the pharmacy took one look at me and knew, immediately. As she handed me the medicine I realized I was not the only woman to show up at her window that morning. The whole scene confirmed that I was indeed raped…and likely roofied.
And you know what the bitch of it all is? I still don’t know or remember his name. He stole my virginity for a few moments of HIS pleasure and I don’t even know who he was. I highly doubt he knows my name either. Yet his impression on my soul shaped my life and my relationships for decades to come.
As I look back now, what’s especially wild to me is how I immediately intellectualized it all. When that pharmacist handed me those pills I remember looking down and thinking that I was now ‘1 in 3 women who will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime.’ Hmmph, how about that Faulds?! And because of that I didn’t want to give it any more attention because this wasn’t a rare or special case. Obviously, MANY other women have dealt with it and moved the f*ck on with their lives….and so should I.
And so I did.
Many of my coaching clients say similar things like ‘I don’t want to give this ANY MORE ENERGY.’ They’re exhausted, and I get it. 100%. You don’t want to drudge up the past, or trace those scars. But trying to move forward without healing the past means you’ll eventually get stuck…and may not even realize WHY you’re stuck. Which is why I’m telling you this now.
This experience also forged my mantra of becoming a STRONG woman, how NO ONE would ever do that to me again. Nor would I ever put myself in such a carefree situation. Nope. From that day forward, ‘Control’ would be my middle name and since then I’ve slapped on so much armour around my heart and forged so many shields and swords that I’m ready to go into battle at the drop of an Irish dragon.
And let me tell you, it’s exhausting.
“If we’re gonna heal, let it be glorious.” – Warsan Shire
Because I didn’t heal this (and at the time I honestly didn’t know HOW to heal it) the fear of making sure it never happened again fueled stories of distrust that I generalized to all kinds of situations and relationships. I know this loss has blocked me from experiencing loving and lasting relationships with men these past two decades. It reinforced the story that I had to be in control at all times to be safe.
I’ll say it again, it’s exhausting.
I was a TEXTBOOK reaction to the loss….intellectualizing, keeping busy/avoidance, numbing out with food (even when the tv show triggered me 20 years later, I consumed mountains of chocolate but blamed it on the overindulgence of the holidays). I told myself I had to be strong, and of course, give it time.
It’s been 20 years. Time does not heal.
In speaking to a client recently, I realized that we both used the same language of intense shame, blame, and guilt even though our experiences were vastly different. We’d both been rehearsing stories in our heads and hearts that laid a disproportionate amount of responsibility at our feet.
“You knew better.”
“You put yourself in a bad situation.”
“You should’ve screamed louder.”
We were both our own judge and jury who gave ourselves life sentences for crimes that we didn’t commit!! HOW MESSED UP IS THAT?!
Intangible loss like this strangles our ability to articulate everything we’re feeling. Through this experience I now realize I lost my sense of security and safety, my innocence, and a whole lotta trust both in men, and in myself.
Which is precisely why I had to do the Grief Recovery Method (GRM) on this intangible loss. I realized how I was trying all these years to convince myself that I was fine. I, Tammy Faulds, was 1 in 3 women. Others have suffered much worse, who am I to complain or even share my story 20 years later?! Nope, it was better to be strong, stuff it down, and move the f*ck on.
But doing this grief work with others means I have to complete my own pain. And this was by far one of the biggest rocks in my proverbial backpack.
And it was time to take it out.
I knew it was heavy.
I knew it was hard to hold.
I knew I needed to give it a voice because I certainly felt like I didn’t have one then, or for those 20 years.
So, here we are. I did the GRM first on my mistrust of men as a whole and then on him specifically….’the Irishman’. I shared my journey with one of the women I did my training with who empathetically listened to the pain in my heart and held such sacred space for me.
I unleashed it all. I released the anger, shame, hurt, confusion, guilt, rage, despair, and fear. The medieval walls I built around my heart were no match for the sheer tsunamic force of those buried emotions. I felt immediately better, and I then gave myself permission to lay down my armour and soften into my bleeding heart. I saw that younger version of me who just wanted to be seen and heard and hugged. I honoured her wounds and scars and her toughness and bravery. I cried and cried and then cried some more.
Then I exhaled.
I felt lighter.
I liberated myself.
And woooweee, I have never experienced a ‘grief hangover’ before but ohhh, did I ever with this one.
The story that I always needed to be “strong” makes it hard to reach out and admit when I’m sad, frustrated, disappointed, and angry. But the Universe kept cueing up the reminders (like that powerful scene from The Morning Show, then my grief coaching client) that I needed to untether myself from these men that hurt me. It kept knocking on my door and urging me to use my tools.
So, I heeded that call and:
I reached out to friends instead of isolating.
I owned my truth and shared my story instead of making up stories like ‘Nah, it’s fine, it’ll pass’ and silencing the emotions.
I cried multiple times, triggered by disappointment, despair, unresolved grief, and getting real with myself.
I did the work….the real, hard work and I’m all the better for it.
It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t pretty, but it was most definitely necessary if I wanted to let love in again. To trust fully again. I think the bravest kind of love is a love that embraces even our darkest parts…and it starts with you.
We rise and begin again.
Thank you so much for reading all the way through. Thank you for holding space for my story and allowing me to break my silence. I’m truly grateful for you and I’m grateful for the Grief Recovery Method that gave me the tools to finally unpack and complete the pain I’d been holding onto for 20 years. It’s never too late to heal your heart.
p.s. if my story resonated with you and you’ve realized that you’re carrying some pain from a recent, or long ago, loss…let’s talk. And please forward this email to someone you know who may need to hear these words of support. We’re stronger together.