Updated: Dec 31, 2020
Why is it that we chose to suffer in silence once we stop being children? Why do we choose material happiness over true, emotional happiness? Maybe it’s that we don’t know we are suffering and maybe because we don’t even know how to reach emotional happiness? We only know to barricade our emotions and chose to parade to the world that we’re living happily ever after.
2017 was probably one of the biggest years in history in regards to sexual assault, harassment and abuse. Thousands upon thousands of women started to finally speak up about their traumas and experiences using the #MeToo hashtag… I wasn’t one of them. In October 2017 when #MeToo went viral, the last thing I wanted to do was THINK about what had happened to me, let alone broadcast it. Many of these women had kept shtum for years and a lot of them believed their story would be one they would take to their grave… I was one of them.
Over the year of 2017 I felt many emotions – mainly negative ones. I put those feelings down to things such as: not being happy with my living situation, not being happy with my body, not having any money, not being satisfied with my job, and a huge chunk of my sad thoughts were based on the fact I was experiencing heartbreak. Or was I? At the time I couldn’t work out how this man was affecting me in such a way… I didn’t even really know him!?! We weren’t even in a relationship. Why was I crying so much over him?! (I’ll get to this story another time).
But my point is, even though I felt an incredible amount of sorrow, no matter what I did to make myself feel better, nothing was working. I searched for reasons for my unhappiness; totally in denial that it could be the fact that I was actually traumatised by the previous experiences that I had never dealt with before. But why had I never dealt with them?? Well, each time I had a different reason…
Unfortunately, like too many people, I experienced some sexual abuse as a child. It stopped at a fairly early age, maybe 9 or 10 and I didn’t actually recall the memories until I was around 15/16. Whilst comforting my two friends who were telling me about their own terrible experiences as a child, I was counting my blessings that it had never happened to me. Like bolts of electric running through my mind I had a series of flashbacks that reminded me that I was, in fact, a victim too.
As time went by, I would recall more and more memories, the more I had the clearer they became. Sometimes they would bring me to tears and I would tell myself they weren’t real, but they really were. I didn’t tell anyone other than my two friends at first, not even my parents. How could I? How could I bring to light such a horror? How could I bring them such pain? How could I bring his family such agony? After all, I had survived years of not even remembering this and I had been perfectly fine (or so I thought). I didn’t want to bring unnecessary drama and pain into people’s lives and I wanted to forget about it… so I kept it to myself and threw it to the back of my mind.
Friends don’t do that…
When I was 21, after a usual drunken night out on the town with my closest friends, I fell asleep on the couch which was pretty normal for me. After being woken up and told to go to bed a few times by my friends, I staggered upstairs, collapsed on my bed and fell asleep fully dressed. I woke up the next morning feeling dreadful from the alcohol, but something else felt different… I lifted the covers to find my leggings were pulled half-way down. I was confused and worried.
I went into the next room and asked my best friend and housemate who had stayed in my bed with me that night, to find out that it was the man I had considered my best friend. I couldn’t get my head around the fact that he could do that… friends don’t do that? I thought the world of him. I text him and told him what he did was so wrong… he admitted what he did was wrong… and of course, he blamed alcohol.
To shed a bit more light and to be as transparent as possible, this man and I were good friends, I knew he liked me, and I’ll admit there were a couple of intimate times at one stage in our friendship, but I made it clear to him a long time before this incident that we would not have sex again and that I wanted nothing more than a friendship with him.
For the first couple of hours, I was in shock and upset. A part of me wanted to tell people, I wanted to tell all of our mutual friends, his sister and his brothers; it was unconsensual and he shouldn’t get away with it! But I didn’t. I told a couple of friends who told other “friends” and the response I heard back through the grapevine was that I “had it coming” or “what did I expect”. And quite frankly, no one seemed to give a s***. I felt completely to blame, stupid, like it didn’t even matter and I eventually even believed that I deserved it. I believed that I would lose a lot of friends over it and I didn’t want that. So I just sucked it up, forgot about it, never spoke to him again and moved on.
Third Time Unlucky
Whilst out for a friend’s birthday in different city with a small group of people, including one guy we didn’t know too well, I got very drunk and by the time we got back to the hotel I was passed out. Much to my horror, I awoke with the unknown man hovering over me with one hand halfway down my underwear signalling me to “shhhh”. Of course, I freaked out and jumped straight off the bed, ran out of the room and confusingly tried to work out where the hell I was and how this was happening?
I ran to the front desk and told them - they didn’t care. I tried to tell my friends who were just too drunk and half asleep to even know what I was trying to tell them. So I packed my bags headed to the nearest train station and took myself home. I cried all the way home. It felt like the longest train journey ever. Luckily, my amazing (ex) boyfriend did care, he listened to me, he comforted me and he wiped away my tears.
Although this incident isn’t as bad as the other two, it was, at the time, pretty traumatic as it brought forward some familiar feelings from the other two memories. “What if I didn’t wake up?”… “What if he does something worse to another girl?”… “What if I didn’t get away?”… It triggered something inside of me for a while which I shrugged off every-single-time. It didn’t seem that big of a deal to anyone, I was embarrassed, and I kinda felt like I was being a drama queen by even talking about it… So I sucked it up, forgot about it and moved on.
The Trauma Trigger
So, if you’ve read my first post, you’ll see that my reason for not speaking up after this occasion was because I blamed myself for being too drunk. I kept quiet about it all year and tried my very hardest to forget about it, telling myself over and over again that I needed to just forget it to be able to get on with my life in peace and that thinking or talking about it would make me worse.
I truly believed that I didn’t need to deal with any of these occasions. I refused to believe that these incidents were that big of a deal; that bringing them up would cause unnecessary drama and mostly that because my life is so amazing, full of fun, travel, adventure and freedom that I didn’t have the RIGHT to be affected by them or even upset by them. I was so wrong. And anyone that believes the same is also very wrong.
In October 2017 in the midst of the viral #MeToo movement, I was at my ultimate worse in regards to mental health. I was dealing with trying to climb a huge metaphorical mountain of sorrow, doubt, self-loath, trauma and I felt the most alone I have ever felt in my whole life. I finally realised that I was actually deeply affected by these occurrences and that I had to find a way to deal with them and heal myself. It was a difficult pill to swallow. My biggest question and fear was “what if thinking about them makes me worse?” Well, it did for a bit. But it made it so much easier to accept.
The Healing Process…
I have suffered all of these years in silence. Each experience had buried its way into my subconscious mind, whether it be a repressed memory or a memory I told myself wasn’t worth thinking or talking about because of the reaction of others. They were affecting me all along. But I am no longer ashamed, embarrassed or silent. No longer will I allow the views and comments of other people make me believe that what happened to me was OK. It’s not OK. It is happening every single day.
Trauma is being forced into people’s lives and we are told or made to believe that we should keep quiet and suck it up. We are made to feel a certain way for making a big deal about being exploited, harassed or feeling traumatised for what has happened to us. Many are led to believe that because a female has had one too many drinks that she “deserves” to be sexually assaulted. Many are even led to believe that if a woman has previously had sex with a man then she no longer has the right to say no to him or that he can help himself to her body when he wants. It is not uncommon for those that speak up to be judged, kicked down and ridiculed.
A lot of people who have suffered from similar experiences, or worse, find healing the hardest part - and rightly so. Healing isn’t something you can just switch on. You can’t just turn the page and believe that it won’t pop up in future chapters. It takes time, work, persistence, change, motivation and determination. When you’re depressed, lost, lonely and overwhelmed all of the above seem impossible. But what other choice do we have? A lifetime of suffering in silence, or finally facing the giant and becoming the best version of ourselves we could ever be? We can make it our mission to forget it all and be haunted by it for the rest of our lives, or we can make it our mission to speak up, dig deeper, face the demons, purify our thoughts and heal our soul.
This mission is one which takes you in a forward direction only, not backwards. It could be your life’s work but it will be a journey worth taking. When you keep it all locked up inside, implosion is likely. Release it; embrace the emotions as they flow out of your body. Emotions are the most important part of the healing process and let us know EXACTLY how we are dealing with something. Don’t just lean towards what feels good when you’re feeling sad because you’re essentially avoiding the purpose of the emotion.
Just remember – it’s OK to not feel OK. But to make progress, you absolutely must embrace your emotions.