This guest blog post was written by our friend, Hannah. Her story is powerful and brave, and we are so honored that she is choosing to be a voice for others. Thank you, Hannah, for speaking your silence.
I always thought the best of people.
When I was in my last semester of high school my boyfriend and I broke up. I was heartbroken because this was my first real boyfriend and I didn’t know what the next step was for me. I had tons of friends tell me that I should swipe on tinder for fun and because I didn’t know any better I listened to them. At first, it was just harmless fun until one guy stood out to me. He asked engaging questions, seemed smart, and above all he was so respectful that I just had to meet him. I thought I was a good judge of character. We met for a couple dates, all public and every one was so thoughtful! By our last date, I had gotten comfortable and let my guard down. He invited me to ice cream but this time he asked me to meet at his house. Being young, I didn’t think anything of it. And because I am here and I am writing this, you can assume what happened. That was the hardest day of my life.
As the year went by, I spiraled into a dark place. I don’t think I understood where I was at and how badly I was hurting. I hadn’t told anyone yet and it felt like a big hot ball of rage, sadness and discomfort was sitting in my stomach all the time. There were things I did to push it further down and distract myself, but at the end of the day, it wasn’t going away. I was at a summer camp when one of the leaders shared her experience with rape. She was the first person I chose to tell. I had anticipated her being understanding and caring about the situation. Instead, she forced me to tell my parents and I wasn’t ready. After that, I was apprehensive about sharing with anyone else but just like the first time, those feelings that I had tried so hard to keep down needed to come out. The second person I talked to hadn’t shared an experience with me but I felt comfortable with her as a mentor and friend. After I shared with her, she asked why I was at his house and why I was on tinder. Again, I felt defeated. Both people I had told, expecting that they had my best interest in mind, disappointed me. The third person I shared with was an old friend. She just asked to hug me. She didn’t hug me in a pitiful way, but in a way that made me feel safe and like I didn’t have to explain myself. That person, despite not having any experience with this subject, understood that all of these events were the result of me trying to help myself. They knew that I was just heartbroken over a breakup and that I just wanted a friend. They knew that I just wanted to feel liked, appreciated, and above all I just wanted to have fun! That is what that man was supposed to be for me. They knew that I was just trying to do the best thing for me at each moment, and they didn’t judge me or blame me for what happened. Everyone needs something different when it comes to comfort and moving on. I encourage you to keep searching for what you need even if the first reaction someone gives you isn’t what you need.
It’s been five years almost to the day, and I now know what I needed then. It’s hard to write about what I did to feel better because at the end of the day, what works for me may not work for you, but I hope that if I share my healing process then maybe at least one of these things will help you!
First, it is SO important to talk about it. The more you talk about it, the more it becomes an event of the past and not something that actively hurts you. If you don’t talk about what happened, the only purpose it has in your life is pain. I wanted to do more with my experience than just let it hurt me. Once I realized that my experience could help others, I chose to be open about my past because I never know who’s listening.
Second, it is incredibly important to talk to the right people. The first two people I chose weren’t the right people and there were signs that they weren’t. I knew they weren’t the right people to talk to because the first one had a legal obligation to tell my parents because they were a leader at our church and the second person hadn’t been trustworthy when others had confided in her. I am so thankful for the friend that finally knew what I needed even when I didn’t. Always look for the friend that is genuine in caring for you and is a good listener. I think those were the two biggest attributes I needed in friends at that point. It would have been better to seek someone specific right away rather than wait until I couldn’t keep it in any more. As of now, I am so happy I made the choice to go to counseling. It’s hard to initially believe you need to go but at the very least, you have one person to talk to that won’t pressure you, judge you, or pity you. If you get the right counselor, their mission will be to give you the tools to deal with the feelings you are having and to make sure you don’t feel crazy.
Third, I didn’t know it at the time but I had a great support system. While I do think it’s important to take time alone to reflect on your feelings, it’s just as important to spend time with friends and family to increase your happiness. I noticed that whenever I was alone, I would overthink and settle into thinking negatively so I put myself out there and made new friends. As I started to get more comfortable talking about what had happened to me in general, I found out that so many people go through the same thing that I went through. Hearing that others were experiencing (or had experienced) the same things as I was, encouraged me to continue with the healing process and gave me more confidence that I could get through this.
There are so many different ways to help yourself move on. My journey won’t be the same as yours but I hope you can take a piece of what I shared and apply it to where you are at right now. As I write this, just know that the healing didn’t happen all at once. I went from depressed, to extremely angry, back to depressed and then slowly made progress. I would even say that I am still in that process but the progress I’ve made is way more than what I thought was possible for me. I am in a happy long term relationship, in a job I love, and wanting to explore more of the things that life has to offer. You deserve all those things too. Know that you are trying your best and I’m proud of you for trying to heal, no matter what stage you are in right now. You should always do what’s best for you and heal in your own time. Even though the memory still hurts every once in a while, the pain doesn’t control my life or what I do. I hope the same for you.