There was yet another harrowing story in the Seattle Times today about a vile creature with a history of abusing women:
Fortunately this case didn't end the way Richard Speck's attack on a dormitory full of innocent young women ended on July 14, 1966.
Those of us old enough to remember 1966 have been thoroughly terrorized by today's news, despite the happy result of this more-recent monster being arrested before any of the young women were physically harmed. Physically they are OK, but the psychological harm is more insidious, and will take a very long time to heal. In fact, some of these young women will find their personalities permanently altered. They will never feel quite as easy, as free of fear, as relaxed when falling asleep -- they may have nightmares, panic attacks, anxiety for months or years to come. One or two of them may find herself becoming dependent on a drink before bed "just to relax" or longing for a new prescription of sleeping pills long after her doctor thinks she should stop taking them. One or two of them may start curtailing their out-door exercise, especially during the too-dark hours of Pacific Northwest early mornings and late afternoons in the winter months. A couple may find themselves inexplicably binging late at night, unwilling to put the food away and just go to sleep.
Stranger-danger and the fall-out from sexual assault and sexual predation can have life-altering effects on survivors. It raises cortisol and adrenalin levels, it interferes with exercise activities and social activities, it triggers emotional eating, it triggers agoraphobia and other phobias.
How do I know this? Well, in case it isn't obvious, I have first-hand knowledge of the vicious impact of assault on every aspect of mental and physical health.
Diabetes doesn't happen in a vacuum. Some percentage of those obese Type 2's that everyone loves to criticize and disparage are sexual assault survivors who are AFRAID to walk through the gym parking lot after dark, AFRAID to go for a before-work walk or run, AFRAID to go to sleep at night and stay up late binging instead, AFRAID to wear form-fitting workout clothes and lie down on the floor in a mixed-gender yoga class, AFRAID to be physically attractive because of the attention they get from men they don't know -- and feel safer wearing a bit of "body armor" in the form of body fat and loose-fitting, body-covering, layered clothes.
Sometimes counseling helps. Sometimes taking self-defense or martial arts classes helps. Sometimes a support-group helps. Sometimes a course of anti-anxiety medication helps. Sometimes survivors end up outfitting a home gym or investing in a stack of exercise and relaxation DVD's so they can do their exercise in the safety of their home when it's dark out. Sometimes getting a big, protective dog helps. Sometimes buying a weapon and learning how to use it helps. Sometimes the only thing that helps is "Tincture of Time" and a character-building period of mustering up great fortitude and courage.
The last time I was assaulted, I had actually gone to do my evening walk inside a large indoor mall because it was getting dark out and I thought I would be safe inside the mall. Instead, I was assaulted right in the center of the mall, not in the dark parking lot, on the main concourse, with open stores and shoppers all around me! I found myself devastated by the toxic thoughts that "no place is safe" and that "I will never be safe". This event had a distinctly corrosive impact on my diet, exercise, self-care in general and diabetes control for a long time afterwards. Again, diabetes doesn't happen in a vacuum and sexual assault doesn't happen in a vacuum, either. There are no neat silos in our bodies -- stress hormones, insulin, food, exercise, sleep and every other biological process within us happens in concert together. It can be a beautiful symphony or it can be a crashing, screeching cacophony.
Getting support and counseling, doing exercise inside the relative safety of my locked apartment, "Tincture of Time", weaning myself off of emotional eating, improving my blood glucose control (again!) -- all of these things have helped, but it's a long row to hoe -- and this wasn't my first time to get trampled at the rodeo.