024: King of Pain

Content Warning: This post contains information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to some survivors.

"King of Pain," Jake Goldblum

Images used to flash in my head. The flashes started when I was about 12. At first they were hard to make out and I didn’t think much of them. As the years wore on, the flashes became more and more like moments, like memories. I never knew what was real or what I was imagining.

I have had night terrors for about the same amount of time. It’s rare that I get a good night’s sleep. The strange thing about these restless nights was that I never remembered any dreams.

Ever. I always just shot awake, with my heart pounding, sweating profusely.

Around my sophomore year of college I began thinking more about these experiences. I began to let myself sit with these flashes rather than blink them away and chalk it up to being tired. I began sitting awake and trying as hard as I could to understand why I could never sleep. Then one day it occurred to me. I had been an RA for about a year, and had a little training in trauma and I realized things were triggering these flashes. I also realized I kept reliving my experience in my dreams, then immediately repressed them. I had been sexual abused as a child. And I was trying to deny it by repressing it and pushing it away. 

It happened over the course of a couple years between the ages of 6-8 and the perpetrator was a family friend, who, as is often the case, was trusted. I never really understood what was happening and always remembered feeling ashamed and confused. I remember being told to not tell anyone or else I would be in trouble. Overall, I felt powerless, disenfranchised, and a prisoner in my own head. 

As I grew older, I started to cope with the pain and loss of agency by turning to alcohol and drugs to escape. I was hesitant to ever allow anyone else to get close to me and caused so much pain to others because of my inability to allow intimacy. 

Then I met a friend who loved me for me. Who was there for me unconditionally. Who showed me he would never abandon me. Who helped me process my experience and ultimately get better. I started seeking support, and help in the form of counseling and support groups. I grew to learn how to love again, or for the first time. I learned that I didn’t want to continue this cycle of hurt and that I wanted to be someone who could quell pain not cause it. 

The song “King of Pain” by the Police has always resonated with me. I always thought I connected with the idea that I would always be pained. That I would always be held captive by my past. Then due to the love and support of the amazing people in my life, I realized I connected with it because I am the king of my pain. I don’t have those flashes anymore. I sleep much better than I did. It is still a work in progress and always will be.

But I took back my agency. I took back my choice. I decide where I go from here, not my past. Now I am a person who refuses to cause pain. I’ve done too much damage and I refuse to put others through what I’ve been through. I’ve taken back what’s mine. I’ve taken back my future and hope to give that gift to many others moving forward.


About the art:

When I went to reach out to Jake to have him share his story with us, I knew he had shared a previous account on the same topic. He actually sent his story along as I was reaching out to him! Talk about proactive!

Jake often uses his voice in online spaces to advocate for men to consider their privilege and impact on society in very constructive ways, which I admire because I push myself to do the same. Which is why I am glad that he chose to share this account with us. It's a vulnerable look into how men carry the shame of sexual violence. Our society often forces men to suppress any and all forms of emotion that aren't seen as macho. And when men have suffered some form of trauma, repressing that emotion can lead to a terrible sense of worth.

The quote I used for Jake's piece is directly lifted from the song he references in his story, "King of Pain," by the Police. The song is very melancholic, but oddly affirming in many ways. So I can see why Jake has such an attachment to the song. I tried to utilize a line that gave the feeling that even though Jake has experienced this trauma, it isn't necessarily going to go away, but he is the king over HIS pain. Just as he suggests in his story.

Trauma does have an exorbitant amount of power over us, it can be crippling. But when we make an attempt to reign over the trauma, over the pain, we can become the king of our pain.

Thank you, Jake. You are a survivor.
I can't wait to work more with you.