The doctor said an antipsychotic might help me forget what the trauma said.
The trauma said, “Don’t write this poem.
Nobody wants to hear you cry about the grief inside your bones.”
But my bones said, “Tyler Clementi dove into the Hudson River convinced he was entirely alone.”
My bones said, “Write the poem.”
I have wanted to write this post for a while and every time I approach it I become overwhelmed. Not solely for the emotional impact of the subject but also the vast differences in experiences and the profound effect they have on people. How do you reach out to someone you have never met?
How do you write something that matters?
How can you tell people that they are not alone?
I guess the only real answer here is brutal honesty.
It is impossible to write the universal story, so instead I will write and speak from my own.
When I was 14 years old I was raped.
I was a stupid stupid kid and got myself into some very dangerous situations. I was at a party, drinking underage, and forced into a bedroom by three men. One held the door, one held me down and one raped me. They hit me as they did it. They called me names. It was only the combination of new people showing up in the other room and me screaming so loud that made it stop. I really think had no one else come to the party all three of them would have raped me that night.
This is not my story.
But for a long time, it felt like it was.
I felt a great deal of shame for putting myself in that situation. I snuck out of my house and went to a party with my friends. I had four beers, which at the time had quite the effect. I felt like it was my fault for being so stupid, I could not forget that I went there willingly. In some weird way afterwards, I felt like maybe I deserved it, maybe I was really a worthless piece of shit that got what she had coming to her.
What was supposed to be a fun night out turned into a nightmare I lived in for more than a decade. My attackers were all in their 20’s or older. I was a fourteen year old little girl. It has only been with the advantage of growing older that I can finally look back at younger me and forgive myself. To realize that while I did a stupid thing to go to that party, it was not my fault for getting raped. I did not deserve it. No child, woman, or human being deserves that.
I became despondent afterwards. I never really talked to anyone about what happened save for a handful of friends and ambigous mentions. I started skipping school and using drugs. I got in trouble, started to hang around more with local gangs and dated gang members. I lived really dangerously for a while there, until my parents decided for my own safety to send me to live with my grandmother in Boston.
I was put on probation through a child in need of services order. I revolted against all of it but in spite of myself the opportunities in the city excited me and occupied my mind. I would go to museums and galleries after school with my friends. We would go to the mall on the weekends, or coffee shops to watch stand up poetry. I felt like I was moving on with my life and finding things to be passionate about. My grandmother at home would always ask me about my day and what I was up to, but she gave me the freedom to explore and develop myself.
It wasn’t all roses. I still got into minor mischief while living there, but all in all it was really the best thing my parents could have done for me. It wasn’t just getting me out of the environment I was living in, but it was also planting me right smack dab in the middle of a culturally diverse, intellectually stimulating and creative environment that helped. It kept me busy and helped me forget and move on.
After my second year there things seemed to suddenly get so much worse. A friend committed suicide and immediately after the funeral I was told that my parents had bought a house in the country, in another state and that I would be moving with them. I felt like I was abandoning all of my friends in the middle of such a terrible time and being taken away from all the things of the city I had grown to love.
I strange thing happens when you live in a quiet place. You have no choice but to start to explore your own mind. Without the distractions of the city I quickly became depressed. I made friends and involved myself in creative activities in school but things seemed so much harder here and I felt so much more alone. I entered another very dark period of my life of which I will not expound upon today. However to give perspective I will say that it culminated with my being homeless and living in a van and ended in handcuffs
I carried around so much guilt, anger, self disgust, and hurt that I could not get out of my own way. I was self destructive and reckless. I felt like no one could understand me and that I was completely alone. Every bad choice enforced what I already felt about myself, which prompted more bad choices. I felt completely hopeless and I felt like I did it to myself. Here’s the kicker – in a lot of ways I did.
Being a victim is dangerous work.
It became important to me to explore how my mind works and understand why I felt and reacted the way that I did to things. It became even more important for me to teach myself that I am not a victim. I was a victim. There is a big difference. I identified myself by the results of one night of my life. I took that identity and lived it and breathed it and let it become who I was.
It took a lot of time and brutal honesty to learn this about myself. I never really talked about what happened to me. I never got help when I was younger. I pushed everyone away and tried to put it in a box and move past it. Not dealing with it head on allowed it to fester. The thing about boxes is eventually the bottoms fall out.
I am not giving credit to this one event for all the things that have happened in my life. I realize now that there were so many factors, internal and external. This was just one of the larger ones. I didn’t know how to understand or express my emotions. I didn’t know how to own them. I got really sad sometimes. Sometimes I wanted to die.
It affected my relationships. I went through a phase in high school where I would sleep with a guy and then never call him or acknowledge him afterwards. I did this several times. In some twisted way I felt like it put me in control. It wasn’t until I ran into one of them and they didn’t recognize ME that I realized this “control” was only in my head and only applied to me. It was a lot harder and scarier to put myself in a venerable position to be emotionally hurt, but I began to try. What I noticed with this was that my personal value somehow became mixed up in my head with how much my partner valued me. My identity again, wrapped up in another person.
Several years ago after an emotionally devastating separation from my husband and then later a fall out with a dear friend, I made the conscious decision to figure out who I am outside of the context of a partner or lover. I became celibate for over 18 months and did a lot of internal dissection and exploration. It was an amazing time for me in which I began to really understand myself. I shifted my occult exploration from that of external focus to an internal focus, and was rewarded with many epiphanies and moments of beautiful gnosis.
Discovering and rebuilding who I am has been an amazing journey for me and one I feel is now and forever unending.
I am 32 years old now. Its been 18 years since that event. If there is anything I have learned that I would want to convey to others is this:
Remember you write your own story,
Remember you are human and yes, you can be hurt.
Remember it is okay to hurt. Own how you feel.
Become the author of your own life because baby, one night is just one sentence in the book unfinished.
Be ye mystic.
Get help if you need it. Talk to a friend. Call a hotline. Message a a buddy online. Talk to your parents. If you are a child talk to an adult you trust. A teacher, guidance counselor, camp counselor, neighbor, aunt or uncle. If you don’t feel safe talking to anyone you know call the number below. Don’t stay silent.
You are not weak for needing help,
you are strong for recognizing it.