Here I am, not quite ready, but forging ahead anyway.
It’s almost ironic to say I’m not ready because so many people already know my story. Except they only know the parts of the story I’m comfortable enough to tell. And they call me strong and they tell me I’m brave and how they wish that one day they’ll become half the woman I am. And I smile and stay quiet because I can’t tell them that it’s been years and I’m still afraid of the dark. I can’t tell them that it’s been years and the trauma is rooted so deeply inside me that I have to go under anesthesia whenever I visit the gynecologist. I can’t tell them that there are still days where I wish I’d gone through with killing myself because sometimes it feels like that would have been easier than all the time that’s passed since that night. I can’t tell them… until now.
I live my life hyperaware of my status as a rape survivor. There was a time when it felt like a secret that held me down, a secret so huge I couldn’t tell just anyone about it… Then I told everyone and suddenly I was free- the weight was lifted and I felt so high that nothing in the world could bring me down. But with time I realized how much of that night I hadn’t faced and I suddenly felt like a fraud. It didn’t even feel fair for me to call myself a survivor because, in reality, had I even survived?
I often look back at the first year after my rape. My friends and I talk about what those months were like for me, but sometimes, more importantly, all of us. We talk about how ill-tempered I was for the six months immediately following my rape, how they’d meet up without me to talk about how they wanted to (metaphorically) strangle me for how I was handling things (though they never blamed me for how I chose to cope), how if only we knew then what we know now. We reflect on the fact that we trudged ahead through the darkest tunnels unsure if we would ever see the light at the end of them and swell with pride knowing where we ended up. We look back on the night we had a staycation at a hotel in our college town and went to Walmart at 11:45 PM to buy a card table and twenty legal pads because it was time to start fighting back. We talk about how our own worlds were burning for so long that when the rest of the world started burning with us we felt like the calm within the storm. I look back at the first year after my rape and I realize I didn’t just survive- my friends and I survived, together.
It’s been a few years since I was raped and my friends and I are still surviving. We are open and vulnerable with each other in a way I’ve never known before. There is, quite literally, nothing we can’t tell each other about… except for the parts of that night and my life since then that I’ve refused to face. So here I am facing everything I haven’t faced since that night so many years ago: good and bad, highs and lows, the moments I haven’t told anyone about and the feelings I’ve never acknowledged. This is me mentioning how much things hurt. This is me caring for my wounds by reopening them. From this moment forward I will name the pain and invite it back into me.
I’m not quite ready, but I’m choosing to forge ahead anyway.
This is me healing. This is me unapologetically surviving.