How do I overcome fear from a traumatic event?

I’ll be very direct. I love your work Brooke. You are changing my life and how I enter the world. Maybe you can help here. I was gang-raped when I was 18. I was very drunk, very young, and I paid for it. I do not have a memory of the event that I can pull up and remember. I was blacked out or I buried the memory. While my mind doesn’t remember – my body does and I experience nightmares – often right after the rape and over the years only in times of stress. Looking back I built my life on protecting myself. Married a very possessive protective man, limited my experiences to those that were familiar, was very careful and regimented in my life, was not listed in the phone book, did not talk to strangers, go to places in crowds, or at night… Big regimen of ideas to be safe. It got better over the years. I went to counselors – nothing really made it go away. The fear would surface and I would feel discouraged and as if it was something I could not get past. When my daughter was 5 she started kindergarten. She is 15 now. First time mommy with a kindergartener. I took her to school, made friends with some other mommies. One in particular. We really connected. She’s really great. Thursday that week, I went to open house or something. All parents – no kids. I saw my new friend. There was a man who kept watching me, I didn’t think much of it. He felt familiar but I couldn’t place him. We toured the school. He was very tall and thick; walked slumped over, I got the feeling he didn’t think much of himself. Wondered if he was teased or bullied in school. I felt badly for him, but could not place him. After the open house presentation I was talking to my new friend. The man was her husband. He remembered me and we started trying to find the common place our lives crossed. My heart is racing now telling you. No we hadn’t worked together, no we hadn’t gone to school together, no, no, no. He asked me if I went to some bar – and I felt weirded out. No, when I was in high school I didn’t go to the bar. I got a strong feeling of dislike for him. Then his wife formally introduced him; when she said his name I knew him. He was one of the rapists. He was the one I do remember – there are fragmented memories, but I remember him. SO I dealt with that. My child giving me strength to face him. I didn’t want her affected my my past or my fears. I told my husband and we just walked through elementary school with them. I had never pressed charges. I don’t know what his memory of the night is. 27 years ago the world handled those things differently. I saw a counselor who helped me break the fear cycle. I could stop getting up in the night 6 times to check the locks, and I stopped seeing them everywhere. I made sure the girls were in different classes. And it was ok. The day before she started 4th grade, I heard a very powerful podcast on forgiveness and decided I would forgive him. On the first day of school we found out the school made a mistake and they were placed the girls in the same class. So forgiveness was in my face. I had a hard year that year; but by year end was able to talk to him, shake his hand and smile at him. It was huge for me. I divorce my very protective husband three years ago; and reconciled with my college boyfriend – the first man I was with after the rape. He moved in with me 9 months ago and has been here all he time – not much alone time for me. He’s out of town now – gone for 2/3 weeks on a trip. I am feeling scared and nervous about the time I will be here without my girls – when they go back to see their dad 3 nights a week. I can tell you I’ve processed this – I’ve been face to face with the one I remember. He is who I should fear, but I don’t fear him. I can take steps to be safe from him. Ironically all the things I did to be safe – I undid unknowingly when I made friends with his wife. I gave her my #, my address, access to me and my child. All things happen for me… I say this to myself often.

The goal here? I want to sleep in my own bed – and feel peace. No fear. I am afraid of the dark, the alone, the unknown, the things that happen that I can’t anticipate. I think I’ve handled it and the fear surfaces. I haven’t had to face it while my boyfriend was here, and I’m surprised how sharp it is now. He will be home soon, but the trauma/fear comes back. How do I process the fear/trauma for good. I am 45, strong as hell, making good shifts in my life that work for me. I have two beautiful daughters that enter the world in such a lovely way. I want to show them the best way it can be for them. Sleeping on the couch, being afraid of the dark doesn’t feel like the best way… Thank you for your time and all your contributions to the world. You are simply amazing.