Trigger warning: This narrative explores topics of trauma, rape, sexual assault, abuse of power, eating disorders, and mental illness. These events have been reported. The author has chosen not to move forward with allegations at this time. There is no “proof.”
Have you ever experienced a trauma and held on to the “secret” because of fear of ridicule and judgment–the stigma? That you would not be believed? That your past would overshadow the facts of the event? I still feel this way, though with a strong support system and proper medication, I am able to rise and continue trying. Not everyone has this luxury. I did. I’m sharing my story here, not for attention or even for validation–I just cannot hold on to this untold story any longer. My truth has attempted to eat me alive and kill me on many occasions–too many to count. I hope by sharing my truth, at least one person will feel less alone and realize there is hope for tomorrow. Putting myself out there and being vulnerable is the most challenging thing I have ever done, though it is necessary. This is my truth, I thank you for taking the time to listen.
When I was 12, I was raped by someone I thought that I knew. When I was 12, I was raped by someone I thought that I could trust– someone whom I thought cared about me. When I was 12, I was raped by someone whom I don’t believe thinks they did anything wrong to this day. But that’s fine, because I know in my body and in my mind that the fact is – I was raped. I wasn’t asking for it. I wasn’t in a situation I shouldn’t have been in. I was with someone that I thought I could trust. My body did what it needed to–to survive. I froze and I survived because that’s the best thing I knew to do at that moment. I didn’t fight, I didn’t run. I felt that if I did, I would die. My body helped me survive that moment and I’m proud of myself for surviving that moment. It was a moment, it was a grueling day. The world continued on, and I am okay. The storms I will weather and this darkness I will light with a spark. The silver lining, is, I now know the difference between healthy relationships and unhealthy relationships.
My step mother severely emotionally abused and neglected me and my brother from the ages of 5 to 12. I was raped by my best friends’ older brother’s friend at 16. At the age of 22, I entered into a relationship with a 50-year-old narcissist who ruined my mental health with control and gaslighting. The music director at my church abused his power and gaslighted me into a whirlwind romance and an inappropriate sexual encounter in the church bell tower. The church sided with him, and called him a “brother of Christ.” A predator and narcissist is living among us because my story has no proof. That’s not Christ. These things happened and I will no longer keep quiet about them. The church ended up firing him and listening to my story, which I am thankful for.
A week before this, my dad was in an almost-fatal motorcycle accident and the week after I was homeless. Within the span of a month, my world was turned upside down, though I persisted. I left my parents’ house to follow my dreams — which I perceived them to not be supportive of. This is not to say that I don’t love, need, and care for my parents. They did the best with what they knew at the time and I love them unconditionally. We have since made amends and will continue to do so. Also, a shout out to my sister, Callie, and my dear friend, Jenn, for taking me in, in a time of dire need of homelessness. In this time, I’ve earned my degree in Psychology, taught myself: guitar, piano, autoharp, drums, bass, banjo, and flute. I’ve also started my own mental health non-profit community, a film production company to de-stigmatize the villainization of mental illness, and created my own movie-musical. I’m so very proud of myself.
As a young girl, I was perceived as shy, weak, and misunderstood for the things out of my control: my genetic makeup, my mental health, my family life, my body type, how I socialized, how I saw the world, my imagination, my voice, etc. I was surviving through each day. I was closed off. I believed that the world was not safe for me to be myself because when I did show a glimpse of authenticity, I was shot down. Feeling different can be the most isolating and cornering feeling in the world, until someone helps you through the dark and finds a window for you to look out of. The window was foggy, I could not see, and I did not want to see. I wanted the pain to end. What I did not yet realize was that it would never end, per se, but those broken parts of me would be healed again. Broken bones heal but your body remembers. My body remembers. I am now finding ways to cope and manage these unhealed parts of me.
If you told me ten years ago that I practiced deep breathing, meditation, mantras, self-acceptance, and that I was exposing myself to the things that terrify me… I would have laughed in your face and told you “you just don’t understand.” In a way, no one will ever understand your story, they never will, but educating others is the most important thing to do. How can you expect someone to understand when they, too, have not been given the chance? When I realized that, my view of the world shifted entirely. Being angry at the world is also isolating and cornering, but when it’s the only tool in your toolkit, what can you do? 1. Never give up. 2. Continue being curious. 3. Reach out for help, no matter how scary it is. Even if it is the most terrifying thing you have ever done, do it. Your health and well-being is the most important thing. The world will live on, but I know for certain that it would not be the same without you. There will be a gap larger than you can imagine. I know some of you are thinking, “It would not matter. It is hopeless,” I would have said the same thing reading this. But it always matters. You matter. Your voice matters and is enough. Your perseverance and your quirks are your superpower. Even if you think NO ONE will care, I do. Read that again. I do.
I often think about those who do not have the resources that I so graciously and thankfully did. If I did not have my support system, I can say with 100% certainty I would not be here. For years, I was afraid to even think about the things that shaped me into who I am and how it affected others and the world. It was simply too overwhelming for me to fathom. My mindspace, for 12 years, looked something like this: “I’m crazy and not normal. How I’m feeling is not normal. People hate me and they are judging me. There is no hope for anything. My life means nothing. What I do doesn’t matter, because nothing matters if this pain is eating me alive every second of every day. The world is better off without me. My mistakes and who I once was will follow me until my dying day and there is nothing that will change that. You are an annoyance that must hide. You are alone. I’ve tried close to thirty different medications, why would I magically find the one that works for me?” That is a small glimpse into my mindset for over 10 years. For 10 years, this was my go-to and I did not know how to change it. When your brain tells you these things, how are you expected to manage them as a 13 year old? At 16 years old? Or even at 22? Even though I did receive techniques to help myself, I didn’t believe in myself to do it because nothing, I mean nothing, was taking this pain away. Why should I care when my mind is a whirlwind 24 hours a day?
I have Bipolar Depression and C-PTSD. My identity was so deeply woven and wrapped up in this. I was nothing more or nothing less than my illness and my trauma–a label. I didn’t believe it could ever get better. At 12 years old, I experienced a world-altering trauma. I reached out to someone closest to me and their response was along the lines of, “Boys will be boys. You shouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place,” with judging eyes. I completely shut down. If those closest to me were not going to stand up for me, as a child mind you, why should I? The behavior was modeled to me over and over again. Why would the future be any different?
Holding on to these feelings, I learned a lot. I learned that some people will sometimes not understand and are reacting out of what they know. The response should have been, “Tell me about what happened. What can I do to help? Do you feel safe?” But it wasn’t. In the halls at school, the gossiping pierced me behind-the-scenes. I was bleeding from the inside but no one could see. Years later, people were still talking about something that was my biggest trigger. When my brother would go to sports practice, my name would be mentioned in a bed of lies. Everywhere I turned, the lies followed me… Even years later, in college, out of college. I felt that no matter what I did, or where I went, or where I attempted to run to, the world would be unkind. Your words matter, what you say about other people matters. Spreading lies about people will not only ruin them in ways that you cannot understand or see, but it will ruin you too.
I didn’t feel or believe that I could handle the constant triggers in my daily life. There were so many of them. Over and over again. My life became a series of choices that I thought were helping me survive, though they would be my downfall. The world was unsafe, unkind, and grueling in my eyes. Nothing could have changed that until I changed the narrative and fought tirelessly behind the scenes to find something, anything, to help. Someone else’s version of surviving looks different than yours. That is okay. We are all doing the best we can with what we know.
After 13 years of trials and failures, I decided to try something new. I tried TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation). After 35 treatments, the world became brighter instead of greyer. After this, I found the medication that works for me. I am starting a trauma-specific therapy program that I never knew existed. What works for you may not work for others and that is okay. We are all different and uniquely beautiful, and that is more than okay. Again, we are all doing the best we can with what we know at that moment.
I didn’t believe that I was worth standing up for. I didn’t believe that I would survive until the age of 16 or 18 or 20 or 25… Why would it matter if I stood up for myself? The lies consumed me until there was nothing left but sorrow and a shell of who I once was. Formations in the sun became a dark night… and I was tired. Every moment of every day I was tired and my mind would ruminate on these thoughts every second of every day. I felt trapped. I felt useless. I thought that my identity was being a “slut”–that I would always be a “slut,” “troubled,” and “crazy.”
The thing about life is that you have the chance to start over again. The words that others choose to say are a reflection of them. The words I chose to say, for years, were a reflection of who I believed myself to be. The same goes for people who spread lies about things they don’t understand or know about. These people believe they will earn something in return for the words that they spread, though the only thing they’re earning is nothing. I earned nothing for the way I treated myself and the world. The difference now is that I am taking responsibility for those things and bravely moving forward.
I became a new version of myself that I respect. I am no longer afraid of those people. Their lies will catch up to them in the same way that the lies I told have caught up to me. I’m not a perfect person and I did things that I wish I could take back, but all of us are worthy of a second chance. I almost killed myself on multiple occasions, and I paid for the ugliness in my mind. My words cut deep and I paid for it in loneliness. Where you come from matters, the things that have happened to you matter, but what matters most is what you do with tomorrow and in the face of fear.
I knew all along that I would come out on the other side of this because I refused to give in, and I refused to give up. I tried and I failed so many times, but I never gave up. Something that others cannot take away from you is your strength and what you do with the new knowledge given to you by the world. If you take the time to get to know yourself and the why of how your past has shaped you, you will be a superhero and no one can touch you. When we look at others, we see a version of ourselves that they should be and sometimes we don’t see them at all for who they are, and where they have been.
Never let anyone, and I mean anyone, tell you who you are, and what you are supposed to be. Sometimes we need reminders–that’s okay too. Only you will know for certain. You may not know it now and you may not know all of the things to get there, but at your core–you know. That will reign superior to those who think they know you.
I treated my body in unspeakable ways. I starved myself. I binged. I used and abused drugs and alcohol. I went on drives that I knew I could come home or not to come home from. I lashed out at others. I reacted and didn’t reflect. I paid for those things through a harrowing darkness. But you know something? I am taking my power back and surviving. I will continue to do so. For me personally, it’s not about winning or losing–it’s about healing and it's about peace. I don't want to win. I am simply speaking my truth and telling my story. I’m not crazy. I’m not weak. I am not an annoyance. I’m not schizophrenic. I have an illness and trauma that I am learning to manage. I am a human and I am stronger for the things that I have experienced. I am a warrior.
I have a lot to say, and for once in my life, I am not apologetic, and I do not feel bad about it. I stole, I cheated, I lied. There is no excuse for it, but there is always a reason. I believed, somewhere deep inside of me, that by doing these things I was finding a form of acceptance that I so desperately craved–no matter the consequence. For years, I lived in fear that the things that happened to me would consume me. I lived in fear that the things I’ve said and done would kill me, infinitely corner me, or create unsafety. I have people in my life that will love me no matter what, no questions asked. Unconditionally. I was ignorant, unhealed, and simply doing the best that I could with what I knew at the time. One last thing–My hope is that one day we can all live in a world where people are not afraid to speak their truth for fear of retaliation and stigma.
988: Suicide Hotline