I was raped when I was 21 years old while walking to res on campus by a friend and I fell pregnant but I had to abort the baby. I have been suffering from depression and commitment phobia ever-since. I am 29 years old now and ready to mingle again. How do I learn to trust people again and be able to live a life free from this paranoia?
No doubt the rape in itself was a major trauma, but committed by someone you have known as being a friend at the time must have added significantly to the trauma and the emotional aftermath following this experience – especially having conceived in such a manner. Consequently, the abortion, even in the case of a pregnancy resulting from a loving relationship, always has its post-traumatic effects to deal with.
“To enter into a love relationship without the emotional baggage stemming from the past asks for both a definite cognitive and emotional decision to let go of the social and psychological entrapment of the past experience.”
Given this background I can understand why it has taken you years to overcome your anxiety and fears regarding relationships. Perhaps there are still some of these to address. To enter into a love relationship without the emotional baggage stemming from the past asks for both a definite cognitive and emotional decision to let go of the social and psychological entrapment of the past experience. In order to make a new beginning, you have to let go of the past, and even to mark such an ending. You can literally do it by, for example, plant an evergreen flower/tree to remind you of your new beginning (going out with someone) and the specific past that is now the past (rape, abortion, loss) with all its tentacles dead and buried.
To trust again also means to trust yourself that you are indeed ready to move on. Take on this ‘new’ ability that you already have inside you, and give it the chance that it deserves. Accept that you are scared to do so, and admit that it is a definite step into the now of the future that you are taking. Enjoy doing so, and maintain realistic expectations of new friendships – also new bonding that may come your way. Do not forget that small steps are easier to take than loads at a time.
Remember to tap yourself on the shoulder when you realise you indeed have made progress – even if it is little. Progress is progress – it does not matter how many millimeters thereof.
Christa F. De Vries is a Clinical and Forensic Social Worker and Clinical Hypno-Therapist. She has extensive experience and has worked in South Africa and the United Kingdom. She runs psycho-education groups at a Johannesburg hospital and also has her own private practice. She is the author of ‘Ripples on a Global Pond” – Coping with Change when You or Your Family Emigrate.
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