A year ago (4/18/16) I noticed someone on my Facebook TL congratulated a familiar face for their 44th birthday. That someone happily celebrating and receiving all the good wishes for his birthday was my childhood sexual abuser.
Though I am not friends with him, we had mutuals and Facebook does that thing where friends’ activity shows up on the TL. It stood out because this person was posting pictures on his wall and I recognized a girl in the photos. It was me. I was in one of those pictures. In every sense of the word, I was upset. As I clicked on his profile and scrolled and scrolled, I realize it’s not the first time someone had shared photos of me and him on his wall, but he himself had posted pictures that include me in them. My blood was boiling. After all these years, ’til this day, I haven’t received justice, much less an apology and he has the nerve. The person posting congratulations last year was clueless, though. I decided I would kindly ask her to remove the post. Wish him a happy birthday, but keep any picture that included me out of it. Simple. She refused, and I lost it and a whole thing went down. Long story short, it led me to, for the first time, expose him to his entire family. I figured she wouldn’t understand my request unless I explained. Though I confessed to my mom about my abuse at the age of 17, I never told anyone related or connected to him. I’ve never even confronted my abuser face to face. So, revealing him to his family was the closest thing I’ve gotten to it. Essentially, on this day last year, I walked into new, unchartered territory. It took courage. The worst part? They didn’t believe me. Even after I explained the situation, she called me bitter and again refused to remove the photo.
Before this entire thing happened, I thought I was doing better. In 2015, I started therapy for the first time at the age of 22. It was a lot to unpack. I’d held on to this for my entire life. Over the course of several months, I went from having to go in once a week to popping in whenever I felt like talking. The ordeal that went down on this day last year undid everything I worked incredibly hard for in therapy. I started to compartmentalize again. I started grieving my innocence, my youth. I lost my sense of self. My graduation didn’t uplift me the way I always dreamt it would. My new job means the world but it hasn’t made me feel like me again. I’ve always prided myself for being so intelligent and capable. The last three semesters of college my GPA was nearly perfect. I busted my ass, but it didn’t make me feel good. My college experience, the one my nerd-self always wanted was tainted by, yet again, him. It has been hard. I just want something…an experience, a time, a moment that is mine. I’ve yet to get it.
The last year was tough, especially after December when I knew April was practically around the corner. For the last four months, I’ve struggled with yet another long bout of depression. Surprisingly, my anxiety hasn’t been acting up as much as it has in the past. Anyhow, during this bout, I have felt disgustingly low and some days I feel like I’m worse than I have ever felt, and I’ve been dealing with this most of my life. The last 12 weeks have been hell. Recently I’ve given birth to new emotions. New thoughts. New symptoms, too. It has been a dark time. I’ve grown more vulnerable. I feel naked, afraid, incompetent, raw. Broken, like something isn’t wired properly. No matter how many times I take my vitamins, and get enough sleep, I wake up and I’m not working. I AM NOT WORKING. It feels like that. My brain, mind, soul, body. It’s all out of wack. And I know many of you who don’t understand mental illness or sexual abuse will ask how that could be? I have Hugo and my mom…and Archie! I just graduated, and I’m this and that. Yes, I do have a partner. But this hasn’t been easy for him and his lack of understanding has made things harder for me, too. My mom is trying, but mental illness is taboo in our culture. It’s easy for people who are uneducated on these issues to fall short. Their heart is there, but they at the end of the day, fall short. I don’t blame them, but it doesn’t make it any less painful.
I’m not asking anyone to hold my hand, or to baby me in any way. I don’t want pity, condolences, or half-assed support. It’s not easy for me to think about the fact my abuser is still out here celebrating his birthdays, while I, on the other hand, must muster up a fake smile every time I’m out and about…Since I was 16 years old, have only had four memorable birthdays: 16, 17, 22, and 23. Thank you friends, I cherish those dinners more than you know. Lately, I don’t even try to fake it. The occasional put together selfie takes more than courage, it takes everything. I’m done fake interacting with everyone. My interactions will be what they will be. Some days I may feel great, then I may not. That is okay. I’m healing and I need to be okay with the process. I want my tribe to be okay with the process. I want you guys here with me. You don’t have to run with me, just root for me. I want people in my inner circle to understand the last year I’ve gone through a terrifying mental health relapse and I don’t know how to make it out, but I’m trying. However, I won’t make it out if people ostracize me. I just need to feel understood and loved while I regain my strength. I don’t feel completely depleted because I’m obviously still here. I’m incredibly strong. Absolutely. I know this. But I’ve used my strength to hold myself up for so long that I don’t know how to use that strength anymore? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I guess I felt like sharing because I’m tired of pretending to be OK. Also, I never let anyone know what’s up with me. And today (4/19/17) marks the day I try to overcome all the harrowing shit I’ve been through the last 365 days.
Here are other important points:
- I’m depressed, not weak-minded. We can still talk about everything and anything. We don’t have to avoid certain topics. If anything, let’s FUCKING TALK. That’s the problem, not enough people are TALKING about mental health/illness, sexual trauma and violence, etc.
- I feel strongly about sexual violence, domestic violence, intimate partner violence, toxic masculinity, the patriarchy. That does NOT make me a sensitive person. You are just a fucking asshole who doesn’t have the range. Read a book. Take a class.
- I won’t let you walk all over me. Depressed, not submissive. Depressed, not passive.
- I am still ME. Don’t treat me any differently. It’s patronizing.
- To my close friends who know exactly who they are, I don’t mean to dismiss you through texts, messages, comments. I want to have a normal, healthy life with thriving relationships. I do. I just don’t have the emotional energy to do it now. I’ve been detached and private about my life for so long that I don’t know how to be open. Be patient with me. I love you all! Your friendships have done more than you can imagine. You’ve brought me joy, laughter, light.
- “Have you tried XYZ?” Yes. Maybe. Probably. I would love your suggestions so long as they are genuine and come from a place of love.
- I don’t feel sorry for myself. If you feel sorry for me I will be able to tell and I don’t want you in my life. There are unfollow and unfriend buttons. Remove yourself. I won’t ask questions.
It is truly amazing how much better I feel simply because it’s no longer April 18th. Wow.
On sidenote, I want to shoutout the AMAZING strong people in my life:
Mom, Melissa, Claudia, Keisha, Clara, Juan, Ephraim, Kerel. You each amaze me with your kindness, strength, intellect, humor. Individually you all have unique qualities I admire and love. I look forward to our conversations and times together.
And Raven, my beautiful friend. Our phone convo last year many days replays in my head. Your words encouraged me to sit with the grieving process for the first time in my life. Still working through it while never forgetting your advice. Mekeighla, I just met you but you have completely changed my life. You’re so real with me and it’s all I could ever ask for. You actually hear me when I talk.