Recently, I stayed at a friend’s house. And every night it felt as if the door to the bedroom I was in was mocking me. As I laid in bed, I was terrified of what was on the other side. Not because I did not trust the people in that house, but because the trauma from the sexual abuse I’ve been through told me I wasn’t really safe. The way I saw it was that the door was the entry point for someone to come in and hurt me — just like in the place I should call home.
The hardest part is that this happens every time I sleep somewhere that’s not my home. Even each time I move back to my college dorm, I have the same fear of the door to my room, especially because I don’t have a roommate. So, the question is, “Do I just not sleep anywhere but home? Or do I fight through the fear?
I know that I am not the only one who deals with the fear of the bedroom door after sexual abuse. But we must not let this fear control us. Sometimes it can feel as though there’s no way to cope — and it’s okay to feel this way. Though this is not a ‘one solution fits all’ problem, I would like to share three things that help me deal with this fear.
1. Voice your fear.
When it comes to fear, it tends to build when it’s inside our heads. Voicing your fear releases its power and allows us to normalize the situation. Allow yourself to tell someone you trust about what is going on. This will help you not have to carry the weight on your own. It’s so scary to be vulnerable about your fear, but being able to process it makes the fear feel less big and real.
2. Be kind to yourself.
If the fear already consumes you and you’re beating yourself up over it, then your anxiety and frustration are only going to increase. Instead, remind yourself that you have been through trauma and though this is difficult, it’s still normal. Help yourself see that you are not still in that abusive situation. It is okay to have fears, and the fact that you are working through them is amazing.
3. Be thoughtful about what you are taking in before bed.
Personally, there was one night that I had shared my story with people before bed. That made me more anxious. However, the other nights, my friend and I had talked about how we saw God that day, so I was more at peace. Your thoughts and ability to rationalize things as you fall asleep and during the night are going to depend on where your mind is before you fall asleep. So whatever it is for you, allowing your mind to be in a peaceful place before bed is going to help ease your anxiety.
These are just a few small ways to cope with the anxiety of the bedroom door in a new environment after sexual abuse. As a survivor, I can say that as time goes on, it is liberating to watch yourself overcome the fears that trauma instilled in you. Though seemingly simple tasks such as staying the night somewhere else may be daunting, take heart in knowing you are not alone and there are ways to get through it.