Facing My Greatest Fear During Quarantine: My Trauma by Riv Lobban

Facing My Greatest Fear During Quarantine: My Trauma
by Riv Lobban

CW: This essay discusses an abusive family situation, assault and maybe upsetting to some readers.

Running. That’s all I have been doing the past six months, simply running from something.

I had just moved into my new dorm two days before the announcement that canceled classes. Within hours, classes for the rest of the week were canceled,but it hardly mattered because it was a Thursday. We thought it would end there, but all of our inboxes were flooded with new messages of the administration caught in a bewildering spiral of changing tactics and plans-of-action. The average person did not know what was really going on, only that there were 100 versions of the truth and counting. The groupchat for the Black students at my university made more sense of what was happening, and everything was just gossip, like normal.

Until one message about student housing closing their buildings came into the chat and destroyed me.

My heart crashed into my stomach. My breathing became irregular. My brain fell apart at the idea that I would I have no place to stay. Where I used to live housed many of my abusers in one close, intimate space; there was nothing in me that wanted to go back. The world would have to end first.

After reporting it to proper authorities, the counselors, and checking in with my RA, I went over to the center of student housing to advocate for myself. I was interrupted with a stale, standard response that explained information I had already heard ten times that day. No matter my passion or the conviction in my voice, I felt like I was only just another number to them. It made me rethink the amount of student loan debt I signed my soul away to just in the name of going to a university that claims to care about me.

Quarantine was the last thing I needed. No home, no biological family support, always on the run from my past. To be forced into staying into a cramped closet of a dorm room, with a front row seat to the construction on the South green of my campus, is nothing short of a nails-grating-on-the-chalkboard nightmare. Even worse is being away from my friends, chosen family, and the support system I created since becoming a college student.

And for someone who has C-PTSD, it’s worse on so many levels.

The idea that Black girls’ anxiety is only in our heads and that we are overreacting is not just invalidating, but deadly to our health. Growing up in an unstable environment makes me hypervigilant of my surroundings 24/7. I have to teach myself to feel safe, while telling my anxiety that not every fear is correlated to a real and present danger. With COVID-19 causing mass panic across the world, it brings back memories of my dad projecting his fears and paranoia onto me in constant waves of violence or emotional abandonment. Even now, while writing this, my mind flashes back to him isolating me for my “protection” only to become a worse protector and source of physical assault and emotional abuse. I felt increasingly unsafe around him as I got older. Cutting him out of my life with new boundaries was the hardest thing I had to do since my Mom died.

The idea that Black girls’ anxiety is only in our heads and that we are overreacting is not just invalidating, but deadly to our health

However, it didn’t rid me of the trauma and the pain.

Classes are shut down. The dance studio, my church, is closed. Not many people I know and care about are within walking distance. There is nothing to really take me out of my mind.

And when your mind is ruled by C-PTSD, it’s like a horror house, with every door leading to something scarier than the last.Having C-PTSD gives birth to my anxiety, depression, and adjustment disorder. So often, the way I deal with any one of them is through addictive behaviors, as a means of distractive coping mechanisms. Having all four is like dealing with four bad family members inside your head all the time, with C-PTSD as the main cause of the headache.

I tried many things as a distraction. From marathoning old shows from my childhood, to eating food, especially sweets, and all the way to watching pornography. I even started using dating apps, and that was something I would have never used when there where people literally living across from me.

None of those strategies effectively worked. After doing any of those things, I felt emptier and deeper in my sadness. The memories would always resurface, be it being sexually assaulted, being chased, being the victim of violence caused by my dad, or abandoned by every person I have ever come to care about. Or the memory of being bullied by girls who hated me for my skin, my hair, and any talents I had, who saw me as a bad person because I was comparatively lighter-skinned, came from a home that was “good,” and was an only child. Or feeling like I was never good enough for people to treat me right or give me bare minimum human decency in any type of relationship. And most recently, coming to terms with questioning my sexuality, parts of me that were hidden in secret, while I still espoused my “Christianly,” homophobic attitudes in public for most of my life. Somewhere after leaving behind my old life, and somewhere before creating a new path for myself, I stopped running from my dad and the past.

Somewhere after leaving behind my old life, and somewhere before creating a new path for myself, I stopped running…

If anything, I have been frantically escaping how everything has affected my body, my mind, and my present.

I could have all the Tinder or OKCupid matches from here to Shanghai. I could live in the best apartment or dorm on campus with A/C, full-sized bed, and a kitchen that is constantly made unkempt by messy roommates. Mass loads of friends, lovers, or mentors who support me can do everything in their power to show their love for me, but if I always further isolate myself then nothing is ever going to shift in my favor. The answer to dealing with my trauma was first leaving the environment and the people who caused those feelings within me.

Now, I must process what happened and begin healing in micro-sized amounts.

My ex-boyfriend tried to make me believe that passive acceptance of my morbid circumstances is all that I can do. He tried convincing me that no one would think I was worth standing by as I dealt with the struggles of my mental health and trauma, not even the ones closest to me. We both had our own ugly histories to deal with, but in the end he wanted to surrender to his self-hatred and project it onto to me based on his own insecurities. If there is one thing I am grateful for, it’s that I did not surrender to it. I cannot change that my dad, my ex, and other abusers projected their demons onto me through violence. I, however, can decide that it will longer hold me back from confronting my own demons with curiosity and compassion. I can decide to sit with them in peace knowing that they are only parts of me. I can be at the center of the light and the dark of my being while being at peace with myself. That is possible. That is and forever will be my goal for each day, for the rest of my life.

I, however, can decide that it will longer hold me back from confronting my own demons with curiosity and compassion.

I have learned so far in this quarantine that it’s okay to face those ugly, dark things then recognize there is good in them. My past shaped me into the strong, awesome, resilient- not to mention powerful- goddess that I know myself to be. I am an abuse/sexual assault/domestic violence survivor. I knew what it meant to have older men prey on me and I still found a way out of it, whether I had help or not. Being suicidal and being rejected by my own dad should have destroyed me, and yet I am still breathing, still writing the continuation of my story. I have carried groceries over a mile, in the rain, when I did not have enough money for an Uber. Grocery shopping, budgeting, and keeping myself fed while living alone has become second-nature for me. I have moved six (about to be seven) times since May, while still going to university, so I am honestly a professional.

Plus, I am a Black Lives Matter, Trans/ENBY/GNC-loving, intersectional, questioning/queer feminist and I love it. Standing in solidarity with others who need it- which is all of us- is one of the most important things I can do as a person. (Plus figuring out gender/sexuality/gender expression isn’t inherently straight and cisgender.) There are some lovely people out there who are coloring up the world in such a lovely way. And I can’t contain myself, it feels good to say that I find girls and non-binary people super attractive. Like seriously, I am fan-girling right now.

You awesome readers can DM me on IG, Tik-Tok, or Snapchat (writqueen). We’re going to need some support while we grow in this quarantine; it’s all about making sure no one is left behind. As long as you are respectful and have a growth-mindset, I am down. Plus, Lindsey and the rest of the Teen Advisory Board team are great when it comes to being lovely human beings. Oh, and any donations are helpful to the community of me (yup, just shooting my shot). Take care of yourself today and every day! 

Editor’s note: You deserve safety! If you or someone you know is being abused or assaulted, please reach out to an organization like The Hotline or call at 1-800-799-7233.

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