There are not enough people telling the truth these days, so here I am. I want people to read this and take something away from my life. I want a sexual assault survivor to read this and find comfort. I want my generation to read this and realize how mean we are to each other. I want straight white men to read this and actually take my thoughts into consideration. Mostly, I want to come back and read this, ten years from now, and acknowledge the naked truth of my college aged years, and smile because I am changed.
This is going to be shameless, this is going to offend people, and if you know me and read this, you might not like what I have to say about you. But my middle finger is poised and I’m not backing down.
Let’s lay out some facts: I am a sexual assault survivor, an incest survivor, an emotional abuse survivor, a lesbian, and a woman. Given America’s track record with all of the aforementioned identities, my life should completely blow. After all, America, you keep telling me to ‘get over it’ or ‘just take pills until your eyes glaze over with apathy’ or ‘it was your fault for being slutty’ or ‘you’re an abomination for loving another woman’ or ‘get back to your desk and sort my mail, W-O-M-A-N.’
I haven’t had my eyebrows waxed in months; I quit shaving my armpits for two weeks because I liked the feel of hair better than I liked the feel of razor burn. I shaved them Sunday because I wanted to wear a sleeveless dress to church and I like the way I look when they’re shaved sometimes. I change my mind at least 784,651 times a day. I will always drink coffee and red wine. And I WILL NOT APOLOGIZE ANYMORE FOR NOT BEING BEAUTIFUL ENOUGH, NICE ENOUGH, SANE ENOUGH OR SMART ENOUGH FOR YOU.
If you don’t like who I am, that I wear a size 8 in blazers but a 10 in pants, that I would almost always prefer a dog’s company than yours, and that my teeth will always be crooked, then don’t associate with me. I’m fine with that. I’m fine with me, just the way I was born, just the way I’ll stay.
So, to shut your pondering up, my life does not blow.
I have severe PTSD and it gets worse with each step I take into denial and suppression. BUT, I have friends and family who don’t let me take too many steps before pulling me back out and shoving me into the direction of therapy and action plans.
I lost half of my family because they can’t believe that a father would rape his daughter. I lost them to fear and guilt and denial so opaque that it completely covered up what really happened, and that it’s become their truth, their reality. BUT I have gained about 15 beautiful people and like pounds around my waist, they latch on and hold me near.
I cannot trust humankind the way I once used to. A part of me will always question the authority of the word ‘NO.’ After all, what good did that word do when my father pressed himself into my temple, the body and soul he promised to protect and love unconditionally? BUT time has been on my side and the longer people stay in my life, the easier it gets to trust them fully. I have been blessed with angels who are patient when I have lunatic freak outs and who have a deep, endless understanding of me.
There are days I wish I was strong-willed enough to just end it. But dying scares me more than living does, and it may not seem like it, but sometimes that’s enough of a reason to smile, a triumph in and of itself. There are moments when I wish for some sort of physical pain to distract me from the weeping emotional wounds of being ripped apart and neglected. And it’s enough, sometimes, to throw a Band-Aid over the gushing slit and say, ‘I will stitch it up tomorrow because today it hurts too badly.’
Sometimes, I look in the mirror and see a goddess. I’m wearing loyalty and love like a choker and I adore the way I look when I smile like I mean it. Other days, I see a blob of uncertainty and sadness, a goop of unmalleable material slumped in a frumpy coat with too much lint on it. But every day, I make the decision to face the world.
I called in sick once in the six months I’ve been at this job to take a mental health day.
I took a half morning off to get my ears drained after a nasty bout of sinusitis.
I have been more than five minutes late twice, less than five minutes, seven times.
That is not the model for a superb employee, but given the many days, afternoons, and mornings my coworkers have taken off, I’m doing pretty well. And if I’m being honest (which started this whole project), I have wanted to call in sick every day, after the novelty of having a ‘big girl job’ wore off by week two.
In high school, I was fairly meek and weak. I switched schools to sing and act, and when I got to college, I took my performance abilities to the Stage of Life. I befriended a bunch of gays (God bless every single one of them), and threw shade to get back at everyone who had covered me with their own leafy twigs of gossip. I developed a habit of passive aggressive, competitive tendencies and lashed out at the people I loved the most. Bad habits have a way of sticking around.
Two weeks ago, one of the strongest women I have ever met (and since we’re still being honest, the love of my life) sat me down, told me my words were cruel, sobbed her way even further into my heart, and begged me with her mouth and eyes not to say things like “you abandoned me and somebody else thinks so, too” especially when it’s not true.
She is most definitely in the right.
I have had my come to Jesus moment. I sat on her bed, stared at stinging words in the heavy air, words I couldn’t take back, words that had only intensified in cruelness. I was face to face with a terrible defense mechanism I developed to keep people at a safe distance, and for the first time I really saw what words to do people.
What ‘no’ should have meant to my father.
What ‘you’re fat and ugly and crazy’ did to me the first 18 years of my life.
I had a realization that day: I was a self-pitying, raging hypocrite. Here I am, plodding through life, yelling things at people like, ‘don’t hurt me!’ and ‘love me unconditionally!’ and ‘I love you back!’
But my actions did not match my words. I wasn’t holding people accountable for their actions, but more importantly, I wasn’t holding myself accountable, either. I was, as I take a sharp breath, being pathetic.
I got all of my dirty tricks from the culture of modern society. It comes from a place of growing insolence and total apathy toward the human race. We tell each other to get lost two days after proclaiming undying love, we jokingly say ‘I’m so fat’ to our girlfriends while secretly hoping they’re the ones who will gain five pounds this year, not us. We get jealous over stupid things like financial success and who has better hair. We focus so much on what we don’t have, what we want to have one day, what we had in the past. What about right now?
I should get off my pedestal now and say, that I am guilty of every single one of these things. I stopped answering a friend’s calls completely because I ‘couldn’t deal with her anymore.’ Truth? I hated being friends with someone who was better at being human than me. It scared me how solid our relationship was, how whole and uncomplicated our time was together. And I self-sabotaged, because some sick part of me feeds on drama and complicated relationships. Yes, you heard that right. I stopped answering her calls because I was bored and unwilling to admit how screwed up I can be.
Playing the victim card helped me feel less guilty for a while. How can I possibly repair a relationship while I was dealing with the aftermath of rape and grief? It became my mantra: “I can’t because I was raped.” I wore my tragedy like lipstick, kissed everyone with it, and got offended if other people didn’t want to be coated in red, too.
I blamed everyone but myself, and never learned my lesson.
Until two weeks ago.
And it’s been nagging at me because I have made so many poor decisions in the year following my rape. I slept with people just to say I had or because they felt safe, or because settling is better than having nothing at all. I crushed people with showering affection one day and complete silence the next. I led people on because I liked the attention, and the desperation of fear, fear of not finding love, fear of finding it and losing it, fear of living in general, became the fuel for my addiction. I craved a warm body to hold me, a flattering mouth to quiet my demons, and a hand to make circles on my back when I cried.
In keeping with my pledge of honesty, I can’t say I’m a completely different person than I was two weeks ago.
But I’m more aware, and more willing than ever to turn things around. I have this new hope coated in light and simple purity, bathing my skin with love, egging on my newfound purpose.
I want to let go of the negativity, the endless worrying, the psychoanalyzing, the obsession with getting love in all the wrong places.
I want to lounge around with my friends and watch copious amounts of television without feeling any anxiety.
I want to get up and notice first how beautiful the sunrise is and second how much I miss my family.
I hope, more than anything that my words affect someone. I hope my words challenge another young woman to take a closer look at her interpersonal relationships and self-treatment.
If I’m being honest, though, I mostly just hope that writing this provides a sense of relief and clarity for my muddled mind.