Running From My Ghosts

On rape, PTSD, running, and Halloween.

M. K. Fain
Oct 29 · 3 min read
Photo by ambroo on needpix

This post contains descriptions of rape, abuse, and PTSD. Please be kind to yourself and stop reading if you need to.


I don’t know where I’m running to, I just know that I have to run tonight.

In my mind, I’m not running towards anything — I’m running away, like I wish I did that night and every other night I was with him. I should have run away a long time ago.

I remember just laying there tense and frozen when he climbed on top of me. I was screaming in my head — why didn’t I scream out loud? I had already told him no, was he really going to do this? I could have kicked him or something. Why didn’t I kick him? Part of me wanted to know how far he would really go. We were friends. Friends don’t rape friends. Maybe I let him do it just to see if he really would.

I run faster, sprinting away from the memory as fast as I can. My legs are hurting and I can’t breathe, but I don’t care. I like that it hurts. I turn my music up as I round a corner.

It’s three days before Halloween, October 28th, and the entire Texas suburb has their best scary decor on display. Ghosts hang from palm trees, Jack’O’Laterns scowl at me from orange-lit porches, and skeletons climb out of perfectly manicured lawns.

The theme of death feels appropriate as I run, wishing I was dead. Or maybe wishing he was dead. I’m not sure which. Maybe I’m just haunted.

My therapist said I have PTSD, which wasn’t really a surprise to anyone. It’s been better in the past year, but sometimes it flares up and the nightmares come back. Sometimes a PTSD episode looks like just lying in bed for 12 hours straight. To others, it may look like depression or laziness, but it’s not — it’s being frozen, replaying ghost stories in my head, scared that it’s not yet over.

He, on the other hand, gets to just go on living his life as if everything is normal. I found an article on NBC about him this evening — apparently he’s quite the activist for justice and equality now. He goes to rallies and speaks at city council meetings, the article says. This is why I’m so pissed off tonight.

What right does he have to talk about justice? Since when does he care about equality? Did he care about justice and equality when he was convincing me that he would kill me if I ever told anyone about who he really was?

As I run I debate my options. I could email the journalist from NBC, just so there’s a record of me telling someone officially before he gains any more power. I could file a police report while there’s still time. I could call him out online.

But none of these options seem worth the trouble. As always, I am frozen. My powerlessness now feels like a continuation of the powerlessness of that night, and of our entire relationship.

I hate it. I wish I could scream now, in this perfect little Halloween Town with their fancy decorations and thematic lighting. I’m furious, and I want to howl and smash things.

I restrain myself from screaming and end up just punching a tree instead. “Sorry tree,” I inexplicably find myself mumbling. I look down at my hand and check for damage. My knuckles seem a little dirty and swollen, but I’ll be fine.

I keep going, the slight pain in my hand giving me another burst of adrenaline.

My therapist has been telling me for a while that exercise is good for PTSD — something about letting the body do what it wanted to do during the traumatic incident. I guess I wanted to run. As I turn the corner for my third lap around this pumpkin-spice neighborhood, I mentally thank her for the suggestion and feel myself starting to calm down. It’s been a while since I went for a run, and it feels good. She’s right, I should do this more.

I smirk at a hand-made Casper decoration blowing in the wind next to me, “Fuck you, ghosts.”

Invisible Illness

We don't talk enough about mental health.

M. K. Fain

Written by

M. K. is a feminist writer with a background in grassroots activism and psychology. http://marykatefain.com Support on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/mkfain

Invisible Illness

We don't talk enough about mental health.

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