There’s a shadow side to social media. For every funny memory that TimeHop helps us remember and every quote immortalized on our wall-to-wall, there’s the painful memory of a lost love or awkward haircut. Its all too easy to post hateful words or embarrassing photos. When we live in a world of instant gratification and apps that photoshop 15lbs off our photos, its hard to know what is real. Its so easy to relive the past, to look back at an emotionally driven or drunken status, tweet or Instagram picture and cringe… or laugh.
Sometimes, though, its more dramatic than all that, sometimes it is the face of the of man that raped you that shows up on your page.
I’m still processing–deciding how I feel–figuring out if I feel. For so long I haven’t let myself feel. I haven’t let myself be anything other than angry, irritated, tired and happy. I just don’t allow myself to be sad or hurt or vulnerable. I guess I associate those emotions with not having control or, rather, being needy. Being needy means I’m not self sustaining, not able to handle myself, not having control over myself.
I don’t ask for help, I don’t like feeling like I can’t do something and I don’t like relying on other people. For as long as I can remember I’ve had an incredible need to be independent. I’m almost certain that it is a product of my circumstances, not anything inherent. My mother was emotional, she cried about everything, all the time. When someone died or when she crashed the car, she’d be sent into this emotional crater and we’d all have to help her crawl her way out. There wasn’t any room for me to have emotion or to break down or for me to grieve because I had to start picking up the pieces.
The other piece of it–the more important piece–is that I was raped as a child. Even as I type these words I question it. I have always referred to it as an “assault,” always tried to explain away the other kid’s actions and tried to make sense of what happened.
In my eyes, his actions can be easily explained away: he was abused himself, he was curious, his sister told him to do it, he didn’t really know what he was doing. That all may be true but that never left any energy to focus on ME and MY healing. I didn’t take the blame on myself but I did feel disgusting. I was ashamed and didn’t want God to see me. I can remember pulling the covers over my head so he couldn’t see. Up until very recently I didn’t think about what happened, except in flashbacks and nightmares. It was easier to think that what happened wasn’t rape or to say “assault” because it doesn’t seem so bad, it made me less of a victim, less weak. What I’m realizing is that there is something powerful in talking about it. Its like it and he has no power over me anymore, I can write my own story: one where I’m a survivor and thriving, not a victim.
It wasn’t until many years after he hurt me that I realized that I resented my mother because she put me in the situation. It was her friend’s son that did it to me, her friend’s house it happened at, the friend’s house that she brought me to each week. My need for independence and self-reliance comes from a place of feeling like my mother failed me and realizing I couldn’t trust a single person–not even my mom. I know now that that isn’t fair. I know she didn’t know and would have done anything to protect me and to stop it but, as a little kid, you start to shut down. I felt like I had to protect myself, to take care of myself and that only I know what was best for me. That, coupled with my mom’s tendency for dramatic outbursts and crying fits, left very little room for me to be emotional. It started a nearly two-decade long fight between me and my mom, one I didn’t even know we were having. I fought her on everything and never listened to authority. I had trust issues and difficulty connecting with people.
This assault changed me, took my innocence and my childhood. Its effects are ever present. I don’t know if I will actually ever be whole again. I don’t know if I’ll ever fully trust another person or completely let my guard down. That’s really fucking sad. Its really a sad thing to live my life waiting to get fucked over or refusing to ask for or accept help. Its sad to keep pieces of myself hidden and to not know how to emotionally rely on someone else.
As if sexual assault wasn’t traumatizing enough, as if I didn’t spend years reliving the feeling of him inside me every time I closed my eyes or hiding my body every time he’d show up, he had to go and add me on Facebook. He had to let me know that he’s still here and that he remembers me. He had to make me see his face and his name and his smile. He had to help me remember all the things I’ve worked so hard to forget and to overcome.