I was called brave today. This isn’t the first time I’ve been called that. Friends have said it and today, the doctor I saw called me that. I don’t see myself as brave for standing up and speaking out about my past. The sexual assaults I never reported to the police. I feared they wouldn’t believe me, so I just went to therapy.
Eventually, I told my dad about it. I didn’t tell my mother because she was the one whose idea of a “birds and the bees” talk was buying me a book that looked like it was meant for a 6 year old, not a 12 year old who had just started her period. No words, just the book and a box of pads. This coming from a woman who hit menopause not long after I was born. But that’s how it was.
My dad, though… he was my ear. He heard me. Even before I told him about what my ex did, he knew something was wrong. When I broke up with the bastard, he harassed me at home, on the phone, on campus (college). I clearly remember one time he came to the house and I was stuck. The old house was structured and remodeled in such a way that my bedroom windows (with curtains open that day) were right next to the front door. I couldn’t go hide elsewhere in the house because there was a doorway just past the front door and I didn’t have enough time to go anywhere and hide. I could only plaster myself against the wall between my bedroom door and that doorway and try not to make any noise. My dad refused to let him inside. What was likely no more than a few minutes felt like an eternity. Moving wasn’t an option until the door was closed and we heard his motorcycle start up and leave.
While we both technically moved on, he discovered he could still hold some power over me via the internet. While I have no interest in going into all the details here, it still hasn’t stopped completely. Not in the 22 years since I broke up with the bastard.
In the last few years, I’ve felt a change. I know I have gone from living in fear to being resilient. And yet… things happen that still, even a few weeks ago, trigger memories. The kind of memories one doesn’t want to remember. Ones triggered by touch, by some behaviors, but not always others.
I am not the same person I was 22 years ago. I was not brave then. I hid. I ran. I avoided. I lived in fear of looking over my shoulder. I realized, after writing a character who was looking over her own shoulder in fear over something else, I had that same situation. I knew of it all those years, but never truly acknowledged it.
This is why I’ve been so adamant on here and on FB about running and living in fear of certain political insanity going on. Am I gravely concerned over what will happen in this country? Hell yeah. Am I running? If I successfully make it to Europe next year, it’s really only partly running. It’s my choice to go for school, and was something I wanted long before the election happened. I will still retain my citizenship and right to vote. Here’s the thing: we can’t remain silent like I did. I know that hell. I know what it feels like to live in fear. I refuse to go back to that. I refuse to let my friends fall into that.
Today I was called brave. I don’t see a brave person when I look in the mirror. I see a woman who has had the past 22 years of her life in a sort of stasis. I see a woman who is still unsure of how to handle being in society. I see the pain. I now see PTSD. Something I had not seen until recent events. I was getting to where I thought I could loosen my boundaries. Then the recent incident happened and the walls grew again. Walls that were slowly lowering are now taller than I could imagine. My trust in someone is broken. That moment sent me into a shut-down mode. Something survivors do. We try to block things out… but those things cut deeper the longer we try to block them out. I thought I had been managing it well, but not as well as I hoped.
I am doing what I can to keep going right now. It isn’t enough, but all I can do is try. So I lay my soul out to show others. I am imperfect. I am human. But I am not afraid. I just need help to keep my home, my sanctuary, my belongings, safe as I heal and keep working on moving forward.