Memories at Midnight
If you know me I am someone of very many words and opinions. I tend to speak my mind when appropriate but also know when to keep quiet. I share a lot with those close to me but a lot of people don't know the story they're about to read. I don't share this often, only when I feel comfortable in a relationship between friends and loved ones. But I feel like in this time with everything going on in our country this is something to share; so hear it goes.
I am a survivor of sexual assault. At the age of fifteen I was taken advantage of and held down against my own will. It was a cold October evening and alcohol was involved; in saying that, it was my first time drinking since I grew up in the Mormon church and that was pretty much frowned upon. So like any other fifteen year old surrounded by peers, I fell under the pressure and one drink lead to another and before I knew it I was being somewhat dragged upstairs into a room. I am a small person, so it was pretty easy to lose me in a crowd full of people. I had completely lost my senses, my mind was all fuzzy, my heart was beating so fast I thought it was going to burst. My wrists were held, my voice was drowned out by the noise downstairs and I couldn't move. My body started to shut down as he had complete control.
I couldn't remember what happened the next morning. But I knew after looking at the bruises (in places where they shouldn't have been in the first place) that something went terribly wrong the night before. It took me a long time to process everything though, a whole year went by. They say with trauma, your brain tends to block it out and it hides in your subconscious. So every time I closed my eyes after it happened, my brain would show me images of that night. My dreams turned into nightmares when in reality after discussing it with my counselor she said they were flashbacks. But there I was thinking that they were stupid nightmares from a tv show or a movie that I had seen. I would wake up terrified, sobbing and sweating wondering why my head was doing this to me. I would lay awake for hours or even all night so I wouldn't have to see those images over and over again. However when I would fall asleep and when the picture became more clear, I realized that I had been raped.
Due to the countless sleepless nights, the anxiety attacks, PTSD and constant paranoia, I missed a bunch of school. I was not in a good place my junior year. It got to a point where my parents started to worry. I hadn't really told anyone about what happened. Like so many other survivors, I kept it to myself for so long until it got to a point where it was driving me insane. The anxiety attacks were the worst, for me and for my family. One minute I would be okay, laughing and having a nice conversation then, just like turning on a switch my mood would change. I would get super frustrated; I would start yelling or crying uncontrollably, my body would shake and the room would be spinning. I would scream at myself or at them, telling them not to touch me even though they weren't even doing anything, just watching me unravel. It got so bad that I started to self-harm. I would lock myself away in the bathroom or in my room and just cry, finding anything to hurt myself with-wanting to feel some sort of physical pain to outweigh the constant pain I was feeling on the inside. Looking back on it, I hate that I did that to myself, but I just wasn't me.
Another year went by and I was seventeen. Still in constant fear of what my mind was doing at night, still on the same medications I started the year before. One night with my sister I experienced one of my worst anxiety attacks ever. I was driving home from my boyfriends house at the time- where we had talked about forgiveness and forgiving others (being in the church, this subject was brought up a lot). For me though, it wasn't that simple. How do you forgive someone for causing so much pain and heartache. How do you even begin to forgive someone who did something so malicious and disgusting when you can't even forgive yourself for being there in the first place. After that discussion my sister and I left and as I was driving home, I just let it all out. She was fifteen and had no idea why her big sister was a sobbing incoherent mess. I pulled over (because I was in no condition to drive) and told her to drive home. She didn't ask questions, just got behind the wheel and continued down the road as I tried to calm myself down. By the time we got home I ran to my room and sobbed more. She tried to explain to my mom what was going on, but she couldn't because she didn't even know. My mom ended up calling my boyfriend to see if he had any clue. He came over and laid there with me while I tried to talk because he was the only person I could trust at the moment. I woke up the next day, head pounding, eyes puffy, and a heavy chest with a very worried sister and mother. That week in counseling I was guided through the process of how to tell my mom about what had happened and if I'm being honest, that was one of the greatest things I have learned.
Telling someone or anyone about being raped, assaulted or harassed is hard enough, but your own mother. God, that was rough. But it had to be done. I ended up sitting her down one day after school, sometime after my big episode and told her. I can't remember if she cried in front of me or not, it kind of just came out like word vomit. She was sad and heartbroken, but I didn't blame her-I am her daughter. I told her not to tell anyone, not even my dad. I think at that point in my life I was so scared of him knowing. It wasn't that I was scared of telling him, I think it was more of how he would have reacted. I'm his baby, no parent wants to hear about something like that... However, my mother kept it a secret until I was ready to share with him. Sadly, he was the last person to ever find out about it-my brothers found out months before due to another anxiety attack while my parents were out at dinner and I was home with my sister. She couldn't calm me down, she was so scared and I was out of control. She ended up calling the both of them. One calmed me down while the other calmed her down. I felt bad for putting my family through hell. It wasn't easy living under this roof with me. But since then, I am very fortunate to have their support and unconditional love.
Friends who I had told asked me why I never reported, well like stated above, I couldn't remember at the time. All I knew were the bruises on my thighs and around my wrists. Though looking back on it, I probably still wouldn't have reported it. I was fifteen for crying out loud. I was terrified. Not only to come forward, but for word getting out around our small town. I didn't want people to look at me differently or treat me like I was "that girl." There's a lot that plays in when it comes to thinking about wanting to report. One has to relive possibly one of their biggest nightmares and I didn't want to do that and I still don't want to. It's been years and I'm starting to really move on.
Octobers are hard for me, hence why I am writing this now. I am the most vulnerable around this time of year and it's probably always going to be that way, at least that is what my counselors have told me. They told me it's a trauma anniversary and no matter how badly I want to fight it, I need to find other ways to keep my mind busy. So for the last seven years that's what I've been learning to do. At first it wasn't easy. My god, did it suck! For instance, my first year at college and the three years after that, every October I would avoid the world. I would stay in my room and ignore people. I wouldn't eat for days and I would skip class-all I would do was lay in my bed buried beneath the covers trying to ignore the aching in my heart and the voices in my head telling me to just give up. Clearly, that wasn't the best decision. I shouldn't have let it take complete control over me, like he did that night. He doesn't deserve that. I didn't deserve that. So, slowly I've been trying to piece myself back together. It's going to take a lot of time and I still hurt. But I've heard with time, things will heal.
I am sharing this now because of everything that has been going on. Watching the news the past couple weeks have brought up a lot of unwanted anxiety and terror. Not just for me, but for other survivors. I used to call myself a victim and would sit in self pity thinking I was the only one, but damn was I wrong. There are so many people out there who have been in the same situation or similar ones to mine or even worse. Boys, girls, men and women. I call us survivors because we are strong people-even though we are hurting on the inside, even though we've been through hell and back, we are strong individuals! For those who are in need of letting their voice be heard, I hear you. For those who are struggling with the pain, the sadness and loneliness, I've been there-it does get better. And for those who want to give up, please don't. Try and keep fighting. We are so much more than a statistic. We are so much than what our attackers saw us as. We are fighters! For the people around us who have no idea what we've been through and the battles that we are trying to overcome, please educate yourself so you can help those close to you. Be there for someone who is trying to find their voice, be that shoulder for them to cry on. Be there with open arms and love them. Tell them everything is going to be okay, because sometimes, that's all someone really needs to hear.