Life After Rape

Life After Rape

What its really like moving forward.
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It all starts the next day, you sit in a windowless medical office, while a lovely, empathetic woman with glistening eyes listens as you tell your story- or what you were told since you can’t remember one moment of it.

The worst part for me was my mom crying softly next to me… my whole life my mission was to make my parents happy, make them proud of how strong I was. Watching them like that is crushing. So I sat there with no tears, feeling completely numb. It sounds cliche and detached but that’s really what it’s like, you just feel nothing. The air around you almost seems still as death as you patiently wait for the next steps of reliving the nightmare you feel like you couldn’t have even experienced.

I sat there emotionless as they took pictures of my bloody knees and scanned my clothes with blacklights - the same clothes I’d come to in, inside out and on backwards. I didn’t have my underwear though, that had been torn off by one of the four.

I waited as they examined my whole body,felt nothing as they told me about the damage to even the inside of my body.

I listened and laughed along with my rapists as they called me a “slut” and a “whore” and told me that I came onto them. I apologized to them because I had embarrassed them. Even my bloody legs, torn body, ripped clothing and voided memory couldn’t save me from the shame.

I told myself I would be fine, reassured my family I would be fine. Lied to myself that I was fine because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 21 years it’s that no matter what happens, the world keeps turning and there are millions of people around you still living life. You have to just put your head down and keep moving.

So I tried to go to therapy, but told them nothing other than “I’m doing really well, I’m sleeping and eating no problem”. We would talk about my “feelings” and I would say exactly what she wanted to hear. So I stopped going after maybe 3 sessions. Another thing I’ve learned is that anyone who works for a university is very sensitive about the girl who cried “rape” so they treat you like a lost puppy, make you feel like there’s no reason to keep coming in for therapy, they even encouraged me to get a medical clearance on my classes so I didn’t have to finish off the year.

They didn’t know me well enough to know that having a purpose was the only thing that kept me going. In high school I was a merit scholar, an AP student and an avid reader so my intelligence was one thing I thought could save me.

That was until I didn’t even have enough energy to make it to classes. I would roll over to my alarm going off and immediately shut it down and go back to sleep.

And then the drinking started. Obviously being at a University makes this commonplace, but not as an every-night situation. I would sleep all day and spend my nights nearly always blacked out, downing vodka like it was water because it was easier to feel nothing than feel like I had been violated. It was easier to black everything out because I felt like people liked me that way, that I was fun and outgoing and the life of the party. It made me feel like despite the fact that four individuals had raped me while I was nearly unconscious, no one would judge me if I could party along with them.

The drinking also helped the nightmares go away. My therapist now says these nightmares happen from PTSD. That, even though my conscious state wasn’t active during the assault, my subconscious knew what was happening. So the nightmares came, me remembering how I was fighting back, how much it hurt. Little glimpses into what happened.

The worst part was the sex. As a woman, a large part of what you are is made up by how men view you. No that's not the feminist stance but this story isn’t about some superfluous understanding of feminism it's about truth. I wanted guys to find me attractive even though I had been damaged. No one knew what happened but I started using sex and the hookup culture to make myself feel more validated.

So I would get myself to a state where I could be ballsy enough to find some guy and make him believe I was the hottest thing he’d ever seen. Each next morning I would wake up, dreading the memory of each stupid decision I would make.

The worst part was seeing my friends judgement. They didn’t know the whole story by any means, I was far too proud to tell anyone. All they knew was something really bad had happened. They started making small comments that slowly tear you apart, even though they don’t mean to.

One friend, after a particularly awful night for me said “Do you realize what you did? This thing has ruined you”.

Another friend, when talking about a cute guy I was interested at the time said “Maddi, be careful, he's a really nice guy”. Implying he was too good for me. I know she didn't mean it like that, but it's hard to hear something out loud that you think about every day. I knew they were maybe right.

So I reached a breaking point and it all came crashing down on me. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by friends and family that supported me and since I have been spending a lot of time in therapy, growing stronger each day.

I decided to finally write all this down because unless you go through something like this you have no idea what it's like and it’s easy to pass on judgement. I know people look at me as what I’ve been called: slut, whore, drunk mess. I am sorry for all the people in my life who saw me like that, and I hope I can eventually be forgiven.

One thing I’d also like people to understand is that, much like an addiction, this is something I will likely have to battle with for a long time. The behavior I used to cope is still inherent in me and sometimes I take 3 steps forward and one step back. Some days are worse than others. Sometimes I don’t feel worthy of people’s love or attention. I don’t feel pretty, or sexy or kind- I feel ashamed.

I wanted to tell my story, not only to shed light to my friends, family and anyone in my life who may not know… but to help others understand what this is like. It is so easy to judge people for their actions, for what they do and what you see. Remember that everyone has demons, that we are all in different stages of a journey and that the greatest thing you can offer is kindness.

For me, I have grown so much, some days I struggle, but each day I know time continues to heal. To anyone else out there going through this, know you are not alone, and that this hasn’t ruined you, you can still be loved and cherished and that you deserve all happiness that comes to your life.
Cover Image Credit: Blogspot

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A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.
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Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

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Taking Time For Yourself Is Nothing To Feel Guilty About, It's Healthy

Your emotional health should be your utmost priority — and you deserve to be in good emotional health.

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Renowned Sōtō Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki once said that: "We do not exist for the sake of something else. We exist for the sake of ourselves." We've often been told the opposite, however. We've been told that our worth is dependent on what we can do for others and that our existence itself is meant for the advancement of society. There is no place within our culture to truly exist with ourselves. The parts of our culture that claim to value self-love and self-care tend to commodify it in the form of relaxation products and personal development products — albeit helpful at times but mostly meant to addict us without true benefit to our inner selves.

As a young student, I talked with an orthopedic surgeon — a very overworked, ambitious woman — who told me to learn how to make it in the long haul, whether in my personal, interpersonal, or career life. You had to learn to enjoy yourself and find inner peace along the way. Because there would come a time, she said, when I would become guilty to take time for myself and forget what it's like to really enjoy life. Unfortunately, I made it to that point — I worked and worked and worked until I finally burned myself out. That's when I had to make certain changes in my life to understand how I got to that point and where I needed to go from there.

In the midst of our grand ambitions, it's easy to either go all in or all out. Either to give your entire self to a certain end or give nothing at all. I've been very much guilty of ending up on both ends of the spectrum — I would either devote all my time to writing/school or hit a roadblock and give it all up for a while. It felt like the value of my life was predicated on success, whatever that meant, in terms of contributing more and more and achieving more and more. It's never, ever enough, however. No matter what you achieve, there will always be a million more things on your to-do list. Whatever you triumph over, there will always be a million more roadblocks in your path.

The answer for me was to learn how to exist with myself, how to exist with other people, how to exist amidst all the dreams I had for the future, but also in the present moment where all my past dreams had come to fruition. Sometimes I would dive too deep into myself, and lose myself in thought, as noted in Chbosky's "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," "Sometimes people use thought to not participate in life." But I learned to participate fully, each moment to moment not necessarily enjoyable, but I find enjoyable moments each day with my friends, dog, boyfriend, and myself alone with a book or a pen.

Oftentimes as a crisis counselor, I am asked the questions: What's the point? Why am I here? What is there to look forward to? It's hard for me to precisely answer that question because, frankly, no one has anyone answer. But here's an answer that I believe in, born of taking time for ourselves: we live to feel the hope for happiness again. We live for the moments of joy, contentment, relaxation, excitement, pleasure, love, happiness, everything. We live to experience and to find each other. We live on because each new moment brings a surprise. There are many, many good moments in the future for all of us, even amongst the bad.

It's impossible to really experience life, however, if we're unable to take time to ourselves. That's one of my greatest fears, actually, that life will pass me by and I won't be able to experience each day as a full and complete miracle. There's something lost when everyone else gains from commodifying all aspects of our lives. Are you going to keep living for everyone else, or will you learn to exist for yourself? Do you owe the world your entire self, or can you take back at least some of yourself right now? Is it selfish to feel happy and not only to suffer?

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