I didn't want to get up this morning.
I woke up with my stomach in my throat and my heart in my stomach. I just lay there, eyes closed wishing I could either keep sleeping, somehow send a body double to work for me, or pause time so I could go back to sleep. But alas, we don't live in a novel, so I had to get up.
I washed my face, put on some perfume, picked out a comfortable, asymmetrical, long, black scoop neck dress with a pair of black strappy kitten heels, pulled my hair into a low bun, and walked out the door to drive the 45 minutes to work.
Work was fine, the workload was good and kept me productive all day. I enjoyed my time with my co-workers, but I felt like complete crap.
I'm thankful for one co-worker-turned-friend in particular, who asked what I was doing for lunch. I had to run to the grocery store to pick up a cake for the birthday of another co-worker-turned-friend and was just going to grab lunch there. She went along for the ride and the salad bar, and I inevitably spilled my guts on how I was feeling.
She said she felt so bad and that I looked like Eeyore with a little rain cloud over my head. Which, by the way, isn't the first, second, or third time I've been compared to Eeyore in my life. So I knew it was an accurate representation of how I've been feeling for the past few months.
We got back to the office, went our separate ways, and got back to work. Then my computer notified me that she sent me a Facebook message.
I had been periodically tearing up at my desk throughout the day, so I wasn't surprised when I started to get choked up reading this. It speaks of a hope I hadn't felt in awhile. It paints this beautiful picture of a life I know that Jesus wants me to have. That God knows my needs, that things are never hopeless, and I can't give up.
I didn't know what to write about tonight until I finally just sat down, and started writing. And now, it's so incredibly clear.
I was sexually abused.
On June 14th, 2017, I recovered memories of being sexually abused by my math tutor when I was in third grade. I was eight, it started in October of 2002 and ended somewhere near the end of the school year. I had repressed it all but had this feeling there was something wrong with me.
She had been an elementary school teacher. She was a stay-at-home mom with her young daughter and son and lived directly across the street. So, when I was struggling with math it was logical that I would go over to her house and be tutored.
I always thought it was strange we would go into the basement for my tutoring sessions, but she explained it was to make sure we wouldn't be distracted by her kids, even though the basement was their playroom.
I will not expound on the details. But my childhood died with that first descent into the basement, of that spacious colonial, at the end of a culdesac.
After the "tutoring" had finished, I would give her the tutoring fee from my parents, and walk out the door.
As I shut the door behind me, I would focus on the front door of my house. I knew that once I reached that door I was safe.
I knew that once I turned that knob and stepped foot into my house, shutting the door closed behind me, I could shove down everything that I just experienced. I could shove down the confusion, the hurt, the sadness, the guilt, the shame, the disgust, and despair, and I would be met with love, possibilities, positivity, my parents, my brother, my cat, my bed, my diary, food, books, and safety.
This pattern continued for a few months until the school year was over. We lived in that development for two more years and then moved to the town where I always attended school and my mother taught at.
My mental health issues arose when I was 12.
From that point forward, I have never known a life without anxiety, and have been in the throes of depression more times than I can count.
Prior to 12, there were issues I kept to myself. Peeing my pants when I would be alone playing in my own basement, sneaking into the kitchen to eat anything I could get my hands on, or hiding stashes of food in my room. In 4th grade, I remember trying numerous times to stop eating altogether because I felt I needed to lose weight... And anxiety became a hypothetical article of clothing.
But 12 was when I first started contemplating suicide. It would ebb and flow, I would cut myself, I would see therapists, stay in hospitals, and eventually, at 16, I attempted to overdose with a bottle of Advil.
That was a turning point in my life.
I had hit my teenage rock bottom and found the strength to get better. I journaled, I went to therapy, my doctor found a good medication balance, and I finally started working towards loving myself.
Life did get better.
I took my senior year of high school at SUNY ACC, graduated high school with honors and was 15th in my class, I met the love of my life, went to Italy, became a born-again Christian, graduated college with a B.A. in Communications, married an exceptional man with a great family, acquired six beautiful nieces and nephews, and established groups of lifelong friends, started a career, and am the proud mom of two cats with big personalities.
But I had no idea what happened to me.
I had suspected I had been abused. I can't explain it, I just knew. But I felt crazy because I had no tangible proof. A few years back, my therapist and I tried hypnotherapy to try and figure out what and if anything happened. As I sank deep into my consciousness, ready to see what I could uncover, a brick wall suddenly appeared and I shot up, drenched in sweat with a pounding migraine - which lasted for two days.
I wasn't ready to know.
In prayer, I asked God to help me find this piece of myself I was missing, but for years, my memory was simply... Blank.
I have a terrible memory and have always had very limited memories of my childhood.
And then, in the middle of June, a few weeks before our first wedding anniversary, as my husband and I were getting ready to go to bed, my mom texted me asking if I remembered *insert her name here.* I instantly felt sick to my stomach. I got lightheaded and felt as if my heart was going to pound out of my chest. And then she sent a link to a news article.
I opened the link, took one look at her face and name, and a flood of memories came rushing into my consciousness. I don't remember getting into bed or how I ended up gripping my husband's embrace. The flood of memories brought the downpouring of tears, leading to a full-blown, uncontrollable panic attack.
To this day, the first thing I think of after replaying that night in my head is, "Thank God for my husband."
No one asks for this to happen to them. No one wants this sudden realization that there was a whole piece of yourself missing for 15 years.
But, I wouldn't have wanted to find out any other way. I was completely exposed and vulnerable, but utterly safe and secure in my partner's arms.
The strength and self-preservation that my 8-year-old self had stuns me to this day. And when I'm feeling low, I just think about 8-year-old me and how strong I was. When I feel like I can't go on, I think about that walk from her house to mine and think, "If I could do that then I can do this now."
In a month and a half, it will have been a year since I recovered the memories of my abuse. In that time, I began writing for Odyssey, I have written a series highlighting domestic violence in small-town America, started an online community of Survivors where we support each other and share our love of true crime (SSDGM), started training for a 5K and have learned more about myself than I ever thought was possible.
If I could sum up the past year, it would be this: Healing is not a linear process.
I've had days where my emotions look like this graphic, I've had days where I'm at that lowest dip, and I've gone weeks at its highest peak.
Today I didn't want to get out of bed.
I didn't want to run.
But I went for a run.
I shaved two minutes off my mile.
And finally shared my story.
Life gets better.