Healing looks so different for anyone – there’s no one solution. But for me personally I have had to learn to feel my emotions. I wanted to be that person who never gets angry or feels hurt. I wanted to just forgive and move on. I wanted to be that person who’s never angry, who shows kindness to everyone. But the truth is bottling up my feelings doesn’t work me. I want to still show kindness but I also needed to find an outlet for my feelings.
I found boxing. I used to play competitive sports everyday and I had begun to workout but boxing was an instant release. I was able to allow myself to feel all my feelings. I never learned before how to healthily release my anger and so I bottled it up. I also thought I did not have a right to be angry for the longest time but boxing taught me to allow myself to feel and gave me strength.
I remember my first boxing class a month after I’d been most recently raped. I was feeling really horrible but I went anyway. I went in feeling small, scared and weak. I felt alone. I left feeling validated and stronger. While I was there, the instructor said you’re allowed to take up space and to release your emotions. That was the most freeing thing I have ever heard. And so for the first time I had a flashback and instead of breaking down and crying, (Yes I had a flashback in class the moment he said that. By no means does this mean I don’t have panic attacks from my flashbacks or that I have everything figured out). But for the first time, I expressed my anger, my hurt and my fear.
I imagined my assault but this time I was able to fight back. I was able to express my anger. While this is not the only solution or necessarily even the answer it allowed me to acknowledge that I’d been hurt. I was able to punch a bag and release all the built up cortisol in my body that I had been ignoring. I was able to express my anger but I also felt joy for the first time in a long time. I found something I loved. I found something that taught me to control my anger while expressing it. I found something that gave me a release but also taught me that my feelings were valid. Most importantly I learned to take up space.
For the first I was affirmed that I was allowed to exist. Other people had tried too hard to diminish me, to tell me how to feel, to take away my control. This was the first step in learning that I am still in control of my life. While I don’t control what happens to me and I can’t always control how I feel, I can choose to validate my feelings. Boxing was that for me. It validated my fears and angers. It teaches me that I can feel weak and be strong at the same time. It teaches me how to control my anger but still express it. It reminds me that just because someone has weakened me doesn’t mean I stop trying. It means I keep fighting. But fighting can be resting, self care, exercise, or fighting.
But none of these could’ve taken place until I acknowledged that I’d been hurt. It wasn’t until I heard that instructor say you’re allowed to take up space that I realized that I’d been trying to not take up space. From that moment forward I’ve learned to take up space and to fight for myself. Boxing was also a physical encouragement for me that I can still be strong even after someone has physically hurt me. Something in my brain clicked that day that I still am strong.