To the person who is blaming themselves because one person didn't know how to act, to the person who believes that if their parents are saying it, that it must be true, to the person who stopped believing in themselves and started believing in everyone else:
I get it. Not everyone has the supportive family that you see on TV or the best friend that notices you're acting unusual. Not everyone has that person that they feel comfortable going to about the demons in their life. But that doesn't mean you're alone. That doesn't mean nobody cares about you. That means you've internalized, over thought, and deemed that nobody will understand what you're going through before you even give them a chance to listen.
During my freshman year of high school, I was sexually assaulted after having way too much to drink. At fourteen or fifteen years old, I felt invincible, that nothing could hurt me. I was with my best friend, I was in her house surrounded by people I've known for my entire life. That doesn't mean nothing can touch me. That day, I found out that you don't know everything about every single person in your life. As horrible as that day was, and I won't go into details, I blamed myself. It's a typical response, but I lived in a small town where word moves faster than light does. I didn't feel safe with anyone, not even my family.
After the attack, I heard people describe me as unfortunate, childish, dishonest, and trashy. I was a freshman in high school, I had no idea what triggered these false personas. I was bullied because a friend of many was put behind bars for an act that cost me my sanity. I had people who were once my friends avoid me because they didn't know how to respond to someone who was so broken. That was my least favorite word to hear, broken. I transferred schools to be in an area where nobody knew my name, my story, family, or anything. I was going to recreate myself. You can only do so much to turn yourself into the person that you want to be remembered as. You can be caring, charismatic, outgoing, but you can't change the experiences you've had. Little did I know, my experiences make up a huge part of who I am as a person. But those experiences do not define me.
They don't define you either. I would first like to apologize to anyone who's experienced any sort of trauma in their lives because I know how deeply that effects you. Everything you experience shapes the way that you respond to others, your thoughts, your actions, every single thing. Sometimes the biggest challenge for a person is having to accept that you aren't the same person that you were before this happened. I hear it all the time that nothing changed, that you still are the same old person. But it's okay to admit that the traumas that you've been dealt are molding you into someone new. It may be a small change, like thinking twice before you go somewhere or searching for your nearest exit everytime you enter a room.
I also want to tell you first hand that it isn't your fault. Whoever's fault it is actually has nothing to do with you, you just were on the receiving end of their actions. It's not anything you asked for, and it's definitely not anything you deserved. Karma doesn't ruin people's lives.
I know that sometimes it feels that nobody is listening, they don't care, or you'll be judged for even wanting to talk about it. If these things are actually happening, you should know that those people you're approaching for support don't have your best interest in mind. But don't be discouraged because there are a few bad apples. There are so many people that want to help you. Steps can also be taken to come to terms on your own. A few tips to help persevere and become stronger emotionally, spiritually and mentally are:
1. Write down how you're feeling
This can look different for everyone, though. When I wrote down how I was feeling, I got so much anxiety when thinking who could find this and read it. So when I would write down what was going on inside my head, I would pour my soul into it. After I was finished writing, I would burn the paper. The relief of seeing everything that was being bottled inside burning gave me a sense of strength and would encourage me to fight harder.
2. Take risks. Open up.
One of the most difficult things to do is to open up about how you're feeling. Especially when it comes to terms of being assaulted or manipulated, I felt as if I was telling people too much. But as soon as I started my Fall semester of college my one goal was to open up and find people that wanted to be there for me. I had a conversation with one of my good friends last night about how within the first week of knowing her I opened up about all of the traumas I've had to overcome. She admitted that initially she was weirded out about how much I trusted her, but also saw every good quality that I had to offer, which kept her around as my friend.
3. Join support groups.
Support groups get such a bad vibe because TV shows portray characters that attend as weak, but many of the people that I have met through support groups have been the bravest, most inspiring people to cross my path. Their journey through recovery and self-discovery pushes me to want to get better. It's a great resource, especially for those who feel that recovery is a one-man sport.
4. Advocate for survivors.
After a while, I met a few people at my school who had trusted me with their stories and let me into a very sensitive and personal part of their life. I found that talking to them sparked a fire in me to make sure that 1) this never happens again 2) promote a safe space for those struggling to pick up the pieces. As of right now, there is a small group of us with this ache to help those who are in the same shoes we are. My school has always been amazing at helping develop a community and build each other up. If one person wins, we all win, and that is such a great feeling.
5. Deepen your faith.
This is so important for me. As a Christian, I have always felt whole because I know that God's behind me and put me here as a force to be reckoned with. Not everyone is a follower of Christ, and we all have our own beliefs regarding the matter. But for those who do find their home in the Lord's house, reach out. I promise that your pastor, your friends, they're there to help you. I know after joining the group COMission at my school, I would have forever friends who would not only help me solidify and strengthen my relationship with God but regain the confidence in myself and lead me down the road of recovery.
As always, there are so many resources available to help in case of a crisis. Not everything that helped me will help the next person, but the first step to recovery is asking for help. It takes an army to win a war, a team to get the gold, and a community to complete the mission.
As you know, sexual assault, mental illness and all of those not so easy topics are becoming MORE talked about, which is GREAT! Below I've listed resources for those who are in a crisis situation. If you or anyone you know is dealing with any emotional issues or is overcoming trauma, please give these a try when hitting a roadblock!
* 7 Cups is a FREE emotional support website/app that connects you within minutes to someone who is there to listen to you and support you through anything you may be going through. I've used this website for years and I've been a registered Listener for about two years now. https://www.7cups.com/
*Talkspace is similar to 7 Cups but connects you to a licensed therapist that you would be working with everytime you log on. https://www.talkspace.com/
*Suicide hotline- this is pretty self-explanatory but as always if you or anyone you know is thinking of harming themselves as a result of thier mental health please reach out. 1-800-273-8255
*Moodpath - This is an app on the iOS app store that lets you track your mood throughout the day and will give you resources based off of the answers your put in your log.