Still Here: On Surviving

There are times in life when you have no idea what to say or what to do next. I’ve been seeing hearts since my last post, over a year ago. Every time I would sit down to write however, the words would evaporate before they ever emerged, fully formed.

I’ve struggled with what to call it and most importantly how to manage it, only because the real name for it still elicits strong responses that have nothing to do with me. The official words for what it did to me go by names like PTSD and the friend it made much worse, ADHD, alongside a learning disability. I spent so much time fighting what reality is and though overall it’s improving, there are still hard days.

The hearts I write about on this blog took on a different meaning since my last post here, because though I tried shutting the world out, and turning down the volume on pain, the hearts reminded of something bigger watching over me. Whenever I feel like I’m losing the connection to the things around me because numbing helps on hard days, the hearts remind me that there are unseen threads connecting me to who and what depression pushes out of reach; Before I try to slip behind the curtain of my life unseen, a heart shows up.

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There are hard days where I want more than anything to know that people don’t see me for trauma alone and I wrestle with it because this is just a part of who I am now. It’s not me entirely, but it is among the pieces I’ve put back together since the summer of 2016. There is little point in denying what is, and what reality looks like now. The care I’ve had to put into each piece alongside loved ones makes it hurt a little bit less, though there are some pieces whose sharp edges still cut deeply, but I’m finding ways to be whole again.

I’ve been hesitant to share because I’ve felt that there is little point to vocalizing the pain and healing I’ve done, alongside the healing I’m still doing. I’ve wondered what others will think of me or how they’ll treat me once they know and can’t go back. I’m still learning though, that telling the truth isn’t about what I did, but what he did and how they harassed me afterwards. It says nothing about me, but the way that they played a cruel trick with the light made me think it had something to do with me. I did not survive that time, just to shrink into a violet-tinted decoration on someone’s wall, and I think about others who can’t tell any part of their truth because their horror may still be happening.

Someone told me shortly after everything happened, while trying to figure me out that, “It’s like there’s a light inside you that just died.” Thankfully, I’ve begun to feel sparks again. I wrote a post on another blog about feeling free, but I realized that I was free of the four walls that contained the first wave of harassment and bullying. The freedom I sought was something I had to build for myself, brick by painful brick. It was hard, but I did it and I’m doing it. I’m still here and the freedom comes from knowing that each brick is mine.

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I’ve heard people talk about how they knew they were a writer and the past year I realized that writing is in my bones and inseparable from the core of who I am. Writers have a way of looking at the world and galvanizing inner resources around translations of nonsensical things, into that which we can comprehend. What I didn’t anticipate was how I lost a sense of myself without writing about the heartbreak because it was my best chance at comprehending the pain and what happened to me.

I wasn’t ready to tell the truth and stayed away from writing about anything too personal because I was afraid of harassers pursuing me further or trying to harm me in more complex and elaborate ways. I tried to insulate myself from the fears that someone else might pick up where the people harassing me and engaging in illegal behaviors left off, ceasing only when I succeeded at taking my life because then my truth would die with me. It was how they would win, leaving only the version of reality people wanted to believe about the person who sexually assaulted me, and those who tried to vindicate him by harassing me into silence.

I was afraid, but writing is taking these pains and fears and turning them into something powerful again. There’s nothing left to fear anymore because I’ve had everything negative imaginable take place, but I’m still only left with the truth. It doesn’t matter how I’ve been shamed or harassed because the truth still stands. What happened never changes and I know this, because it lives in my brain on a loop.

Everything about what happened helped me understand the way that hateful actions leave marks you can’t erase. What happened made me hate my body and made me hate being an out member of the LGBTQ2+ community who frequently passes as straight. It made me hate the world assuming that I owe men something for breathing in a way they feel looks attractive. I hated that people still looked for reasons to defend him even though I said no over and over again. I hated that I stopped knowing how to engage with others, and ask questions because I didn’t want to be as invasive as they were to me. I hated how lonely I felt, and for how long. I hated the person who went to management about what happened, before I had the chance to tell the truth myself, beginning a process I had no way to stop. I hated that some days getting out of bed was all I could do, let alone remembering to eat properly. I hated navigating triggers. I hated too that it was poisoning the good I was doing my best to put back together with every ounce of strength I had. I hated that it made me so hesitant to make friends at any job, and suspicious of why people might want to know me when my existence proved such a consistent problem for others. I hated that it made me go to the hospital because I didn’t trust myself and the need to escape the pain a few years ago. I hated that it ended friendships because I had no idea how to hold this pain and people I cared about at the same time. I hated that even when I thought I was done crying, I would find more tears to cry because the pain felt bottomless. His one hateful act, created so much more of the same.

I did not realize I was capable of feeling so much pain, but I also did not realize I was capable of overcoming so much and along the way, I realized how great my capacity for forgiveness. I realized that if I could survive this, there were others who were already thriving, and that I could make it through.

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The healing process is layered, and my only hope is that no one else had to go through the same thing and leave the truth inside them to die alongside parts of their spirit. This fight to stay alive inside and out, while learning to tell the truth can still take entire days. I used to do affirmations to feel powerful and capable and now the one I say to myself to make breathing easier is, “I am more than what happened to me. I am loved, loving and lovable. I accept myself exactly as I am.

I share all of this to say, that I’m still here and the hearts haven’t gone anywhere. They’ve been comforting me while I remember what it feels like to use my voice.

And to those who read this and see any part of their experience reflected back in sharing what happened to me, this song, Stand By You, by Rachel Platten, is for you.

It feels good to be back.

Cheryl

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