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.
I’ve always wanted to live in California, and swore I’d never live in the midwest. As I get older, however, I find my priorities are changing. Over the past year, I have had the pleasure of being in a year-long season of summer, here in San Diego, California. I couldn’t be more grateful for my time here. I do believe I have been pretty spoiled. The twelve step community here is vast and supportive, probably the best in the country. The weather is almost always sunny and mild. There are constantly resources galore at my fingertips.
And now… I’m saying goodbye to it all.
For the midwest.
I came to California straight from residential treatment in Chicago. I had 5 and a half months of treatment, and California was the place and I made a home. I got connected right away with meetings, and built a safety net of support around me. I have an amazing dietitian and an incredible sponsor.
As I have processed this move, I am starting to really take in all I will be saying goodbye to, and it has me asking, “is this the right choice?”
The YMCA here is incredible. With one membership, I have access to 4 different Y’s. They have classes like NIA and Meditative Yoga.
I can order Thai delivery.
Seriously, it is almost always sunny. And I have a tendency toward seasonal depression.
Who would leave this?
When it comes down to it, California just isn’t a reasonable place to live, especially for those of us who are not gainfully employed. Becoming a resident of California isn’t cheap, gas isn’t cheap, taxes aren’t cheap.
But that isn’t really why I’m leaving.
See, two years ago today, my sister gave birth to the most adorable little guy ever. (Not that I’m biased) She and I had been marching forward arm-in-arm in the firm resolve that neither one of us would have children, and then, as if in a single day, she changed her mind. It wasn’t just a day actually, she gave more thought to it than I have ever seen a person reasonably consider such an option. She did not make the choice lightly, and I respect her for that.
When he came along, my life changed. As I faced this baby, I faced the realization that this may be the closest I ever come to having a child. And I wanted to be a influential part of this child’s life.
As my moods and my troubles ebbed and flowed, I was almost always tangled in my own darkness. The October before I went into treatment, I missed a chance to visit my nephew due to being hospitalized. I insisted that I come see him before going to treatment and my sister told me that she’d rather I not be around him at the time. As much as it broke my heart, it was my sister’s wishes, and I respect her more than anyone.
When I was in treatment and I needed motivation, my sister and my nephew were the ones I was working to get better for.
Now that I am doing well, I have the opportunity to move close to my nephew and be a full time aunt. For him, and for the new baby, who is due in August. 🙂 I get to help raise mini-feminists! Haha… Hey, they might not have listened if it came from a parent, but from a crazy cool aunt, maybe they’ll take in what I have to offer. You never know. I may never have kids of my own, but I will have a hand in raising some little beings into some incredible people. That is invaluable.
So, I’m leaving all of the conveniences that are California, for small town life. Part of it is a sacrifice, but mostly it is a privilege. I’d rather be the full time aunt, than the twice-a-year aunt. Not that there’s anything wrong with the twice-a-year aunt. But if this is the closest I’ll come to children of my own, it is best I be vigilant.
To be honest, SoCal wasn’t a great fit for me anyway. I’ve always been a country girl, so with the almost 4 million people in this county it is a bit crowded. Everyone here is skinny, and hell-bent on staying that way. Not a good place for eating disorder recovery. And really, the weather is too warm for my taste. I miss seasons. And after all, who needs a YMCA membership, when you’re chasing around two little kids? Or doing baby lifts?
I’m closing a chapter of my life and starting an incredible new one. I’m moving somewhere I plan on staying for a while. I’ve got a good 13 or so years before I’ll start considering a new home. (Teenagers are a whole different ballgame!)
I may not be employed yet, but I already have a full time job: Loving Aunt. And I plan on doing my job most diligently, and with the greatest of care.