When I thought about abuse, I never imagined it would happen to me. I wasn’t walking alone when an obviously bad guy jumped me, had his way with me, and then left me for dead. That wasn’t how it happened at all. But I did have a traumatic response in the months following. But why? I couldn’t understand why I was having such a reaction to something that “didn’t happen”, or at least that’s what I kept telling myself.
For about nine months after the abuse had ended, I was in complete denial that something traumatic had happened to me. Up until that point, I was in so much denial that I had disassociated myself from those moments. I was depressed, but convinced myself that everyone can get a little depressed so my depression didn’t mean anything. I ignored the fact that I couldn’t talk about sex and just the word made me nauseous. If there was any kind of description of anything sexual, everything in me would scream to block it out and run away. It wasn’t until my roommate’s drunk boyfriend groped me one night that it triggered something inside me. All of a sudden, my anxiety spiked. The nightmares started. The depression got so much worse.
At the time, I was taking some college classes and one of my teachers had told us her own story. That’s when it hit me. Our stories weren’t the same but our reactions were similar. Maybe what “didn’t happen” was something horrible and traumatizing? I still struggled to admit it. I did not want to label it for what it was because then I would turn out like the stereotypical victim, right? You know, the ones you see on tv whose lives and relationships are forever ruined by it. Something else about her struck me though; she was happy, sweet, and kind. She had kids and a loving husband. She had her dream job. In my eyes, her story was so much worse than mine. So if she could overcome all of that, maybe I could overcome mine. She was the first person I told. She was the first person to tell me I deserved better than what had happened to me. She was the first person to recognize my utterly broken state and offer help.
I still struggled with the events of what happened. Where did my guilt end and his begin? Did I ask for it? Was I to blame? If I truly didn’t want it, why didn’t I fight it? All of these questions constantly ran through my brain. I had moved back home where I had a great support system from my family and church. That helped some. The nightmares had subsided for the time. So I was okay. I had moved on. Again, I thought I was fine. I didn’t want to acknowledge that I was nervous and anxious around any new male, young or old. I couldn’t trust them. My depression wasn’t much better and I could no longer handle any type of stressful situation like a busy schedule or tense social interaction. But, I couldn’t afford therapy so if I ignored all of that, as time went on, it would all go away, right? I was so very wrong. Everything got worse.
Around the second anniversary, there was a ladies’ meeting at my church. The guest speaker had alluded to a traumatic experience. By the way she was talking about it, I could tell we had some things in common. She was having the same kinds of struggles that I was having: the anxiety, the nightmares (which had started again), and the deep depression. The first chance I got, I pulled her aside.I told her my story. She told me about this non-profit group called Speak Your Silence that helped those who couldn’t afford counseling or therapy.
Even though it sparked some hope, it took me a few days to look it up. Therapy seemed daunting. I’d have to go through all the dirty, dark details of my story, but I knew I needed help but didn’t want him to have the final say in my story. The application process was less painful than I had expected. Speak Your Silence was very sensitive to my needs and checked in with me to make sure I was happy with the therapist they connected me with. I didn’t feel like another number or a customer or even a victim to them. Every interaction I had with Speak Your Silence made me feel like a person. I hadn’t felt like that in so long!
Because of Speak Your Silence, I was able to get the counseling I needed to start my healing process. I started with individual counseling and now I’m in group therapy. I have learned so much about myself and trauma. It’s helped me recover and live my life to the fullest. Though I’m still healing, now I can say that his actions didn’t get the final say in the story!
The first step in healing is reaching out. It’s the hardest step but it’s worth it!!!
This blog post was written by Colleen. We are so honored to have been able to walk through her journey with her and that she was able to receive counseling through us. Thank you, Colleen, for using your voice and story for others.