I was attacked in my home. And it’s instant desecration. Your spaces aren’t yours anymore. They belong to terrible memories. That’s the room he attacked me in. That’s the room he went to next. The moments of terror overtake years of good memories.
Immediately after my attack, I had to deal with the splinters of my door, held together with duct tape. A friend came and put plywood over it. I thought, “How many times will my door be plywood in October?” And I went full Walking Dead with it. I got out black spray paint out and wrote, “Don’t open. Dead inside.”
Don’t open. Dead inside. Like me. It was a bitter joke because I knew it was a warning about me, too, the traumatized zombie woman.
I panic moved next. I rented a house and moved everything as quickly as I could. I had the house repaired and put on the market, and I waited. Despite the seller’s market, it did not sell. (And to be honest, I had an awful realtor.) And I realized I should never have moved in the first place and that I would rather live in the site of my trauma than have a careless realtor make a dime off of me.
Since then, I have begun the process of making the space new with my husband. We began small. My kids’ rooms were painted a blah-sell-my-house creamy beige by an inexperienced crew. We set about adding a nebula mural to my daughter’s wall, giving my rainbow girl the stars.
And we updated a bathroom, then my office, the living room, the boys’ bedrooms, my bedroom, and now the laundry room. We’re about halfway there. Every wall we sand, every room we change, erases a bit of the violation. I have reclaimed rooms inch by inch, until there’s no surface left that my attacker could have touched, at any point in our relationship.
Remodeling the house has rebuilt me, too, bit by bit. And it’s made my space feel like mine again. If you’re not married to a DIY god or goddess, then there are small changes you can make, too. Rearrange the furniture. Change up bedding, art, and pillows.
I don’t think much of anything I own is the same. Even the clothes I owned needed to go because they belonged to a woman who died during my attack. Someone else, the new me, came out on the other side. And she didn’t wear pink or flowers. She didn’t give a damn about shoes or purses. And that extends to everything in the house.
Be kind to yourself after an attack, but don’t be afraid to change things when your memories are on a loop. Maybe you can’t fix your memories, but you don’t have to live in the same space, no matter where your mind is. You might find that your surroundings impact your thoughts and that your thoughts drift to trauma less when you’ve changed up your setting.