The other day, I watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy that hit me like a ton of bricks. To set the scene: Christina and Owen are together in an on-call room and she receives a page regarding a surgery. Owen asks her to ignore the page and stay with him. Later in the episode, she realizes that, when she ignored the page, she missed out on a learning opportunity. It reminds her of a relationship she had early in the series.
She tells Owen, “Burke was… he took something from me. He took little pieces of me – little pieces over time, so small I didn’t even notice, you know. He wanted me to be something I wasn’t, and I made myself into what he wanted. One day I was me, Christina Yang, and then suddenly I was lying for him, and jeopardizing my career, and agreeing to be married and wearing a ring, and being a bride. Until I was standing there in a wedding dress with no eyebrows, and I wasn’t Christina Yang anymore. And even then, I would’ve married him. I would have. I lost myself for a long time, and now that I’m finally me again, I can’t. I love you. I love you more than I loved Burke. I love you. And that scares the crap out of me, because when you asked me to ignore Teddy’s page, you took a piece of me, and I let you. And that will never happen again.”
Chuck* and I were friends for a few years. I lost my virginity to him in a night that a police officer would later describe as a rape (I didn’t see it that way at the time. I didn’t realize coercion was still coercion regardless of if it was someone you trusted with your life).
Over time, Chuck took pieces of me without me ever realizing it. He took away my innocence long before I noticed it was gone. He introduced me to drugs and before I knew it I was spending upwards of $600 a month to get us high. He encouraged my binge drinking – we’d see who could blackout faster. We’d plan to do homework together, but instead he would get high and encourage me to do the same. My grades slipped. But Chuck and I were having fun and C’s get degrees.
The morning I woke up after my rape, I wasn’t any different than I was the day before. It was a few months before I fully realized that I didn’t recognize the girl looking back at me in the mirror. I had spent the last few years in a constant haze of alcohol and drugs. I had neglected my school work. I had cut off the people who were my close friends before I met Chuck. My self-confidence was non-existent and I had no sense of identity.
In the years since the night Chuck raped me, I’ve found myself again. I know who I am in every sense imaginable. I know what I stand for and what I don’t. I have consciously made decisions to further my career in a field I’m passionate about. I value and foster healthy relationships with my family and friends. I enjoy spending time alone and remember the importance of making sure my own cup is filled to where it needs to be so I can best serve others. I am more in tune to my body now, emotionally and physically, than I have ever been before.
I have spent years rebuilding what he shattered in one moment.
And because of that, I’ve shut myself off since that night. Sure, I’ve slept with strangers in the time since, but I haven’t spoken to a guy my age any longer than I needed to in order to get a free drink at a bar. And in the time since I’ve given up drinking, I’ve rarely spent time around guys my age.
But, in a few weeks, I’m moving in order to help further my career. I’ll be starting a new job I’m absolutely ecstatic about, but equally terrified of because I know some of my co-workers will be guys my age. My biggest fear isn’t that I won’t be able to be, at the least, acquaintances with them; it’s that I will. That I’ll hit it off with someone and suddenly I’ve lost myself, suddenly I’m Christina Yang at the altar with no eyebrows.
I know myself to my core. But what if I meet someone who shatters me in one moment? What if the woman I’ve spent the last few years rebuilding comes crashing down in seconds?
What happens if I can’t build myself back up?