the "me too" journey: how did you keep going?
Miss the beginning? Start here.
TW: Reflection after a sexual misconduct incident. This post isn't heavy on "what happened" like the past posts, but it is very deep, raw, and honest.
For once, I could not turn to my blog for healing. I could not write. I kept what happened from my family. I was dismissed when I first shared my story.
Those who know me best know that writing, and my family, are everything to me. So, you may have pictured me to be in a dark place, because how could I handle this all on my own? Well, I wasn't in a dark place, because I didn't do this on my own.
No, I wasn't writing, I wasn't sleeping, and I called my mom saying things were "good" when she had asked. I felt scared and alone- but I promise, I cared for myself in other ways.
I write this post because when things happen, we get caught up in the 'what's' and the 'why's' but we rarely take the time to acknowledge OUR OWN part in our healing.
When someone says, "that's a lot to handle" and asks "how did you do it?" I take that seriously. Because..I'm not superhuman, and you don't have to be. Someday, instead of replying with a shrug of my shoulders and a "I have no idea-" I want to be able to recognize those same parts to myself that others seem to recognize easily. My strengths. There often is not a superhuman answer; it's little things that make a big difference.
Which brings me to my journey..
I was running on adrenaline.
"what do I do?"
"should I report it?"
"was this my fault?"
"is this as bad as it feels?"
"am I overreacting?"
These past few months I was making phone calls, appointments, meetings, visits to law enforcement, court- practically begging for air.
Do you see me?
Do you hear me?
Do you believe me?
Nothing seemed to end. I just kept running to the next mark, to find I needed to run even further. I had so many more miles to run, that I did not acknowledge the distance I had accomplished behind me.
Am I talking about a running race?
No, I am talking about reporting my sexual assault. I am talking about the energy and the time that went into my first court date even being a thing.
I am going to use analogies, so bear with me.
There was no bench on this run. I could stop to walk, but I could not sit. There were no breaks.
I look back now and ask myself how I kept going. How I did not give up.
This here, this post, is the one that I have been talking about writing, but never sat down to start.
I am not all rainbows and sunshine.
I mean, none of us are, but I am okay admitting that.
But I am not all clouds and pouring rain either.
I am not sure what I define myself as.. a survivor? a victim? no. What I do know is that I ran some serious mileage these past few months. I did things to help myself. I did things to make the pain bearable. This post is the HOW, the WHY, and the WHAT that kept me going when I was given crap loads (sorry to lose the poetic flow) of reasons to crumble.
This is not a success story, or motivational words of advice. This is just what I noticed, what I give credit to, for making things a little easier.
Here's the thing-
My initial plan for this post was to start with a list; but it just wasn't cutting it. I had a lot of reasons, but there was just one that stood out to me and that is what I want to focus on. First, I will acknowledge a few other things I did to remain buoyant:
I continued to remind myself that my feelings would be temporary.
I praised myself for the small things, like getting to yoga once every 3 weeks, or picking up a prescription at CVS that had been there for too long.. (woo!)
I tried, really tried not to compare myself to others. Most nights I couldn't sleep because I was worrying about work or court, so I was a tad sloth-like in my courses. My notes were a mess, I was the "wait what" student, and homework took me way longer than it should have. Despite my slower pace, I went at a pace that was comfortable for me to show up, get things done. I didn't shame myself for it. I looked at the bigger picture, at everything that was on my plate, and I was doing a damn good job! (Actually I raised my GPA that semester and I think that is incredible given the circumstances.)
What really helped though?
I gave myself permission to be vulnerable; to reach out to others.
Last year, my friends knew me to be having dance parties (by myself) in my dorm room. I was always cracking jokes. I went to weekly yoga classes, runs with my earbuds in. Oh- and I had an obsession with Skinny Pop. Like, a bag a day obsession. I was happy.
I enjoy that side of me, and my friends do too.
After I was violated, I didn't know how to be that little bouncing ball of light. I had spent most of my life thinking that was the only part of me I should show.
These past 5 months, I allowed myself to show a much more vulnerable side to me.
I functioned. I got out of my bed, went to my classes, completed my assignments. But, I ate a little less, and my eyes would well up with tears in a group of people. I didn't know how to stop it. I decided to let myself feel. My friends saw a different version of me. When they asked, I admitted- I was not OK.
I never like people seeing me cry. It is why people never truly know, and I cannot blame them for not being mind readers. Because, when I am uncomfortable, I smile instead.
This time, I cried, I cried a lot.
I put on the mascara to (try to) boost my self-esteem, but by the end of the day I had to wipe off the tear-stained raccoon eyes that dried on my cheeks. I didn't want to be alone, so I let people see.
I let people see the absolute worst of me.
But, somehow, that helped.
I honored my feelings, I honored the fact that my pain was temporary, and I gave it permission to be felt.
I did not hide.
I did not push people away, even if it felt like I was.
Instead, I had friends volunteering to support me. Even those who simply sent me a text or knocked on my door to check-in. Those volunteering to go with me at dinnertime, to make sure I had some food in me. To go with me to the police, to court; anything. Because those are some fun places to be.. right? No, true friends, people who truly care, will respond to what is genuine. Genuine does not have to look pretty.
It was scary telling friends, but those who have stayed through it all make it all worth it. I needed to be honest. I did not owe my story to anyone, but I chose to speak it because a part of me knew I could not hide it forever. The part of me who decided at a young age her story would not go untold in order to participate in a world that could be so much more authentic.
This smiley pumpkin photo was taken on Thanksgiving 2017, just days after the incident first occurred. Who could have known, with that smile?
I wasn't ready to speak of it then, and that is ok.
A few months after this photo was taken, I recorded a video for my mom.
I tried writing to her, I tried to find time to tell her in person over my winter break. I choked. There wasn't a deadline, but I realized that the longer I kept it from her, the lump in my throat would stay, and the more I would build on my shame.
I started the video explaining that I wanted her to just listen until I was done. To please listen, and not react. Face to face, I was too worried she would interrupt me. I was too worried she would freak out before I got everything out. On video, it was a long story of what she missed those past few months, why I took so long to tell her, and I wanted her to know all of it before getting into where I was at now.
It was a 15 minute video taken on my phone. I breathed, and I sent it.
There was no going back.
I was scared of how she would react. I did not want advice, I did not want to be told to quit my job, or judge how I handled things. I just wanted to be heard. Now, I wish I hadn't worried so much, because that is exactly what I got from her.
She was sorry for what I experienced, but she continued to tell me how she was proud of me. She said she was impressed with my maturity, and how I did reach out to support so I would not be alone with this.
We discussed it over the phone some more for a day or two before she filled my step-father in.
As I said in a previous post, I could not be more grateful for how they handled it. Whatever I wanted, they would support me.
Right now, as I write these posts, as I look back-
I intend to continue all of those things I mentioned above. I needed to leave things here. It took me a long time to write these 3 posts, but this one in particular needed to be shared eventually.
I am going to finish my semester! It sounds crazy, emotional, and exciting to say that and to believe that I will be done in just 2 weeks.
Full disclosure- these past few months I had been calling home much more than I ever have in my life. Crying, expressing the "I can't do its" and telling my mom I was thinking about leaving school. I said I had support, I never said things were easy. Truthfully, I was ready to drop out. Not too long ago I wasn't even sure if I could finish, let alone start the semester.
This post is just as much of a crazy wake up call for me. Like hellllloooo, you did it!
And what is coming next for me..
now THAT is going to be worth it all!