I grew up with people telling me I was “too smart” or “too tough” for something bad to happen to. I instilled this need to be perfect for everyone around me, and when something horrible happened, the only thing younger me knew to do was to blame myself, internalize it and hide the bad parts of my life from everyone.
So when 16-year old me was raped by a college student, I didn’t tell anyone. How would everyone treat me if I wasn’t “perfect”? That I didn’t live up to my “too tough” persona?
Later in college, it happened again. I asked myself, who lets this happen to themselves a second time? Who would really believe me since I was drunk when it happened?
It took me ten years to tell someone.
Ten years of blaming myself and struggling with anxiety and a sprinkle of depression.
But while anxiety was part of what led me to seek therapy, it was a neurologist who helped me make that step. He was the first doctor who ever made me feel believed and heard when I talked about my migraines. And it was at an appointment with him talking about changing my migraine medication that he mentioned trying therapy too. He recommended it to help me deal with one of my migraine triggers: anxiety. When I started crying in his waiting room after he said it would also help with my depression, I realized that he was probably right. I needed to get my mental health in better working order. And hey, if it helped me have fewer migraines, that would be great!
Before my first therapy session, I told myself that if I was really going to do this, I was going to be radically honest with my therapist. So, when filling out the questionnaire and it asked if I had ever been sexually assaulted, I answered honestly for the first time. A few minutes later, the therapist I had just met was the first person I ever told. I think I cried that entire first session… and the next six months of them.
Therapy has given me the tools and a safe space to work on myself. I think the biggest thing I have learned is how to be kind to myself. To understand it wasn’t my fault, even the second time. My brain can be such a negative place, and I was my main target. It also gave me the strength to tell my spouse and sister about my past. I’m not sure if I will have that conversation with more people in my future, but my therapist says that’s ok. It’s my story to tell, however, I would like (hi internet!).
I still go to therapy (going on two years with no end in sight), but I feel like I need to mention I did eventually switch therapists. It’s important to find someone who you feel comfortable with, even when they ask you to talk about uncomfortable things.
I still have anxiety, but now I have medication and ways to calm myself down. But mainly, the world isn’t as scary for me as it once was, and I know I’m not as alone as I thought I was. And I want the same for others.
When I think of the future, I hope when I look back on this time of my life, I feel like I made a difference. That I became a stronger, mentally healthier person by continuing therapy. That maybe my story can help someone else reach out. That maybe by talking about my anxiety, medication, and therapy, some of the stigma people fear goes away.
I wish everyone would make the time to go to a therapy or counseling session, just to try it out. You don’t have to wait until you are on the verge of a breakdown like me, or if you do, that is ok too! Because no matter what you are struggling with, please know you are not alone. You are perfect with your imperfections and are worthy of help.
This blog post was written by one of our supporters in our community. They would prefer to remain anonymous, but we are so grateful for their bravery and honesty in sharing their story. Thank you!