Rape

Repercussions of my ugly reality

I smoked my first cigarette when I was 15.

I had this friend, her parents smoked and she would sneak a few away and hide what became a habit for her, and as it would turn out, for me as well.

When I was fifteen, I went to this high school football game to see the guy I was starting to date, it was a small town in the deep recesses of Georgia and high school football was where everyone gathered on a Friday night.

The popular kids, who were my friends from church, invited me up to their section in the stands. My smoker friend was excited for this, getting an invitation was the first step, so I went.

In the stands on that football field, the guy I was dating, and the girls I was friends with from church seemed thrilled to have me with them, I had this warmth in my heart that I was being accepted, when only moments before I had been scared that the guy I was seeing wouldn’t want to see me since I had confessed to him that I had been raped, but everything seemed so good in those first few moments.

Knowing what I know today, I should have known that they weren’t thrilled, the smile that Lizzy had on her face wasn’t excitement, it was treacherous and manipulative, but I was young and naive. I wasn’t prepared for her to come at me with a full blast of accusatory statements, there was no time for me to get a word out of my mouth. I was embarrassed, humiliated, horrified that everyone knew now and then they all turned their heads away from me. I reached my hand out to touch the arm of the guy I was seeing and he jerked it away, not even looking at me. I burst into tears and he moved past everyone to get away from me.

In shock, I walked down the stairs to leave. I found my smoker friend, she asked me what was wrong but I had already pulled back deep into myself to keep the wounds I felt inside from bleeding any further.

I was broken, she took me to her house, we sat on her bed and she lit a cigarette. I didn’t say anything, I just took it from her, I coughed, choked, but the pain that it caused made me feel better. It took my mind off of the destructive abuse of rape, the searing pain in my lungs momentarily made me forget the humiliation of being shunned by my peers, the high of it – that sharp pain it causes in my brain – filled the void that had been left behind when I felt like I had been stripped and beaten from the inside out.

Today

More than fifteen years have come and gone as a painful blur. I dissociated to save my thoughts from the pain that my body went through, even though the emotions live inside like a black mold eating my body from the inside out. I blocked and blacked out in order to try and survive just one more day.

The healthier the people I surround myself with and the healthier my life gets because of therapy, the more it hurts and the more I hurt myself.

When I would dissociate, I could have an argument and I wouldn’t be present for it, I would go to an inner place in my head while my mouth spewed words that I would later be sorry for. When I am present and I have an argument, the adrenaline spikes and the trigger that it is, causes my face and body to ache in the locations where I have been hit. These areas on my face, my neck, my back, my stomach, my arms, they ache with the hurt of the past.

The monsters of my past haunt me every day and without realizing it, I’ve been helping them.

I felt like I was the worst kind of garbage after years of rape and abuse. I became so broken that deep down I believed I deserved to be treated this way, even though outwardly I was smiling and telling people that I was strong enough to stand.

The repercussion of the physical and psychological monstrosities is that I treat myself like garbage.

I hide from people I love in order to sneak cigarettes because the pain I feel when I smoke fills an ache of pain from my past and I think I deserve that. I drink too much at night in order to make sure that I won’t lie awake in bed terrorized by memories of my past, the headache the next morning … I think I deserve that.

I have stomach issues, lactose intolerance, GERD, and an ulcer, but I don’t stop eating food that is bad for me, because the pain it causes affirms that emotional feeling that I deserve to feel bad.

As it is every day, my vision isn’t clear because I have headaches that build into migraines. My stomach is burning with pain from eating. My neck tension is so severe that when I turn my head I hear cracking noises and pain reverberates, shuddering through my brain.

I panic that every day will be my last because of the amount of stress and pain I feel. I used to think that I was going to die from this pain, suddenly and swiftly.

I think about stopping all of these vices. These vices which have not helped me, but have only monumentally added to the pain I feel. My inner struggle is worry, that without these vices and bad habits – I am afraid I will feel everything. Is the pain from these vices really worse than the ugly reality of what happened?

Is the pain worse than finding out I’m a terrible at keeping a clean house and it isn’t just laziness?

Is the pain and fear worse than tossing and turning for hours, trying to shut out the monsters that haunt me in the dark of night, when the world is silent, but my mind is screaming?

Is it worth the pain and fear of dying sooner in life due to my vices and habits, because they help me dissociate from the agonizing terror of dying at the hands of someone else?

With these vices of mine, I have perpetuated and continued the feeling that I deserve to be in pain and that I deserve to feel bad. As the black tar of cigarettes coats my lungs with every inhale and the bottle of wine half finished is poured into another glass, I tell myself that I will get better, that I will do better, ironically, that is the same thing I used to say when I was being abused.

It is stunningly clear to me today, that the monsters of my past have evolved into new monsters in my present, in the form of things that I can become addicted to.

My addiction is clear for me, I am addicted to not wanting to feel, not wanting to remember, not wanting to look at myself in a mirror and seeing who I have become.

I did not want to acknowledge how I felt about myself, my face, or my body. So I embraced vices and habits that made me numb to everything but the pain that they themselves cause.

I have come to a place in the last few weeks where the vices and habits are making life harder, the purpose they served in the past is missing.

I have nothing to give this world but who I am, if I am numb and my eyes are vacant, I am not living. If I am in pain from a hangover and smoking, giving my body and mind less oxygen than it needs to function, I am only hurting myself.

There is a great quote, unknown to me who said it first, but it goes … I will remember and recover, not forgive and forget.

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I miss the person I once was, I sometimes dream of the person I had hoped to become. This life, with all of the good, the bad, and the ugly, is my reality and I think it is time that I confronted it.

I think it is time I fight for me, for who I want to be, and for what I want out of this life.

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Smile

I used to smile a lot. When I was a child… I’m sure that it was endless. I was a rambunctious little kid with a determinable spirit, in fact, when I was a toddler, my mom walked into the study to find that I had climbed the bookshelves as I smiled and waved to her from the top of the shelf. Either way, I remember smiling, a lot.

I stopped smiling along the way because of rape, abuse, and domestic violence.

Smile

I took this photo at a time where I felt, emotionally, that smiles were perfunctory at best, and I believed this. No one will like you if you don’t.

It isn’t true though, I know that today. I am almost two years past when this photo was taken and I smile now at the most ridiculous things. Sometimes it comes easy, like when I’m with my husband or my mom, they are the most vibrant people I have in my life and they love life, it’s infectious.

I smiled this last week because I am doing something new. I started a job, by choice, not by need. I felt proud and I was excited for what this next step in my future holds for me and I couldn’t help it, I was smiling. Smiling because the office I went to work for obviously had an interior decorator or smiling because the people in the office were so pleasant. Smiling because I will get to see my husband more when he switches out of the current job he is in. Smiling because the air smelled like Seattle rain, coffee, morning traffic, and my awesome Pandora playlist.

I was walking back upstairs to my office today when I came across a man I haven’t met yet, going into his office, he looked about 10 years younger than my father was when he passed away, but from his pose and gentle smile I felt a familiarity, he reminded me of my dad, so I smiled. I smiled because he reminded me of my dad, of love, of happiness, of a man who enjoys life, and who’s enjoyment of life is infectious. The smile was there on me. Then he smiled back.

It was in the next seconds that he turned to me as I passed him and he said – “your smile just made my day.” I looked at him and smiled even larger and thanked him for the compliment … then I passed him, headed towards my office he called out to me “I hope you give that smile to your father every day!” 

It stopped me cold. I didn’t want to say “my father passed away, I miss him more than you can imagine, I wish he could see that smile every day, I wish I could hold him, touch him, hug him, tell him how much I love him…” …… these are things we don’t say in the perfunctory world of passive aggressivo though….. so I turned around and held back my tears as I smiled again and said “I used to.”

I saw the look on his face as he realized that my father was gone, then he said “I hope you will think of him and smile like you just did for me.”

I said that I would, then I walked back to my office and I sat at my desk thinking about how terribly I miss my Dad, but it brought about a new thought for me, why not smile like I would for my Dad? It doesn’t hurt people to see a smile on someone’s face and I think that it is something we are missing in today’s world of duckface and selfie’s.

Consumed

I turned 29 about a week ago. Leading into this birthday, I started focusing on the future, I felt like a switch had been flipped, I needed what has been my life over the last “few” years to change. Then I started counting the years it has actually been, it wasn’t just a few… it has been 9 years, 9 years since I had a nervous breakdown and since that fateful day I have been consumed. Consumed with the horror of what happened, the fear of it happening again, terror of the unknown, panic attacks, and an inability to move forward.

I need this to change. I need positivity, I need hope, faith, strength, endurance, happiness, life. I made a decision on the morning of my birthday to no longer keep focusing on the past, being consumed by it. That has to end, I don’t live there anymore.

I wish I could write about happy things, but what I know, what I have lived, is dark and ugly.

So, final post on the dark truth before I start to shape my writings into something more positive.

I don’t remember my exact age when I was molested, but I was very young, and he had been a trusted family friend who was morbidly obese and could barely move. I never went near him again after the first time he touched me, he did end up going to prison (for touching/raping other girls) and he died there as well.

11, the summer that I stayed with my Grandmother and in those fateful months I lost all of my trust and faith in extended members of family. My cousin accused me of stealing her things, even after proven innocent, I carried the stigma of thief with *most of my extended family. I was a verbal whipping post for my Grandmother and cousin that summer. My sister was taken 75 miles away and I was left alone with them. Slapped every time I objected to being called names, I started to spend all of my time hiding in a room in the attic or outside in my Grandfather’s barn. Years later, I was still the one to blame if something wasn’t where it was supposed to be.

15, when I was raped by someone I met only hours earlier. My best friends and peers shunned me. He threatened to kill me and my entire family if I ever spoke out about it. So I didn’t.

19, when I broke up with a boyfriend who would go on to attack me physically, punching a hole in the wall when I ducked, breaking into the bathroom while I was showering to grab me by the hair and slam my head into the wall, raping me for leaving him.

20, when I moved in with a man who was so emotionally abusive that I would start my day by throwing up from stress, choked me and threw me into furniture when he was drunk and angry, and cheated on me with other men.

20, when I had a nervous breakdown. Which is ultimately what saved my life.

My life today is completely opposite of what happened over these years. My life is amazing, but I am only just starting to heal. That seems to unreal but at 22 I was safe and as each year has progressed I have made healthier choices for my life because I’m learning ….that I’m worth it.

Freshly 29, I see a future and I plan to focus on being the healthiest I can be for it, not on living in my past. Working through what happened instead of letting it consume me.

And removing my makeup every night. After all, it’s time I start behaving like an adult.

I need to get to know you

It’s been a while. I stopped writing because I felt like I was feeding anger instead of moving forward with hope and I needed to get my head straight on that point.

The husband and I moved to a new apartment, it’s newer, spacious, and peaceful. I’ve been running myself ragged the last two weeks for this move and trying to do more than I think my body could undertake. I started having massive panic attacks again this last week and yesterday I couldn’t get my heart to steady after one panic attack in the morning. I spent the whole day trying to breathe but labored with each breath, I could feel my lungs aching from the strain.

Because panic attacks are what they are, I of course think that I must be dying. This sounds like it’s funny, but it isn’t. It’s terrifying. This impending sense of dread and death is a stealthy stalker and when you’re having a panic attack, it can be crippling.

Before we went to bed last night, I told my husband what I was feeling and he did his utmost to comfort me and assuage my fears. As he rubbed my back in this steady motion that he’s learned calms me, I wondered how he knows just what to do.  It was at that moment that I realized how I am literally uncomfortable with myself. I wrote myself a quick email last night detailing all that I am uncomfortable with, like my appearance, my smile, the way I talk, the way I walk… the list was endless.

I went to sleep, trying to relax and breathe, thinking to myself and telling myself “I need to get to know you.” I need to listen to my body and take care of it, not hate it for what happened. I need to look at my face in the mirror and not imagine the bruises that aren’t there anymore. I need to let myself start to feel happy again without guilt. Neither my body or my mind has relaxed in the last seven years and in the last six months I’ve known that this needs to change, I can’t live like this anymore.

I have this recurring dream where I see myself, barely in my 20’s and the shower can’t clean enough off. I’m mute, paralyzed, and scared. There’s a party going on outside the bathroom and I just see the dirt trails going down the drain. Every time I have this dream I feel like fighting. Fighting for life, fighting for myself, fighting for happiness, fighting for this to end. All of it.

I need to get to know myself again.

The moment I wake up

I had a song running through my head when I woke up this morning to the cooing of my alarm. Aretha Franklin – Say a little prayer. My humming of it is more along the lines of My Best Friend’s Wedding but all the same, it was an unexpected lift and brought a smile to my face before I had even crawled out of bed to make the coffee.

Put a smile on your face? It’s the gift that keeps giving, really.

We simply assume that the way we see things is the way they really are or the way they should be. And our attitudes and behavior grows out of those assumptions. – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

I do. Does everyone? When I first got married I had the hardest time accepting that the way my husband saw the world wasn’t the way that I did. In certain cases he learned that the way I saw the world was true but I will admit that for the majority of our marriage, his view on the world was what I’ve needed to see it as.

I had a bad attitude in so many situations because I always expected the worst. There was a reason for it though – for example, when I was 16 or so, I had bought a CD burner at Walmart and it turned out that what was in the box was not what was on the box. I went right back to exchange it that day and the woman at the counter said that I had switched the item and that she could not approve a return.

::This was not only embarrassing but immediately slapped me back into a memory of my own extended family accusing my of theft and deceit when I was just around 10 or so years old. That story is for another time though.::

I went home, grabbed my mom and she took it in to return it, immediately they refunded the money and took the item back. From that day forward, even when something I bought was broken, mishandled, the wrong size, anything – I would not try to return it because I had been so humiliated in the past. My husband didn’t think that returning items was ever a problem until one day, we went to return a pair of heels that had said size 7.5, but were really an 8. He wanted me to be stronger and to experience that it isn’t always a refusal of a return and that customer service is supposed to be there for us, the customers. Unfortunately… when I tried to return the shoes with him by my side the counter girl said there was no way she could accept them, that they had been worn and were therefore mine and no refund/exchange/anything was applicable. My heart broke, I looked at him with this look that just said “see?” Now, I expected him to hold my hand, maybe rub my back as we would shamefully walk out of the store, but instead he held my hand, spoke up, asked for a manager who would actually do her job and successfully got the shoes returned and my money refunded.

I learned from him that I am not to be walked over by anyone. If he hadn’t been around, my attitude and behavior would never have changed, I would think everyone in customer service was mean and I would keep all items that I should return. My insecurity and self-worth would still be dictated by my past as I would continue to assume that every experience is going to be like the one before it, but they are all different. I need to remember to take a breath and reassess that I can’t base my self-worth on bad experiences.

We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives. – Dan Zadra

I have had the time, I just haven’t been thinking about anything outside of my pain. I have an unbelievably amazing husband, my family is award-worthy in their level of love and support – yet I pushed all of them away at one time or another, sometimes all at once. I have been thanking them slowly, I have been opening myself back up to them, telling the truth about what happened to me and letting them into my life. I just wish that at the time of the assaults, the abuse, and the loneliness – that I had reached out. My life would have been very different, I wouldn’t have been dealing with this alone, but I was so afraid if I told them the truth that they would be ashamed of me, angry at me, hate me, be embarrassed by me… the worst of anything and everything.

I know now, that when you’re raped, abused, battered – you take on the shame, the guilt, and all of the other feelings that are all sorts of disgusting that your abuser is incapable of feeling. I wish I had told someone. I wish I hadn’t tried to carry it all alone.

My family knows now. It hurt them to hear what had happened to me and although I don’t know when the feeling of devastation will go away.. we know as a family that we love each other and we are thankful that we have each other. I do need to speak it more clearly to them, to show them how truly thankful I am for them with my actions as well. That is a big part of why I am doing this new motivation every day, I need to get back to being the girl that was hopeful, joyful, excited and stoked for life.

Humanity cannot forget its dreamers; it cannot let their ideals fade and die; it knows them as the realities which it shall one day see and know. – James Allen – To Your Success

Dreamers, to dream, to have ideals, that should be all of us. We should all write down our dreams, chase after them, and one day – breathe them in. I am a massive fan of my football team here in Seattle. One of our Seahawks was in an interview and he explained how when he intercepts the football or gets a touchdown, that he raises his arms out and up to show that he did it, he is here, that he made it. His dream took a lot of hard work on his part, but he got there and he has faith that everyone else can do it too.

I’m in a place where I want to start dreaming again, I want to chase down my dreams and grab them out of the air, and I know that one day ::soon, I hope:: I’ll be standing on top of a mountain, at an art gallery, or even in my living room and I’ll know that I’ve got this. I can make it happen, I just have to work for it.

My interest is in the future, because I am going to spend the rest of my life there. – Charles F. Kettering – To Your Success

These quotes about thinking about the future, not the past, keep coming up. I get it. I want my future days not to be anything like the past days of the last seven years. Don’t get me wrong, I did have some great times in the last seven years but they were also downplayed by my pain, headaches, migraines, and the ever present feeling of dread weighing heavily on my body and mind. I am starting to imagine my future days as days without those things. When I have a migraine now, I treat it, get the ice, advil, lay in a dark room until it eases. I used to fight through them to keep going and I see now that it just made them worse. Taking care of me, my health, is the first step in moving forward. My future depends on me taking the right steps in the present, not blaming it on my past.

Amazing