This blog has been a conduit for my want to inspire others. To tell my stories, share the stories of others, and hopefully help us to embrace the limited time we have, walking this planet. As such, I want to talk about something that has been a significant part of shaping who I am today. An experience that led to a series of behaviours, thought patterns, that I have spent the last 10 years working on. An attitude that only with my growing insight have I been able to address fully.
When I was 15, I was sexually assaulted. As is usually the case, it was someone who should have been trusted. This abuse continued for a number of months, during which I became a shell, a husk. I failed to feel anything after all the tears, the prayers, even running away, didn’t save me. I disconnected with reality, I locked up my true self, buried away, as I tried to cope with what was happening. I became numb.
I was too afraid to tell anyone of what had happened to me. It took years to tell my first boyfriend, and years more to tell my mum. I confided in a friend who told me that “God was testing me”. Bull shit. I spoke to those closest to me who asked “What were you wearing? Did you lead him on?”. What the hell does that matter? I said no, I yelled no, I was beaten for attempting to fight back and it happened week in, week out. I was made to feel ashamed, dirty, unlovable. It has taken many years to realise the issues this created within me, and only recently have I been able to make the connections between those events and how my self esteem, my self worth, has since developed.
Looking back, I know I have hurt others with my inability to cope during this time. My stubbornness that I was ok, that I didn’t need help from anyone. I thought I was stronger by internalising everything, but all that achieved was more damage. Not just mentally, but physically. I began to self harm because I didn’t think I was worthy. I was full of so much pain, so much emotion that I couldn’t let out anywhere, that it was finding other ways to surface. I believed I was strong by holding it in, and resilient. I even got a tattoo to remind myself of how unshakable I thought I was. But it was a story, a fiction, I held it so tight that I couldn’t see how untrue it was, even as the scars climbed in number.
Gradually, with the help of some incredibly supportive loved ones, and my own insight that perhaps I needed to seek professional help, I’ve been able to start addressing these issues. This has taken many years, and many attempts, with only the most recent forays with a blunt psychologist really forcing me to connect with my cognitive dissonance. I’ve realised I am stubborn, and also a strong feminist. I’ve realised that I have a voice, and that I am worthwhile. I’ve realised that despite how much weight I put on my experiences, on how someone decided to treat me, to destroy me, that they didn’t succeed. There was a small part of me, of Smiley Lize, that always lasted. Hidden away, buried deep, I’ve always known that I am worthwhile, that I am important, that I am special, and that I am happy. I’ve battled depression, post traumatic stress disorder, triggers from those memories, but despite it all, somewhere inside me I’ve always known that I am happy. Somewhere, I’ve always known I love life, I love people, I love what I have. It’s taken a while to realise this, but insight isn’t easy.
In the end, what we experience throughout our lives shapes who we become. We never truly get over what we’ve been through, but each time we revisit it, we can grow, we can heal. We can’t hide from our emotions. Bottling them up, hoping if we ignore them that they will just go away, it doesn’t work like that. I tried to pretend I was ok after I was assaulted. I tried to convince myself that I was still destined to be the person I was always meant to be, that I would be successful despite what had happened. But I wasn’t ok, I needed help, and that’s ok. Our lives will constantly evolve, and now I see a future where I am adaptable.
I may never be the person I was “destined” to be before this happened to me, but how will I ever know who she was? Plus, I love the person I am becoming now.
If you have found this difficult to read, or you are facing similar struggles yourself, I urge you to reach out for help. There are many organisations that you can contact online, such as Beyond Blue, or speak to your GP.