Saturday, September 22, was the 3 year anniversary of when I was raped… most recently. Let me explain. This was not the first time. I have a long history of surviving these experiences, starting as early as the ages of 3 and 5. And this is not uncommon. Many people, especially those who started their lives as victims, are victimized again. Predators have a keen sense of who would be a good victim, and those who were victimized in their formative years know no other way of being. It has taken nearly a decade of intense therapy to unlearn the things that I was taught as a child victim.
I hear a lot of people substitute the word “survivor” in place of “victim.” In the years that you are just surviving, this is very accurate. You’re a victim when it happens, and a survivor in whatever you do afterwards to keep yourself alive, moving forward. I developed addictions, an eating disorder, and other self destructive behaviors to survive. My brain could not cope with reality. How could it? Reality was a living nightmare. Pure hell. These are the things I did to survive. To kill this thing inside of me. To get by despite it all. I thought I was doing pretty well. I didn’t realize the extent to which these experiences were destroying my life, until my behaviors came to a head. It was life or death from there. Keep doing what I was doing and let it kill me, or fight and as a result, live. My problem was, I didn’t want to live. I had no interest in it whatsoever. Which is why I nearly died numerous times. But there was some sort of secret spark in me. It was the bane of my existence, and it wanted me alive, when every other part of me wanted to die. It was my incurable hope. And thus, this blog was born, to document it. To explore it.
Today, I don’t see myself as a survivor. I am beyond that. I use the terminology, because it is what people are familiar with. Today, I am a thriver. My life, my success, my flourishing, is my big “fuck you” to everyone who hurt me. Though, today, I’m not angry or bitter. I let that go. It was too heavy. I punished myself with it long enough, believing that I was somehow punishing them by doing it. All I knew was someone had to pay. But I forgive myself for that now. I didn’t understand. I forgive most people, but contrary to popular belief, forgiveness is not necessary for healing. Some things, only God can forgive. I am only human. Today, my heart hurts for that little girl, for every little girl still living and suffering. Not just those who are still being abused, but those who are now grown women, with little girls still trapped inside, reliving it daily. Punishing themselves for the acts of others.
Look, I’ve come a lot further than a lot of former victims ever do. I’ve been blessed. But I do know this: I am supposed to share my experience so that the others know it is possible to not just survive, but to thrive. To use the pain as fuel. To live your meaningful lives. These are things you CAN overcome. As a matter of fact, there’s now even a name for that: posttraumatic growth. And you can achieve it. I promise you, you can.
I don’t want to make it seem like these these things won’t affect you for the rest of your life. They never go away. They will always hurt. At times, they still haunt me. But it is possible to get to a place where they no longer control you. Where they do not shake you. Where you can observe them from a distance that will prevent you from broken by them every. single. time. You’re heart can hurt for the child within, but you will be equipped to comfort her with the compassion you never received. You. Can. Heal. And you can help others do the same. Once you find that love for yourself, you will want to share it with others. ALL of us who were victimized deserve that.
Hmmmm….. Where do I start?
I’m a positive person… so let’s start there.
When I hear people’s stories I am amazed by the tapestry woven in this world by each of us. Our struggles, our triumphs, our pain, our joy, our grief, our growth, our journey. It is incredible. I’ve heard so many of them. Some quite tame. Some more harrowing than even I have ever ventured to fathom. Everyone has survived some hurdle of some sort. Everyone started at nothing and transformed into a unique creature. And no two stories are alike. There are similarities, sure. That’s how we relate. We all have regrets. We all have stories that pain us to recount. We all have something to be grateful for, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, there’s something to be valued there nonetheless. It is beautiful.
When I take a step back from the canvas to take a better look, I’m in awe of God’s handiwork. The detail is incredible. And the colors… my GOD, the colors. When I take it all in, I can’t help but be filled with gratitude, because I am a part of this work of art. This makes me a work of art. This makes each of us a work of art. And valuable beyond words and beyond our wildest dreams.
Honestly, this blog post has been on my mind since I started writing again. This subject matter is what brought me back to my writing. And it is one that is very close to my heart. I’ve gone back and forth about whether or not to disclose what I’m about to disclose. I know people are going to read this and honestly believe I’ve lost my fucking mind for sharing it. That’s fair, but can you lose something you never really had? That being said, this, like everything else I share here, and plan to share in my memoirs, affects me quite deeply. It is no different than my depression, or my eating disorder, or my addiction. I have a past that isn’t pretty, and its a mess, but it is a valuable mess. It has brought me to where I am, and despite the painful moments, life is so much better here and thus, I am infinitely grateful to have arrived where I am.
I think I’m going to start with the story, and tell what it is about at the end. Not to make you suffer for it (mostly heh heh), but because I’m reconsidering how I always deliver this information. And I don’t want you to get lost on the subject and either stop there, or not hear anything I have to say after that. I think that’s where most people get hung up. Or maybe I won’t tell you at all, we’ll see. My writing just writes itself sometimes, I’m just here to transcribe.
Let’s refer back to the fact that everyone has a past. I have shared far more of my struggles on this blog than I care to go back and read about. My archives are just that. You’re welcome to read, just don’t forget to focus on how the story ends. Because its a happy ending(ish). That being said, I have a trauma history that I am careful to disclose in little pieces when getting to know someone new. We typically don’t know each other long enough for them to know it all. They usually get halfway(ish) through. *Insert funny meme about depressing subject matter here, to soften the blow of this part,*
So… that’s about how that goes. (I’m trying to figure out how to follow that… positive… right) My life is the tapestry. Everyday there are many things to grateful for. I see on a daily basis how God works in my life. He reminds me constantly of how much He values me, and how GOOD He is. (I think I wrote that part for me.) And… then the past is dark. There’s the trauma, the destructive tendencies that came from them, and now… the medical ramifications of it all. This is where things start to come back to haunt me. I have an uncanny ability to forget the past. I forget the people who hurt me. I’ve forgotten most of my traumas. I forget guys most easily. I’ve had guys come back to me 10-15 years later telling me they’ve loved me all this time (super convenient for me, right?) and I have barely or not at all remembered who they were. Yesterday, I found a blocked voicemail on my phone from a “Mike” who proceeded to tell me that I was wicked and evil and to lose his number. It was weird because I have no recollection of who it is, and I had blocked and deleted him from my phone, so apparently I used to know. The funny part is that he told ME to lose his number. Oh the irony! Anywho, I am able to wipe my past away, and I believe God has blessed me with that. It is hard for me to beat myself up for anything when I can’t remember it anyway. When my eating disorder recovery caught up to me, my heart stopped working. I had medical ramifications. They were serious, but I overcame them. I am starting to have pretty serious side effects from years of taking the same meds. It is requiring me to address new medical issues brought on by that. Everything comes at a cost, right? But one thing I have because of my past that never lets me forget is herpes. It barely affects my life at all besides taking a medication for it daily. But I take like 13 medications, so what’s one more? I don’t ever have to think about it until I find myself starting a romantic relationship. Then it plagues me. When is the right time to say it? How do I say it? Should I say it? Should I even try relationships at all? Most of the people I’ve told up until 2018 have taken it quite well. It has never ended a relationship until now. Most people are ignorant on the matter, and I’ve memorized all the data to relay. I’d share it here, but I’m feeling real “who gives a fuck” at the moment now, so I don’t really care. I guess that part was redundant. Others know enough about it, to realize it shouldn’t be a concern with someone informed on the matter. My vision is starting to blur.
Allow me to refocus.
A lot of people get to my age and have shit. They have regrets, failed marriages, failed careers, kids to raise, they have a lot of stuff. Luckily for me, I have an advantage here, because I’ve worked diligently on overcoming my shit. I’m now doing better than the majority of normal people I meet. That aside, since 2018 began, this issue has come up for me. And it has been a hangup every time. I’m wondering what I’m doing wrong here. Like, have I suddenly lost value? Something about me just isn’t THAT wonderful now? Maybe I’m less interesting. Maybe people see my face and don’t really listen to a word I have to say anyway, so when they bail, they think “just another pretty face, the world is full of those.” Or maybe people have developed a superiority complex, or I’ve developed an inferiority complex. Maybe it is my delivery? Maybe it is my timing?
But the gist is that I walk away having taken a significant blow to my self worth. And I’m not sure I’m equipped to put myself in that situation again. So… I have two options in that case. Stop telling people, or stop being open to romantic relationships entirely. Obviously, I don’t consider the former a legitimate option.
Every time it happens, I recount every mistake I’ve ever made. It all comes back. Every choice. Every regret. “If I just hadn’t gone here.” Or “If I had never talked to that person.” And by the end of it, I am so daunted that I’m buried in everything I’ve ever done wrong. And it all looks like too much to ever escape it, Which is a really horrible place to be, because the truth is, I already HAVE escaped it. I’m on the other side. I am a new person. In these moments, I forget this. I forget my value. I forget my worth. I forget God’s grace, and the way God sees me. I forget that I deserve someone that sees me through THOSE eyes, and loves me in THAT way, and I really don’t need to waste my time on anything less anyway.
You know… I have these moments and I wonder what good God’s redemption is when I have to live out the rest of my life in a world full of people who only see what’s wrong with me, and with each other, really. If my mistakes will always define me, even though I’ve let them go. Again and again, I’ve let them go. What’s the point? Is there no escaping this? Will I be punished for my past forever? Should I just walk away from relationships entirely?
Luckily for me, I have my writing. Seriously, I realize I just poured my guts out, including a lot of TMI, but here’s the thing about my writing… People have ALWAYS read it and come to me and said “me too.” “You put into words what I’ve never been able to express.” They’ve related. I know from the research that I’ve done that this is an EXTREMELY common issue. And I know there are A LOT of people out there who suffer through this in silence. I seriously doubt there are many other people out there willing to share that. Since the beginning, one of my biggest frustrations about this is the fear surrounding it. It is shrouded in silence, and no one wants to say it, and so no one knows anything about it. And if people knew, it wouldn’t be nearly as scary.
So, this is where I come in. And my words. Because they are all I have, and that is where my power lies. So do with it all of it what you will.
One afternoon, I was sitting with my mother on a bench at the front of one of those cafeteria restaurants. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to one of those, but the elderly seem to frequent them. The food is awesome and affordable, and the only downside is having to wait in a (sometimes very long) line for your food.
Anyway, as we were sitting there, a little old lady with a walker started walking into the restaurant. Right behind her, a woman was pushing an elderly relative in a wheelchair. She must’ve been unable to see how far away the lady with the walker was, because she accidentally hit the little old lady in the back of her ankles. As the lady stumbled, I watched with horror, unable to figure out what I could do, and afraid that she was about to fall to the ground. Though the lady stumbled, she did not fall. She was startled, but caught her breath, and walked on.
As she was stumbling, something stood out to me. Not knowing whether or not she was bound to impact against that floor, every step she took, she said “Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus!” That struck me as bizarre. I remember leaning over to my mom and whispering, “If she almost fell, why would she be thanking Jesus?” My mom’s answer was simple, but powerful, “I guess because she didn’t fall.”
At the time, I thought, wow that’s really stupid. I mean she almost just fell, I would be pissed at that lady who almost knocked me over!!!
My, how time changes us. When I look back now at that powerful, teachable moment I’m amazed by that woman’s response. I almost envy it now. I think wow, what a positive perspective to look at something like that and see the good in it.
I think we could all learn a lesson from that little old lady with a walker.
All I used to look at was the negative. Something small wouldn’t turn out my way, and my whole LIFE was OVER! Such drama. All I could see around me were the things that were going wrong. All I could have seen, had I been in that old lady’s shoes, was the fact that some reckless lady who doesn’t know how to push a wheelchair almost plowed me over. I’m a defenseless old lady, I would think. How could she?!
How often we look at something and lament over what didn’t go well.
How little we look at a stumble, and rejoice in the fact that we didn’t fall.
It is my prayer for myself and for all of us, that we become a little more like that old lady.
Tonight, on my way home from the gym, I stopped at a red light. Suddenly, there was chaos right in front of me. Two cars almost hit each other, and then neither one could decide who should drive away first. In a fury of frustration and anger, the driver in one of the cars threw up his hands, beat his steering wheel, and spit furiously what I can only assume were violent expletives. There were two cars who almost hit each other, and the drivers were enraged by the series of events. Two cars that almost hit each other, almost.
Safe, with both cars still in tact, they drove away cursing the universe for the negative thing that just happened, never seeing the pain from which they had just been spared.
How can we let one small unpleasant event dictate our days, or even our lives?
How can we overlook all of the little successes and blessings, thinking nothing of them?
That little stuff we’re overlooking… that’s the powerful stuff.
I look back on that small event at a cafeteria restaurant in North Carolina with gratitude. At the time, it seemed like nothing, but it stayed lodged in my memory through a lot. I am grateful that I can look back at that moment now and understand what that lady was thinking when she thanked Jesus repeatedly as she stumbled.
Wow! Thank God I didn’t fall! I may have stumbled, but I didn’t fall!