LIFE AFTER LOVE
Everyone has that one song that just hits you. It opens the window in your soul, releasing all the emotions like butterflies being set free. Most people laugh when I say My Song™️ is Believe by Cher. Seriously. It's just something about that song that makes me happy enough to want to dance in my room & sing along as loud as possible.
I can't remember the last time I did that, until I did it today. On my only day off, I did nothing but sang & danced along to my favorite songs in my bright yellow shorts. Don't get me wrong, I LIVE for the heartbreak songs but today felt different. This week felt different. It's been so long since I've felt happy, it's almost too much to handle. I see so many people suffering around me that I sometimes feel guilty to be happy but I know that I don't always deserve to suffer in life. I deserve the chance to feel this emotion like everyone else. It's one of the things I'm learning as I transition from living in survival mode to actually living.
Before I continue, I would like to put a trigger warning for sexual abuse, self harm & depression. Please do not read on if any of these subjects trigger you.
Life has changed since I last wrote a post, in the world & in my world. In my last post I spoke about how depressed & sick I was. I was battling demons that I've never spoken about to anyone because it took me a long time to come to terms with them. To forgive myself. To try & forgive others. It took me a long time to even think about writing this post because I've never spoken about what happened to me. I always thought if I didn't talk about it then it would go away. The thought of speaking about it has me feeling sick, but it's been eating me alive since I began to understand what I went through. One of the things that moved me to write this post was Vanessa Guillen's case & the conversation surrounding it.
I remember when I first saw a post about Vanessa Guillen's disappearance & reading how she was being harassed by someone in a higher rank. I already knew the conversation that would be had about sexual harassment. We, as a society, are too quick to side with the abusers instead of believing victims. We place the blame on the victim: "what were they wearing?" "Why were they there?" "What did they do to provoke the abuser?" It should be "why did that person think they had the right to violate someone?" "Why did they think they were entitled to another person's body?" Honestly, I waited awhile before I posted anything about Vanessa Guillen, not because I thought she was lying or was "waiting for the facts to come out" like others. I waited because it triggered something in me that I've been trying to suppress for so long. I was already in a bad mental headspace, I didn't need to make it worse. It was very triggering to see those around me saying things, not realizing I was subjected to something equally traumatizing. Something I didn't come to terms to until I was older.
My childhood was less than ideal. I always say my parents are the kindest people in the world but they were not meant to be parents. They were neglectful & often left me under the supervision of other people while they were working or living their own life. I learned at a very young age that just because someone is family, they don't always have the best intentions for you.
People always say I have an amazing memory. They don't know it's because I had to remember my aunt's phone number at the age of 4 because my parents forgot me somewhere or the time my bipolar mom had disappeared for 5 days & I traced her back to a house she had brought me to over 20 miles away. It is both a blessing & a curse to remember everything in such vivid detail because sometimes I just wish to forget, & for many years I did forget what happened to me when I was little.
Growing up I remember being very nervous around my abuser. I remember seeing them at parties or bumping into them at the store & I would instantly freeze up, unable to even look them in the eyes. They were always very cautious around me as well, as if he didn't know how much I remember of what had happened. For a long time I didn't remember but it was always in the back of my head. It played in my nightmares every couple of months. I avoided them as much as I could but everyone loved him. He was nice, he turned himself toward God, going to church every Sunday. I would hear updates of him by family members on how he was a model citizen. I would just grin & nod while my stomach turned to stone.
I was 11 when I started learning about sex. I was fascinated but scared. It consumed my thoughts. It is normal for kids to explore sexuality but that wasn't the case for me. The scary thing was how much I knew about it. That's when the nightmares began. That's when I began to realize that, what I thought were nightmares, was actually just my subconscious exposing what had happened to me. At 12 I became fully aware that I was a victim of sexual abuse. It's not a coincidence that this is also when my eating disorder & body image issues began. I ate to hide what I learned about myself. I couldn't tell anyone because my family wasn't the one I could talk to about things like this. During this time I had moved in with my aunt & I didn't want to cause more stress to anyone so I just kept silent.
I was always fat growing up but no one acknowledged the fact that from 7th to 8th grade I gained 100 lbs. The nurses noticed & tried to talk to my parents about it but again, they were neglectful so nothing was ever done. They told my parents I might benefit from therapy which my mom was fully against. This left me trying to hide the pain with food & losing myself in books. Gaining all this weight led me to being tormented every day by the kids in my school. The bullying became so much worse when I entered high school that I wouldn't even bother going to school. This was around the time my mom was institutionalized & I was trying to hold everything together. Those days were spent home, watching Hairspray on loop & eating.
Because high schoolers are shallow as fuck, I didn't have many friends. I could literally count the friends I had with 2 hands. While everyone else was dating, I was alone, just watching on the sidelines except for one time. There was this one boy. Someone I had known since elementary school. We had lost contact until high school where we began talking every day. He would be the first person I would talk to as soon as I came home. I would wait for him to sign into AIM & we would talk for hours. He was the first person I had ever felt who understood me. We drifted apart when life happened & we had different social circles. I know he had become embarrassed of me & I did not blame him. I was embarrassed of myself. I think he was the first person that I ever "loved" but looking back I don't think it was love.
My senior year I had met a boy through a mutual friend. He was from another school district & younger than me by two years. It was nice to talk to someone who didn't know anything about me & thought I was cool to talk to. During this time I had finally found a group of friends who accepted me as one of their own. They really made that year super special for me. They would give me advice & gave me confidence to talk to this boy. It's not like I was the type to make the first move. I would video chat with Boy #2 for hours. As soon as I came home from school I would see his name pop up on my screen. He was funny & we would talk about everything from music to things going on in our lives. He was the distraction I needed from my reoccurring nightmares. He also made me feel like finally I was worthy enough for someone to love me. But I learned quickly that just as he was my distraction, I was his distraction as he was on house arrest. He really only talked to me because I was there all the time & because he was interested in my friends. It's not like he could leave his house so what else was there to do? In the back of mind I always had this feeling but I let it go along for a long time because I needed that distraction, that hope. A year after I graduated, he was off house arrest & we stopped talking. That's when things really took a turn for the worse.
Late 2012 I began my first semester of college. I was excited to start the next chapter. I had taken a year off after high school to see what my options were. I had still kept in contact with my friends from high school & would go out with them. During this time I had guys who'd ask me out but I had shut down. Whenever someone showed interest in me I would ghost them, ruining everything before it started because I was terrified & over being hurt. Eventually my friends stopped asking me to hang out because I kept saying no so my life consisted of school & home.
October 2012 was really when my life changed for the worst. I had just turned 19 & was in a bad place. I was not talking to my family, I was miserable in college & I had only one friend. We had decided to go to a Halloween party because she was meeting a guy she had begun talking to. It just so happened that my family was at this party too & I was trying to avoid them as much as possible. Before this night, I had never really drank before. I never had any interest in it honestly. My family had always let us take a sip here & there so it wasn't like I was eager to drink. I lived with an alcoholic & I wasn't interested in repeating the cycle. But this night was different. This night was the first time I used alcohol to escape from reality. It began with shots. My best friend wasn't trying to really drink because she was driving so I would take her shots. During the middle of the party I started to realize the host of party giving me extra shots, always making sure I drank it. I didn't think anything of it, after all he was a family friend. I had been coming here for years, my family was here. I didn't think I had anything to worry about.
People slowly started leaving the party, my family had left & it was just my best friend & I with the guy she was speaking to, his friend & the host. She was on the other side of the yard while I was sitting at the bar, trying to sober up. I had to have taken at least 8 shots that night. As I'm sitting there drinking my water, the host comes over & starts talking to me. At first he was just asking if I enjoyed myself & the music but it quickly turned into asking if I was a virgin. I started to become uncomfortable but I was afraid it would be disrespecting my elders (he was twice my age) if I didn't answer so I said that I was a virgin. He then started talking about all the things he wanted to do to me & how he loves "popping" girls' cherries & how the first time is always painful but that he would "be gentle" with me. I remember laughing it off because I didn't know what else to say. He then became insistent, stroking my arm, holding my hand, grabbing my ass & saying "come on, let's go inside. Don't you want to feel good?" Each time he touched me I wanted to scream but I couldn't. I was drunk & I didn't know what to do. At one point he had grabbed my hand to pull me up from the chair & wouldn't let go, just kept saying "come on, just one time with me. You'll like it." I began to tear up because he just wouldn't stop touching me & saying things to me.
Like an angel sent from above, the guy my friend was talking to had come over to the bar to get water. I'm not sure if he had noticed what was going on but I guess he had seen that I was crying & asked if I was okay. I was like "I guess i just had too much to drink, I don't feel good." My best friend walked over to help me to the car & the man who had just been touching me & saying all these things to me had the nerve to say "yeah, get her home because if she falls over I don't have a forklift to pick her up." I felt humiliated & dirty. I went home & cried my eyes out.
That one night in October changed everything for me. I no longer felt safe anywhere. I failed out of college. I never left my house. If I did leave my house, it was to grocery shop at 6 am when I knew no one would be out. From 2013 - late 2016 I maybe left my house twice a week, if that. I even went to Florida & never left the hotel. I spent those 3 years hiding from the world & binge watching tv, trying to desperately distract myself from what had happened to me. The first 2 hours of my day were dedicated to cleaning & preparing dinner so that I could sit on the couch & watch tv for the next 7 hours until my family came home. I rewatched Criminal Minds & Law & Order: SVU 4 times. During this time I gained almost 180 lbs. In my mind, I felt if people were not attracted to me, then I would never be in the situation I had found myself in that one night.
It's crazy to look back now because I really felt like I deserved it. I shouldn't have been drinking. I shouldn't have even gone. I mean I wasn't wearing anything revealing - I was literally wearing sweats & a hoodie but I was still drinking. I blamed myself & I thought the solution was to make myself as repulsive as possible so this wouldn't happen. It definitely didn't help because I just became sadder. The memories of what happened to me as a child resurfaced & the suffering continued. The days blurred, the loneliness lingered & the thoughts of ending it all were more prominent than ever. I thought of so many ways to end it all & the easiest way I found was to give up & I did, eventually landing in ICU, on a ventilator for two days in January 2017. After getting out of the ICU it took months for me to be okay. Later on that year I got the opportunity at my first real job. It's crazy to think that I almost never took this opportunity because I was scared. This job changed my entire life for the better. I'm grateful The Universe gave me another chance at life.
But even at my dream job, I still deal with triggering situations. Society is still the same & men still think they can say & do things to women, regardless of how they feel. For awhile last year, I hated coming to work because I was so uncomfortable with things said about me. Or the one time I broke down & had a panic attack on a Saturday I was working alone. I had to go to the warehouse to explain something to someone. I had a cast on my wrist because I had sprained my wrist & he had grabbed my hand to ask what happened. I didn't think anything of it until he wouldn't let go as I tugged & I could smell the alcohol on his breath. Panic began to run through me & I started to hyperventilate when his coworker came & took him away & tried to explain that he didn't mean anything of it. I nodded & ran back to the office, locking myself in the bathroom & sat there, crying my eyes out. Work had been my safe place, my escape from my thoughts & now here I was, once again facing my demons. It was the longest Saturday I had ever worked.
People will say "why didn't you say anything?" I had began to say something but it was brushed off & I didn't bother to say anything else because I felt like they wouldn't take it seriously because it's me. Because who would want to do anything with me? To this day I avoid this person as much as possible, except for a quick greeting as to not be rude, EVEN THOUGH I HAVE EVERY FUCKING RIGHT TO BE!!! How is that I'm the one who is ashamed when they should be the ones shamed for it???
Quarantine gave me ample time with my thoughts. I tried to distract myself in many ways. I was still using distracting as way to avoid feeling things. One day during quarantine, my dad walks into my room & tells me so & so died. It was the man who had abused me as a child. I didn't know how to react. On one hand I felt sad for my dad as it was someone he cared for. On the other hand I felt numb. No one knew what this man did to me. Was it even worth bringing up? What good would that do? His family was suffering enough. I struggled with this for awhile. I think this is what really triggered my Lupus flare up because it began around the same time I got the news. I really struggled the following weeks & began to feel unsafe again. Aside from physical pain, the anxiety of leaving my house & going back to work was on level 10. I didn't think I would go back to work if I'm being honest. I was ready to hide from the world again because I didn't feel safe.
Thankfully I was in a bit of a better headspace than I was years ago & decided to go back on my anxiety meds, at least until I felt secure enough at work. I've been back at work for 4 weeks now & I feel better than I've felt in a long time, although it took awhile. When I came back I said I wouldn't try so hard to find happiness, that I would just let it come to me & I feel like it finally has this week. This Monday I got a raise. I hadn't expected one because of Covid. I had a long conversation with my boss on how I was feeling & I felt like, for the first time in a long time, I told someone how I really felt. That same day, as I was walking into my house, a butterfly appeared. Even as I walked up to it, it fluttered around me instead of flying away. I took that as a sign of good luck. Yesterday I was getting complimented left & right from clients because of how kind I am. One going as far as saying she specifically booked with us because I was the nicest person she had encountered in her search for pricing. It's something about finally being acknowledged that makes me feel like I am where I am supposed to be in life. That all the suffering & everything I went through, led me to be the person I am & on the path I am supposed to be on.
The reason I'm speaking up now is because I thought I was alone my whole life. I was embarrassed & ashamed of myself. It wasn't until I got older that I sadly realized I was not alone & I shouldn't be the one to be ashamed. But it was something about Vanessa Guillen's case that really made me want to speak out because she didn't get a chance to. I'm not naming my abusers because I am not ready yet but I am ready to speak out about what I went through because there was once a time where I didn't think I would ever be able to be okay or saw an end to the suffering I felt inside for so many years. But there is no more shame.
& that is why today we dance 💖
Thank you for taking the time to read this & I hope if you have ever went through this & felt alone, that you know you are loved & you are not what happened to you.