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.
Seven years ago today, I sat in church pews long after the congregation had left. Tormented about making a decision to follow Christ or go home and die. I had questions, tons of them. And fears and doubt and hesitation and anger. One thing I did not have was anything left to lose. And that’s how this all began…
My parents like to frequent the same restaurants. They find one they like and go there loyally from that moment on. There was a tea room in a nearby town they discovered, and fell in love with. Once they became regulars, they got to know the family who owned it. The family had lost a son to suicide some years back, and they got to talking about me. I’m not sure exactly what those conversations looked like, but obviously my having lived a suicidal life arose at some point. When I moved back to the area, I became a pet project for that family. No one in the family was more relentless in this pursuit than Kathryn. Kathryn was obnoxiously enthusiastic about Jesus. Like… she REALLY effin loved Jesus. Her spunk drove me insane. I was low energy, grumpy, and wanted to be left alone. I’m not sure how I responded when she started inviting me to church. In my head I imagine smiling, nodding, and shrugging it off. She did not stop asking. Eventually, I decided I’d just shut her up by obliging. “Then,” I thought, “She’ll leave me alone.”
So, that Saturday night, I went. I was planted in my chair through the entirety of the ordeal. My arms were crossed. I had a scowl on my face. I did not sing. I did not stand. I said nothing. “I’ll go, but I don’t have to enjoy it.” I guess I thought if I was enough of a jerk, it’d scare them away. Or maybe I just assumed I knew how church went, and I thought it was all a crock of shit, and all Christians were the same, predictable. As I heard the pastor preach, though, something in my heart started to open. I was certain he’d say something to piss me off, but he did not. Everything he said, I could get behind. It was hopeful, and beautiful, and inspiring, and yet, I was dead set on never going back after that. Kathryn, on the other hand, had different plans. Kathryn kept inviting me back. So, eventually, I surrendered and kept going.
I’d heard the “altar calls” many times, before the night of March 27th rolled around. I don’t know if it had crossed my mind. It probably had. But I’ve always been one to question authority. If this Jesus had so much hope and love and forgiveness, why were Christians often the worst of the jerks? Is God a man? Why is God a man? Men had never done any favors for me. If EVERYONE has access to the forgiveness of Jesus, then that means that the people who abused me when I was a small, helpless child had access to that forgiveness. “Some things,” I believed, “are simply unforgivable.” Where was God in all of that? The altar call came and went that night, and I wanted to go up there, but I wanted answers to all these questions and more, first. As ridiculously impulsive as I’ve been all my life, I wanted to be certain before I committed to this nonsense. I let the call pass, and after service, I started assaulting the pastor with questions. Eventually, he had to go. I sat in the pew, the church now empty except for Kathryn, her sister, and myself. I looked at the clock, then the door, and thought to myself, “If I go home tonight, I’m going to kill myself.” I figured, that this decision could not hurt, so I was going to try it.
With Kathryn and Bekah by my side, I bowed my head and prayed out loud.
Someone recently asked me what exactly it means to “accept Christ.” Here’s the thing, I didn’t really know at the time either. Truth is, its pretty simple. All it takes is a prayer, you’re own version of, “God, I’m tired of doing this alone. I need your help, your forgiveness, and your love. I believe that Jesus did all these awesome things to offer me that, and I am accepting that gift now, and accepting you into my heart.” Feel free to paraphrase as your heart guides. You could do it right this second, if you want.
God is not imposing. He waits for us. A lot of non-believers wonder where God is. God will not interfere in your life if you do not wish to have him there. He’s just waiting for an invitation. After you’ve offered that, he will take care of the rest.
I’d never doubted God’s existence. That belief came naturally to me, although the Jesus thing seemed weird. I didn’t get the death and resurrection concept. Seemed odd, zombie-like, and also there’s the cannibalistic symbolism of the last supper. It was pretty far out to me. I had been told numerous times in high school that I couldn’t be Christian if I didn’t do X, Y, and Z, and I thought “guess I’m not Christian, then.” So, for years I had left it at that. “Guess I don’t qualify.”
What Kathryn, and others in that church taught me, is all the hope that is found in Jesus. I had heard all the zillion things Christians are against, but not once heard about all the hope Jesus had to offer. Hope was something I could get behind. Hope was something I needed desperately. And who doesn’t need unconditional love?
After that night, things did not change instantaneously. It was a process, but it changed my life forever. I still had struggles, and sometimes still do. But the ball was set into motion. That was March 27th, 2011. In July, I had a near death experience that opened my eyes to spiritual truths I had previously been uncertain of, which led to my sobriety. By November, I was off to residential treatment, for all of my issues. Five months of treatment was covered 100% by my insurance. There, my meds got straight, I let go of my addictions, and my eating disorder. I had a chance to process a lifetime of trauma and grief. I moved to California on my own after that (somewhere I’d always dreamt of living), and started my life in recovery. I met a wonderful sponsor with whom I am still very close. I became strong in my recovery, and built a community. In the years since, every time I think things could not possibly get any better, they do. They get better to a new extent to which I had previously thought impossible. I have an incredible life. I have everything I need, do all the things I love, and have accomplished new goals, and set my sights on new heights. It is unimaginably awesome, and it only gets better. God certainly had way more in store for me than I could’ve ever dreamt for myself. I had previously believed I’d just be suicidal until I eventually succeeded in that, and that would be my life.
I am a different person, inside and out.
In the past two years, I’ve lost 130 lbs. Thursday, I’ll celebrate one year of running. April 15th, I’ll be doing a TEN mile race!!! I’ve written this blog, and shared my triumphs and struggles, and helped numerous people. I have several sponsees, and find myself being told over and over that I’ve inspired someone in some way, or helped people out of ruts. All without even realizing I was doing it. And honestly, I feel like the wealthiest person in the world as a result. Sometimes, I pity the people who think they have it all, when all they really have is material wealth.
Did I know ANY of this was possible on March 27th, 2011? No. I had no clue. All knew was I had an option to go home and die, or try something new that could possibly help in some way. So, I took a leap. And this is where I’ve landed. It was literally the best decision of my life.
God has healed my heart of so much hurt. I was so relentlessly bitter back then. I was angry at God. I thought he was punishing me. I wanted nothing to do with a male God. I blamed him for it all. In the years since, I’ve recognized God’s presence in even my darkest moments. He never gave up on me. And I see it now. Little things I was blind to before. Look, I know people have hurt you. Maybe the church has hurt you. Your pain is very valid, but God is neither those people nor the church. Every time you were hurt, it hurt God’s heart as well. He hurts where we hurt. It pains him to see us mistreated and abused. I have learned this to be true. God is not angry at us for our mistakes. He sees us as beautiful works of art, and loves every little quirk about us. No, God is not a man, so don’t get it twisted. God is beyond our earthly limitations. These very concepts are boxes God cannot fit into. Many languages default to the masculine when referring to something ambiguous in that way. Is it right? No, but its easy. If you have a different pronoun you’d prefer, go for it. God does not want to punish us. God just wants to love unconditionally, and help us in this process we call life. God is always there. He is faithful and reliable. Does everyone have access to this forgiveness? Absolutely, but you should know that many people will not choose to pursue it.
I am a kinder, more compassionate person these days. I make healthier decisions. I am a septillion times happier, seriously. I will always be a work in progress, but how far I’ve come is nothing short of miraculous. Anyone who knew me before will wholeheartedly attest to that.
I’ve had all of my questions answered. If ever I have new ones arise, God answers those as well. My heart has been healed. I can attest to God’s faithfulness. I celebrate this anniversary more than any other and always will. It is the longest I’ve committed to anything. There is no turning back, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you have questions, feel free to reach out. There is so much more to say, but this is just a blog, not my memoir. Stay tuned for that. I’m just happy to share this hope wherever I can. It is too wonderful to keep it to myself.
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.
It has been so long since I wrote a blog post, that WordPress has changed their format, and so I’m writing in a completely unfamiliar page. Which is great (sarcasm), because this may be the hardest blog post I’ve ever had to write.
I had a really awesome blog once, with incredible writing. I suspect the writing was so good because I was completely uninhibited about what I wrote. As I have grown more mature, have become a Christian, and am now newly aware of the vast-spreading nature of the internet, I am a lot more careful about what I write, because I never know who my audience might be.
This post is going to have to be on the more uninhibited side, because I’m writing about something painfully personal, and on a topic that many people do not wish to discuss.
At the same time, I recently discovered that I can no longer access that deliciously uninhibited blog I spoke of, because I don’t remember the password to it. I don’t have any proof of ownership either, so I can’t find out the password or reset it. With my motivation to write being seriously lacking, realizing that I’ve once again (this happens regularly) lost a great deal of my favorite writing does not help the situation. I am, however, writing this post purely out of necessity. I genuinely feel like my life could end up at risk, if I do not say what I have to share today.
I will begin by acknowledging that I have lived through some very difficult traumas. When one lives through trauma, we know what it means to live through a situation where your main objective is just to survive through it. And for many of us, we become stuck in survival mode, with our bodies and our minds functioning as if we are living out that traumatic situation every moment of every day, until something stops it. This is why I now realize that when I was living out a pattern of self-destructive behaviors, I was a survivor of trauma. When it happened, I was a victim, and in the years I spent in limbo, I was a survivor. I did whatever I could do cope with the reality in which I lived, and it was killing me.
I spent the majority of my time in residential treatment, trying to overcome these patterns of self-destructive behaviors, substance abuse, self harm, eating disorder, etc. That time was utilized to stop the survival mode I was stuck in. Once we had accomplished that, my treatment team and I set out to address the traumas themselves. While we made a significant effort, it was all brought to a halt when insurance decided to stop paying. I spent the year that followed, trying unsuccessfully to find a therapist in my area.
Luckily, upon moving to where I now live, I immediately met a therapist who was a perfect fit for me. I have been seeing her about a year, and this month we began, once again, to start addressing the trauma I have experienced in my life.
As a child, I was sexually abused. I would try to skirt around that fact in this post for the sake of saving my family any embarrassment, but a dear friend who I have been in a abuse support group with recently confronted me about the fact that I had never stated this to the group. Am I avoiding it? I thought. How could I be avoiding something without even realizing it? When I went to my therapist a few days later, I thought that I would cleverly elicit a reaction from her to see if she too thought I had been avoiding the topic. When I came in that day, I plopped down on her couch with exasperation and said, point blank, “Well, I guess we should address the trauma… I’ve kinda been avoiding it.” Her response? “Yes, I know.” I was shocked! Even my therapist thought I was avoiding it, so it MUST be true. So, therefore, I must say it. I cannot avoid it any longer. That does not aid in my recovery. I want to be an active part of the solution, not the problem.
I don’t think I ever drew the lines before when I was addressing my trauma in treatment, but it has come to my attention that a common feeling comes over me as I address my childhood sexual abuse. I have an overwhelming, almost paranoid feeling that no one is listening, and no one wants to be bothered with hearing about what I am going through. I now realize that this is must’ve been how I felt as a child whenever I tried to tell anyone about what was happening to me. As valid as it was then, it is very possible that this feeling is irrational in my current situation. I do know that I have plenty of people who hear me, and who care about what I have to say. But even with those loved ones, I have a sneaking suspicion from time to time that they are annoyed by me, or tired of hearing about it. The feeling overcomes me, and it is impossible to ignore. I now recall exploding with verbal outrage on people who talked over me, or who I felt were not listening when I was in treatment. I became very defiant and more determined to be heard at any cost. I realize now that there is still a child inside of me who is dying to be heard.
Now that I am safe, I am recalling these things from an adult perspective, and I have asked myself, “What can I do now to ensure that I am having my needs met in a way I could not have done as a child?” The realization that I have come to is this: I now have a blog and an ability to write. I now know how to ask for help. And I now know exactly what to ask for.
That is my purpose for writing this post. I’m directing it specifically at people in my life.
It is very important in any interactions with me, at this time, and especially when I am speaking about my trauma work or how it makes me feel, that I am heard and validated. This can be as simple as saying, “I hear what you are saying.” or “I care.” or “Your feelings are valid.” They seem really simple and direct, and I know people in treatment who poo-pooed the whole “you’re feelings are valid” line, but I have always felt that there are so many instances when that is ALL people need to hear.
When I reflect upon all of this now, I realize that this could be a core root of why I spent so much of my life suicidal. I felt unheard and ignored… like I was a bother or a burden. Honestly, when I thought of taking my life, I genuinely believed I’d be doing my family a favor. That is why I feel like it is so important, at this moment, for me to hear the things I did not hear as a child. I spent the other night in tears, because I was feeling that same way, and it is so easy for me to come to the conclusion that no one cares, and everyone would be better off without me. I know it sounds extreme, but I have a pretty extreme mind. I’m doing the work I need to change, and it would also be really helpful if the people around me could do what they can to help me in this process.
So, that is what I need. I was a victim, then a survivor, and now… I am trying to thrive. And for me, this is part of the process. Thanks for reading, and for participating in my recovery. Hugs and love.
Sexual Assault. Do you have to go through it to care about it?
This question always arises for me every April. I have a lot of friends who know someone with autism, and thus, support Autism Awareness month, which also happens to be April. This year, I see that friends who know someone who’ve benefited from an organ transplant supporting organ donation. April is also Organ Donation Awareness month. What simultaneously inspires and disheartens me is the fact that these people know someone who have been through these things, so they support these causes. Every one of these people, and the other 400 people on my Facebook page, know at least one person who has been sexually assaulted: me. And yet, the only people I see supporting this cause are the people who have themselves lived through such violence.
I think this is a huge problem in our culture. “As long as I haven’t been raped, then who cares?” Right? Why do I continuously find that the only people driven to stop sexual violence are those who have personally lived through it? Is it really that hard to imagine how awful it is if you haven’t experienced it? Do you really not care that much about the women and men in your life who have been victimized by sexual predators?
I think a lot of it has to do with the silence surrounding the issue, because it sure as hell isn’t the lack of prevalence. 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted by the age of 18. (Finkelhor, David, et al. “Sexual Abuse in a National Survey of Adult Men and Women: Prevalence, Characteristics, and Risk Factors.”) Are you really going to tell me that you don’t know at least 4 women or 6 men?
No, a lot of it has to do with our silence around the issue. Anything sexual is taboo. You know, as long as it isn’t sexual imagery in time square, music videos, magazines, television, movies, or books. From Fifty Shades of Grey to Abercrombie ads, sexuality is everywhere. However, when it comes to sexual violence, we best not talk about it. Virgin ears, and all.
Or maybe it is the violence part of it. Although, I recently saw Olympus has Fallen, and it suggests Americans have an endless thirst for blood. What’s a movie without a good knife through the head, eh?
Nah, it is just the careful combination of sexual and violence that sends people fleeing in a frenzy.
Let me be frank, you know someone, nay, you know A LOT of someones who have been sexually assaulted in their lives. Not convinced? Start asking around. Your eyes might just open. It is likely that your between your daughter, sister, best friend, mother, aunt, or cousin, at least one has been sexually assaulted.
What then is our problem with talking about it?
I venture to guess that this culture of victim-baming has a lot to do with it. As most recently displayed in the Steubenville rape case, which has brought out the Ugly and the Brave around the issue of victim-blaming. Keep her full of shame = Keep her silent = Let’s just pretend this stuff never happens = No one cares about Sexual Assault Awareness month, except for survivors of sexual assault.
Maybe I am being blunt, but I am personally insulted by the lack of interest around the issue. And I expect a few more people to be displaying their teal ribbons after today.
Let me tell you, from personal experience, about the residual effects of trauma. After it happened, I could barely sleep. I stayed awake, alarmed by any small sound in the night. I never felt safe. I have yet to be able to trust men. I have flashbacks, that feel as though I am reliving the trauma over again. Therefore, I relive it over and over again. My startle reflex is incredibly sensitive. When I went to see Olympus has Fallen, I was jerking repeatedly, startled by the loud sounds. Even a shadow on my computer screen makes me jump. Whenever I am put into a vulnerable situation, I get disoriented and overwhelmed. My pupils dilate, and I become sensitive to sounds. Walking to my car in a parking lot at night, for example. I avoid situations which might trigger these effects, such as: being around men, being by myself outside, being intimate with someone, or alone at night. It has been years, and I am still working to undo the harm done.
I’m not saying I am not living a fulfilling life. What I am saying is that it has taken years of hard work to get to where I can. And what I want to impress upon you is that my case is lucky. I’ve had a lot of resources that most people never have. Such violence haunts a lot of people till the day they die. It breaks their souls. And mending a soul isn’t easy. And even when mended, there will always be scars.
That is all I’m trying to say. Sexual violence is an issue worth caring about.
I see a lot of blogs doing years in review. I would do that for you, but I feel that, although I have learned a lot and accomplished a lot in 2012, I haven’t done anything exceptionally noteworthy. I was looking back over my year, and what I realized is a year summed up in learning. I have grown a lot this year, through experience and through trial and error.
In the spirit of a new year, I will share my top ten lessons from 2012. I pray that the next year is full of new lessons, exciting growth, solid accomplishments, and exceptional love, for all of us.
Top Ten Lessons I Learned in 2012:
10. Life is worth living. I know this sounds like a pretty basic concept, but it is one I did not believe for a really long time. I felt like every day was just a repeat of the one before, and every situation was going to end grimly. Let me emphasize, every situation will end badly, if that is the intention you place upon it in the beginning. Your world, your life, is what you make of it. Keep deciding that you are cursed, and you will be. Place positive intentions on your day-to-day life, and on your goals, and they will manifest before your very eyes. This year, I took one of my business cards and on it, I wrote down what I want for myself in the next year. I carry it around with me daily, and I believe these things will unfold in my life. You can do the same with a dream board. Take a poster and create what you want out of your next year. Watch it happen. I did this during my hospital stays, and I always conveyed stability, health, balance and love. These things are now ever present in my life. It is like magic. Whatever you put your energy into, you will have.
9. Doing what you’ve dreamed of is worth the experience. I always dreamed of living in California. I was just sure I’d feel at home there. This year, after treatment, I had an opportunity to move out to California. I took the opportunity and have been here since. I love the weather, and having access to beautiful beaches and sunsets. Living here does have its pros and cons, but I am so glad I took the opportunity to come here. I’m acutally living out one of my wildest dreams. How amazing is that? I’ve also learned that this particular city isn’t somewhere I plan on settling down. I wouldn’t have known that, if I had not tried. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be here.
8. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, but traveling is hard. As a result of living out my dream, I’ve been transplanted a very long distance from a lot of people that I really love. Being here has made me realize how much I truly appreciate these people, but it has also made me realize that I’d like to be closer to them. Traveling is difficult, I’m sure most of us would agree. And expensive. I love my loved ones that much more, but the added cost and stress of being away… is it worth it? I’ll keep you posted. I have, in the meantime, made great friends out here on the left coast. So, I have multiplied my love. That’s always a good thing.
7. Recovery is a lot of work, but I’ve never done anything this important and this necessary before. My sponsor always reminds me that recovery has to come first, before everything else. I know this is true. I cannot have success in work, school, family, or life, if I do not work on the one thing that keeps me stable and keeps me sane. Without recovery, all those other things are irrelevant because they aren’t even possible.
6. Failure may not be an option, but neither is perfection. I’ve always heard the cliché that failure isn’t an option. I think it is this phrase alone that birthed perfectionism. “I’ve got to do it,” turned into, “I’ve got to do it perfectly.” I walk on a thin line between two extremes. Balance is crucial for me. I know I can have an “all or nothing” attitude, and I have to remind myself constantly that an accomplishment is an accomplishment, if I didn’t do it perfectly, at least I did it. We are always our own worst critic. Ease up on yourself a little. Strive to do well, but don’t corner yourself into unforgivable expectations. I see a lot of people in recovery around me either throwing their hands up, or striving to attain the unattainable. Expecting perfection is like driving into a brick wall. It doesn’t matter wether you do it quickly or slowly, eventually, you’ll hit that wall. Eventually, you’ll be devestated by the fact that you messed up. We all mess up, it is inevitable. Learn to brush it off and keep moving.
5. Doors will open, when you’re ready to see what’s on the other side. God knows, timing is everything. If you hold out and have faith, things will turn around and trials will end. You may think that things are impossible, but I am here to tell you that the impossible is possible. Lil’ Kim used to be a hero of mine, and now my music taste is almost completely faith-based. I used to dread waking up in the morning, and now I’m grateful for each new day. This year, I’ve reconnected with several people that I was certain I’d never hear from again. Things change. Doors open. Anything is possible. These things hardly ever happen right away, but they will happen when you are ready for them.
4. Belief makes miracles happen. Did you know that the true power of prayer is in the belief that those prayers will be answered? As I said, the impossible is possible. They key to seeing the impossible unfold before you, is believing that it will. If you ask God for something, but doubt that He will give it to you, don’t expect it. If you hope for something, but believe it could never be, it never will be. The power lies in what you believe. You are manifesting the outcome with your very thoughts and intentions. Just believe.
3. Every cloud has a silver lining. It wasn’t until this year that I realized, what that little old lady with a walker taught me. I stumbled, but I did not fall. BAM! Silver lining. I got in a car accident, but I am safe. BAM! Silver lining. I’m struggling with finances, but I believe everything will work out for my good. BAM! You get the point. Yes, hard stuff happens. Yes, we have our struggles and our trials. Yes, sometimes we fail, or people fail us. But we learn from all of these things. We grow. Every time you lose someone, there opens an opportunity for someone new to come into your life. Every time you struggle, you have the opportunity to learn, grow, and know how to change outcomes for the better next time. Don’t see your losses or failures as a devastation. They are opportunities for new and better things to unfold in your life and your circumstances. Don’t look at what you lost, look at what you gained.
2. The hard moments will pass. A recent campaign that set out to encourage gay youth struggling with bullying and prejudice has gained new ground. The concept behind the campaign? It. Gets. Better. This idea, though it once seemed preposterous to me, is true. It does get better. The hard moments will pass, things will turn around. Sometimes it is a waiting game, but you have to hold strong, because I guarantee you things will start to look up. Look, if anyone knows this, it is me. So, trust me. I waited 28 years for my life to change, and it happened. I finally see this world in a new light. I finally love myself and those around me. I finally want to get as much out of this life as I possibly can. I finally believe. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely. The hard moments will pass, and as you get used to watching them come and go, they will get more brief and less intense. The hard moments will be blinks in your vast reel of days, weeks, months, and years of the incredible that your life will become.
1. God is good. I have experienced and accomplished a lot over the past year, all of which, I am completely grateful for. At the end of the day, when my work is done, I thank God that I have had an opportunity to do this work. I have been treated for the traumas I have endured. I have met tons of new people. I have an incredible sponsor and incredible supports. I have experienced new and exciting things that I never could have imagined. I am living in a city that I used to think was only a distant dream. I am living a life that I wasn’t sure even existed. I have everything I could ever want and more. All of this, is because of God. I have done a lot of work, but only because God has provided me the opportunity to. I was in treatment for 5 months, because insurance covered it. If that isn’t a miracle, I don’t know what is. I worked with some of the best therapists in the country, because God gave me that opportunity. I am grateful for all the support I have received, but none has been more important than that of my God. I could sit here and try to claim this has all been because of my hard work, but that would be a lie. Without God’s timing, ingenuity, and grace, all of my hard work would have been worthless. At the end of my year, as I reflect, I am certain that this is the most important lesson I have learned. When I had no faith, belief, or hope, desperation stepped in and gave me God. God restored my faith, belief, hope. God instilled in me a gratitude for my desperation. God gave me a life worth living, and the desire to live it. Without God, I’m not even sure I would still be here. At the end of the day, I know that everything I learned this year, I learned because of lesson number 1: God is good.
“Seeds of faith are always within us; sometimes it takes a crisis to nourish and encourage their growth.” ~Susan Taylor
I don’t typically watch the news. I have a computer and a T.V. without cable, or even basic access. I stick to Netflix, and I get my teeny bit of “news” from Philip Defranco, on YouTube. That’s about as much as I can take. In 2009, I had a therapist tell me to stop watching the news. I took her advice. I had, at the time, become overwhelmed, baffled, and distraught over the Shaniya Davis story.
I couldn’t understand how, someone could do that to their daughter. I couldn’t understand how someone could do those things to a 5 year old. I was starting to drown in a sea of headlines and news reports of just how evil this world is.
And it is true. This world can be a very evil place.
I have spent a good chunk of the past few years overwhelmed by an issue that the rest of the world seems underwhelmed about: sexual violence. Such violence is beyond an epidemic in our world, and repeatedly, our response is victim blaming, and sweeping it under the rug. It makes me cringe to know that 1 our of 4 girls, and 1 out of 6 boys will be the victims of sexual abuse by the age of 18. How do people walk around in their own little bubbles, oblivious of something so heinous?
I don’t know, they just do.
In some of the work I have done, I have teamed with people who had similar experience and ambition, wanting to do something on the matter. What have I found? That there are victims out there working toward solving a problem, without even having dealt with the issue in their own lives. It is like someone with a still gaping and bloody bullet wound trying to fight for gun control.
First, you need to address your own trauma.
The hard part is, no one else is stepping forward to solve the issue. All of those people who’ve never had to suffer through the trauma have no interest in dealing with something so dark and ugly.
This is just what I have found.
I look around me, and I see people becoming passionately driven about the issue of guns and asking themselves, “what could of we have done to prevent the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012?”
I would never venture to claim that this question is not important, pertinent, or should not be asked. I do, however, think that it is too soon to be torn apart by these issues. Our hearts are still breaking from what happened, and the details that continue to unfold. Our stomachs are still twisted by what the children of Sandy Hook must’ve witnessed that day. Chills are still shooting down our spines to imagine what evil it takes to commit such an act.
How have we allowed this to lead to a divide? What the survivors need right now, is a community to come together in support around them. They certainly have a long, tough road ahead of them.
Repeatedly, through the past several years we have witnessed tragedy and allowed it to, even for a short time, bring us together in mourning and solidarity. For the first time in my life, I have witnessed the opposite happen. That is what breaks my heart now.
I think ALL of us will agree that something has to be done to attempt to prevent these massacres from happening again, no matter what side you’re on. What that “something” looks like will start to materialize as we work on the matter. I trust that.
At this point, I don’t care what that “something” is just yet. I am still far too stricken with grief to start thinking strategy. Am I alone in this?
I look at the faces of the victims, and my throat starts to tense. I hear their stories, and my eyes are filled with tears. I cannot look at December 14th with a hard heart. I find peace in my belief that these children are safe and happy now. I find strength in the stories of heroism in the adults that fought for these kids with their very lives.
I remember too, those who survived, and I give them this message: you can overcome your trauma and live a fulfilling life. This may be a struggle, but it does not have to defeat you. This dark moment in your lives can become a place of strength, and a place of motivation. You are in the thoughts and prayers of so many, and we will still have your hands when the heavy realization hits you of just how blessed you are to have faced and survived a trial that many will never even have to face.
To the rest of us, I say: stand down. This is not a fight. We are worn and we are weary. We have faced far too much as a country this year. Yes, we must address this issue, but please, for God’s sake, can we take a moment to grieve first?
To all of us, I plead: Do not let this destroy us. We will march forward and we will advocate for the changes necessary to prevent such tragedy in the future, but first allow yourselves to grieve. Before you stand up to fight, address your own trauma. Make sure that when your time comes, when your voice rises, that you are in a place where you are strong enough to argue your side. So many times, I have seen angels fall short here, and lose the drive to carry on. We can heal. We can overcome. But first, we must grieve.
A heart must finish breaking before you can begin to mend it.
It is true that this world can be an evil place, but what is also true is that each of us has the ability to contribute to the good. If you are going to pour fervently into this world, be sure that what you are pouring is positive.