Untitled anniversary thoughts
For almost three years I kept the outfit I was wearing that night. One night my junior year I was drunk alone in my room and I put it on. It didn’t fit well, as I’d gotten fatter but suddenly I just felt so small again, insignificant and lost.
I used to be so consumed with thinking about the version of me that existed before I was raped. She lived in this alternate universe and got good grades and never got into an abusive relationship and she had sex for the first time in a dimly lit room with a boy she trusted, just like she had always wanted. She didn’t have to lie constantly to never be such a downer and she gave truthful answers when her mother called to ask how she was. But I could never feel her alternate-world happiness because she was still dead. As much as she consumed my thoughts, she was gone. Everything I had ever imagined for myself, wanted for myself, hoped for my future - gone. All as a result of this horrible thing that I lived through that I irrationally thought was my fault. Cue PTSD, crippling anxiety, and insomnia for the duration of my college career.
Anyway, I haven’t thought about her in a long time (which I think points to my currently pretty stable emotional and mental health). I don’t spend hours crying over some version of myself that I think I could have been. I’m content with my job, happy with my relationships, and secure in my belief that I’m actually a good person deserving of good things. I’m a Happy Person. I’m happy with who I am. And there’s no denying that who I am, my lived experiences, my perspective, everything has been shaped by what happened. I think I’m a more empathetic person now. I’ve been forced to become good at dealing with crisis situations. I’ve become more insightful about my own feelings and reactions. My sense of feminism and social justice has developed.
Still, as admittedly fabulous as I think I am, if I could somehow magically uncheck the box next to “experienced sexual assault” from my social history, I would in an instant. And everything I love about my life now would be different. I may not even feel happier, I mean, who knows? But even if I’m “better” now and I don’t have panic attacks multiple times a week, and I don’t have nightmares every time I try to sleep - it will always hurt. It will ALWAYS hurt. I will ALWAYS be able to, in an instant, be brought back to those very painful memories, to feel very intimately the exact way that I felt as I was being violated. I will always remember how scared I was, the desperation that I felt every day afterwards for months trying to figure out why I still existed. The shame, the embarrassment, the loneliness of feeling like everybody in my life that I loved and cared for could not know me and would never be able to know me again. The hate I felt for myself that caused me to be be so afraid of dealing with myself that I ended up in an abusive relationship where I was pushed, coerced and made to feel like my triggers were selfish and unloving and that I deserved to sleep on the floor if I couldn’t bring myself to love my boyfriend enough to have sex with him. And more and more and more and more.
I mean, it’s not like I sit around thinking about all of this all of the time. I don’t, not anymore. But I’ll never truly be able to escape it. It will always be a part of me, and all of those feelings will always live inside of me. I’ve been learning to live with them since it happened, and I will continue learning to live with them for as long as I live. That doesn’t mean I’m not a Happy Person. Survivors of rape can be Happy People. And Happy People can still wish that they hadn’t been raped.
I’m still not sure that I actually said anything in this entire ramble, but I guess this is just what I’m thinking about today. Here’s to achieving another year of progress. Here’s to putting another year between now and then.
I held a funeral for myself several years ago. I lay my head down on the cold turf and thought to myself, “This has to be it. There can be no more.” I woke up a few short hours later, cold and sad. I walked home, wondering why I was forced to live as my own ghost.
I held a wake for myself for several years, complete with gin, tequila, cheap vodka, and bad men. I mourned the dead. I was bitter and passionless, angry and desperate, terrified and empty.
Today I woke up and found myself finally alive again. Different, completely different. But alive. I spoke and you were finally there to hear. I stopped searching and finally you found me. I solved my own reflection in your eyes, felt my future in your palm.
“This is real. I can’t believe I finally found you.”