A long time ago, when I was unhappy… no, downright miserable, I didn’t really care what I looked like. I was standoffish and mean to say the least because my home life was a nightmare… It was hard to see the beauty in things and I certainly didn’t see any beauty in myself. Now that I’m so much happier and content and at peace, I’m a heck of a lot nicer to be around and putting makeup on and doing my hair nicely just reflects outwardly the inside that I care so greatly for. I didn’t start this lifestyle of Paleo and working out to get a nicer outside, I started it to get a nicer inside… but it’s hard to keep the ‘nice’ contained to the inside and so it’s becoming reflected in the care I take for my appearance now. It was never a lie back then that I didn’t care what I looked like… I really didn’t. I was working day by day to just get through the days without losing my mind and there was nothing left to invest in my appearance.
Now that things have changed on the inside, my outside is becoming pretty nice… some days I look in the mirror and see how far I’ve come… and sometimes I look in the mirror and I see how much work I have ahead of me and how long it will really take to wash the pain of those years away… an interesting dilemma has surfaced.
I have a huge secret that I have carried around with me, starting in 2005… and then it doubled itself in 2011… I talk the talk of not carrying shame in something you have no control over… I am an armchair advocate for women’s rights and mental health care for those that need it. I would tell someone till I’m blue in the face that rape and abuse and sex assault is not their fault and that mental health should not carry a stigma with it. Because I, from the seat of my being, believe this to be true.
I was sexually assaulted twice in the last 8 years. Once by someone I barely knew and once by my ex 22 days before we finally ended it. I am in general, not traumatized by it. I made decisions at the time to prevent myself from being harmed more than necessary and while it’s incredibly painful to think about what people with no conscience will do… and I know it will be heartbreaking for people who know me… I’m honestly fine. The thing is tho… that kind of thing… it changes you. It changes parts of you that you wouldn’t think or know it changes until something in your life comes up to show you how you’re different.
The experience has made me quite shy… I’m not usually one to be labelled as shy… in a group of people I know, where I feel safe, I’m not shy… but in any situation where I feel even a little bit vulnerable or out of my element, my personality shuts down and I become painfully shy. It’s taken a very special person in the last little while to see me through my shy protective barrier and pull me out. That same person, who I’ve mentioned here before as a dear friend of mine has also showed me that trust is not always misplaced.
The other thing that my experiences have made me is incredibly self conscious. I’m absolutely terrible at taking compliments… It borders on rude how terrible I react actually. It’s something I am trying to work on… it all goes back to trust then right? Trust the person… trust what they say… trust that there is no ulterior motive. For the last ‘can’t even count that high’ years, I didn’t care what I looked like. Truth was, that was a safe place to be for me. Not that I knew it at the time, because the reason I was wearing so much extra weight was due to other life factors and an emotionally abusive situation. But when the outside started to become affected by the dramatic changes on the inside, that’s when it hit me. People are going to look at me. And I am not comfortable with that. I’m comfortable sharing an anonymous photo of my bikini clad before and after on the internet… I’m comfortable posting pictures of myself online… that’s all anonymous… I’m not comfortable wearing a nice shirt that shows my… ahem…‘assets’ …in a complimentary light and then having people look at me. I rationally don’t think anyone is out to get me and I rationally actually don’t think that anyone would be too interested in me for looks alone. However… the damaged and irrational side of me… that voice in my head tells me to walk faster, keep my head down and go eat some ice cream to get a bit of protective fat back because it’s a dangerous, dangerous world out there. Now the rub… I’m also not comfortable wearing baggy clothes that hide all the work I’ve put into myself. I’m not comfortable wearing too many layers for how hot it is outside and I’m not comfortable pretending that I don’t care about how I look. And there is the situation at hand. I don’t want people to look at me but I’m not going to dress or care for myself in a way that prevents it. I honestly don’t know where to go with that. I wish I could say that the last paragraph of this post was going to be some enlightenment over my dilemma… that I’d made some dramatic association and solved my own problem. I haven’t. The only thing I can give myself is another day and another day loving me from the inside and allowing that to show on the outside. I can only be stronger from my experience and while it would be impossible to say it will never happen again (but God I hope it never EVER happens again), I have to know that my instincts both times were right… and be stronger in trusting them. Because what a shame to be taught a lesson like that… twice… and not to take it to heart and get every ounce of experience and knowledge out of it that I possibly can!
NB: It was only recently that I was able to recall all the details from the first assault in a linear fashion. I don’t know if it’s because I was mentally strong enough, because it had been buried long enough or what… (altho no amount of burying it resolved the acute pain of the ‘in the moment’ emotions). I do believe that rape, sexual assault and physical abuse should not be kept in the dark. I believe that the more that people who have experienced it talk about it, the more that we can use our own experience to help teach eachother. That my experience might pave the way for someone else to recognize the signs and help themselves. And to help heal our sisters and mothers and daughters who have experienced it. Every time you find out you’re not alone with your experience is another moment of strength. That takes the dark off the shame and pours daylight on it.
With that said, I do have my experience written down. I understand it now in a way that I didn’t understand it then. Having uncovered it and poured my own daylight on it, I now understand why in some circumstances, I am the way I am. There is nothing gory or perverse in my account. There is no content that you couldn’t read on a computer screen at work. And yet, I go back and forth on whether to post it. Not because I’m ashamed, or scared, or even care that it’s on the internet. More because I am terrified that it will hurt people I care about to the depths of my soul. Do I know that these same people are statistically likely to have had a same/similar experience? Of course. Does that make it easier? No.
I think it would be cathartic to share it. Even tho the majority of the readers here are strangers. Because that’s another ounce of daylight shed on my experience from each person who reads it. I’m still debating. Your thoughts would be so appreciated as to the route I should take. But even if I get 0 or 100 comments on it… the decision still rests with me.