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By Rebekka Johnson

Recently I was in the middle of performing in an improv scene with a man — a super-nice, good guy — and he put his arm around me. His choice made sense; the scene was set on a dock staring at the ocean under the moonlight. But I froze, physically and mentally, and was nearly unable to continue. Luckily he’s a pro and carried the rest of the performance while I phoned it in from way inside my head.

Something about that second of physical contact, a romantic gesture of affection appropriate to our characters’ relationship, triggered a connection to some of my earliest and most traumatic interactions with boys. As a teenager (and consummate people-pleaser) I had been very worried about being liked, and ended up in compromising situations time and time again. I felt forced to be sexual well before I was ready and, although it took me several years to realize that my high school boyfriend wasn’t simply a jerk, I actually lost my virginity to a rapist.

But it took one moment in that scene to realize how deeply that experience had affected me: If I couldn’t handle a simple affectionate gesture from a perfect gentleman in a comedy scene, I knew that I hadn't outrun my problem.

When women started sharing their stories of sexual assault, harassment and rape as part of the #MeToo movement, I was confronted with my own memories every time I checked Twitter or opened Facebook.

For years, I had tried to put it all behind me, finding ways to bury my trauma and appear — on the outside — to be relatively normal. I had been able to fake it (most of the time) in order to make it, though my feelings would still occasionally bubble up. I have leaned on my supportive partner, good girlfriends, done The Artist's Way, read a Brene Brown book and dove head first into comedy.

But my trauma intensified when Donald Trump became president: The fact that he was accused of sexual assault and misconduct by so many women — and even bragged about grabbing unsuspecting women's pussies — and still became president made me feel like every man who ever sexually assaulted me also became president. (It didn’t help that many of them had that same New York accent.) His election seemingly validated the toxic behavior of men that so many of us have endured.

When women started sharing their stories of sexual assault, harassment and rape as part of the #MeToo movement, I was confronted with my own memories every time I checked Twitter or opened Facebook. I reflected on the countless times I was a victim of the same behaviors, and empathized with the other women so much that I felt physically sick and overcome with sadness. I felt revictimized and retraumatized, and didn’t think there was a way out. It all took a toll on my marriage, and I stopped being intimate with my husband for months: If we tried, I would freeze up, or get overcome with anger. I felt broken, and he was frustrated. It seemed like everything was coming to a climax (except me).

Having a name for what I was feeling gave me hope — and a number of treatment options I hadn't known existed.

After talking to a few close friends about the intensity of my emotions, they convinced me to get back into therapy. I had abruptly ended a relationship with my previous therapist years before after she told me not to report a sexually harassing coworker for fear that I’d ruin my career.

Finding a therapist who accepted insurance and had openings became a part time job but, fortunately, I found someone who not only was affordable but specialized in sexual trauma. In the first five minutes, I immediately broke down and explained all the ways in which I was screwed up, and she handed me a tissue and calmly told me that it wasn’t me but what I had been through that was screwed up.

She ultimately diagnosed me with PTSD, and showed me that it can be treated. But, almost as importantly, she validated my feelings of trauma, told me that they were normal given what I had been through and mentioned that she had seen an increase in clients dealing with similar concerns.

I’m nowhere near the end of the road, but at least I finally feel like I am on the right path to wellness, let alone that there actually is a path for me to take.

Some un-fun facts I hadn't internalized before: According to the CDC, 44 percent of lesbian women, 61 percent of bisexual women and 35 percent of heterosexual women experience rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that 47 of transgender people are sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime. According to RAINN, an American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds.

For the first time in years, I actually felt relief from my sadness and the despair that I might always feel it. Having a name for what I was feeling gave me hope — and a number of treatment options I hadn't known existed.

I’m nowhere near the end of the road, but at least I finally feel like I am on the right path to wellness, let alone that there actually is a path for me to take.

The next time I freeze up, whether in an improv scene or in real life, I’ll have tools to work through it. I’ll be grateful that with proper help, I can heal and live a full life, and not one weighed down by baggage that should have never been mine to carry in the first place.

Rebekka Johnson is an actor, director and writer who appears on G.L.O.W. and is making a short film, “CONSENT: A Short Comedy About A Serious Subject.”