Some people might downplay the way that advocacy can aid an individual in being able to heal and call it a silly blog or journal, and it needs to stop. Flat out. I've personally heard this from people who have mental health issues themselves when one of the biggest problems with mental illness is not being yourself and feeling incredibly alone in your path. Downplaying what a person is feeling is what is creating this problem and continuing it.

I did not recognize myself in the mirror for two years, or at least, I didn't want to recognize the person I saw.

I can't really sugarcoat it, I've been through some sh*t. I dealt with bullying from a very young age, sexual harassment even before I had hit puberty, and even rape. Did I deserve any of it? Absolutely not. I wore Target clothes because they were comfortable when I was a kid, not because I was asking to be bullied in elementary school. I was kind because that's what I was taught to be with people, not because I was asking to be sexually harassed since middle school. I trusted people because I always wanted to see the best in people and believe the words that they tell me, not because I expected or wanted to be raped because I trusted them.

I can't remember a "me" without depression or anxiety at the very least.

These past two years have been especially rough. PTSD kicks your butt every single day of your life, even after you get it under control. At this point, I have undergone intensive therapy for an extended time, learned how to get myself out of suicidal thoughts and be able to actually live day-to-day even when I see things that trigger me. When the things that trigger you are the things you need for something as seemingly simple as going to class, believe me, it's harder than it looks.

I don't know when my rapist is going to be in the same place I will be. I know there is a no-contact order and he has to leave if he is in the same place as me, but I live in the constant fear that he will be there anyway. And that kind of fear changes you, especially for an extended period of time like two years.

I didn't see myself in the mirror after I was raped. It's hard to describe because I was there, but I wasn't me. It was like I was separated from myself in almost all aspects of my being and I watched myself continue to "live" without me.

And it makes you feel angry, sad, helpless, frustrated—such a myriad of emotions that you don't know what to do with them. And no one could possibly want to deal with that, so you sit alone in your room, desperately trying to understand your own emotions. But that doesn't work because you can't do this alone, even though you don't want this to burden anyone or make them feel responsible for the things that you are feeling (unless they are the ones who are, in fact, responsible for it, like a rapist).

It took me 9-10 months to even allow myself to say in my head that I wasn't OK after what happened. It took a couple more months for me to tell my boyfriend and best friend, even longer still to tell my family. I didn't get help until a year and a half after I had been showing symptoms because of what happened. Picture not recognizing yourself the entirety of the time that you are trying to handle an overload of symptoms and emotions that are not your fault to be feeling in the first place.

You lose yourself even more. The shadow of yourself that is watching "you" live your life gets weaker, it doesn't understand.

So I did what I could to bring me back. Not the me that my rapist forever has because of his actions, but the me that I want to be. I changed the way I looked, I changed from the way he had known me to look so that I was my own again. I got piercings to personalize myself to what I wanted to show, the beauty that I knew had been inside me. I got a tattoo to remind myself every day why I'm fighting, to show that version of me that is lost to my rapist that she is no more. I change the color of my hair so that I see the growth, the effort and the time I've put in to change.

I recognize myself in the mirror now. It's been two and a half years. And I'm not going to stop.