Recently, I went to dinner with three women - we dined at the same restaurant that my boyfriend and I went to on our first date.
In conversation, I casually mentioned that I let Alex walk me home that first night because "I thought I could take him.”
Immediately, one of the women said, "I would never want to date a guy I thought I could beat up."
That was not the first time I said I felt comfortable around a man because I thought I could protect myself... I always joke that, in spite of my small frame, I can physically "take" most men.
And, I am sure that was not the first time a woman questioned my desire to overpower a romantic partner. Yet, that night, her statement hit me. Hard.
Why did I want to date a guy I could ‘take’? That question swirled in my mind for days to come.
Making the Connection - The Origin of the Story
I realized that I did that - told myself I could "take a man" - as a form of self-protection.
I am confident that I finally made this connection because I’ve recently been “doing the work” to heal, again.
Someone once brilliantly said, "healing is not linear.” That has been my experience.
Last year, I realized I was not as “healed” as I thought - I still harbored a lot of visceral pain and post-traumatic stress from sexual traumas I experienced as a teenager. As the pain from my past experiences began to permeate my life, I prayed for a healer.
Intuitively, I knew that whatever I did, I needed to process my pain on a physical level.
To provide some context - I stopped drinking alcohol and abusing prescription drugs when I was 19 years-old, on February 17th, 2007. The years leading up to that date were horrific.
A few months after I stopped drinking, I started weekly counseling sessions with a woman who specialized in trauma and addiction. At that point, in 2007, there were a lot of things inside of me that needed to be healed: The issues that acted as the catalyst for my suicide attempt at age 15. The subsequent suicides of my father and step-mother when I was 16 and 17. The problems I had with my family. And, above all, my pain and my shame from physical violence and sexual assaults.
It was healing for me to speak to my therapist. Yet, last year, I learned that working with my therapist many years ago was only the first layer of relief in my healing process. Therefore, it’s unsurprising that I created a narrative around being stronger-than to protect myself from men.
Stepping into Honesty Through Conscious Work
A couple of weeks ago, I sat with Blake before our session and I sobbed. As I sat in front of her - crying harder than I have in years - I shared with her and she listened.
I told her how I wanted my memories to go away. I shared my doubt that they ever will.
I doubt that I will ever get to a place where I won’t have flashbacks of what he did to me many years ago.
Not only what "he" did to me.
But, also what "he" did to me.
And, "him", too.
There are more than one "he's" in my story...
Over the last few months, I have thought a lot about him. And him. And, him.
In my daily meditations, I focus on forgiveness. Forgiving them. Most importantly, forgiving myself.
Given the fact I have been focusing on my personal experience with sexual traumas for the past couple of months, it was almost surreal to see the large volume of "me too’s" that flooded my social media feed on the morning of October 16, 2017.
Since I wrote the article "What's Stopping You?" in 2015, countless women have reached out to me to share their own personal stories of violence, rape, and sexual assault. I know more women who have been sexually assaulted - assaulted, not just harassed - than women who haven't been inappropriately touched by a man.
As I said at the beginning, I wanted a boyfriend that I could "take" because he (and he and he) physically hurt me.
And I don’t ever want to be hurt again.
More so because I don’t want to have another real-life nightmare to remember.
It’s really uncomfortable for me to share my story. But, for me, I’ve learned that staying silent sucks more.
Every time I share my story, I feel lighter. Its almost as if it has less power over me as the listener walks away, carrying with them some of my words. Brene Brown says it best, “vulnerability is the birthplace of connection and the path to feeling worthiness”.
I wholeheartedly hope that the vulnerable act of sharing “me too” will prompt the connection that leads to worthiness in both women and men. How sad and powerful was it to see that many women speaking up? What can I do to ensure that young girls will not have to face what generations of women have endured?
I know that the men who hurt me were hurt, too. That’s no excuse. But, it is a damn good reason for me to take the necessary steps to heal. If I am hurt, I am bound to hurt myself and others, too.
Thank you for reading my words. For each set of eyes helps me to feel a little bit worthier.
If you or someone you know suffer from any form of sexual harassment or assault, please seek support: https://www.rainn.org/get-help