“At least we didn’t get you pregnant,” he said as he slammed my locker shut on the last day of eighth grade, just like he had done every day before.
The truth is: I was going to wait to post this. I was going to wait to post it until May 19th, 2018. 10 years to the day after I was raped in a school bathroom by some guys I thought were my friends.
But in all actuality, the truth is: I never wanted to post this, never wanted this story to get out. I wanted to keep it under lock and key in a trunk, buried away under the deep recesses of my memory, never to be open. Because people can’t hurt you if they don’t know you, can’t hate you if you don’t let them in. People can’t love you if you don’t let them in.
And I’m terrified of being loved.
Because the truth is, as much as I’ve spent the last (almost) 10 years trying to outrun my past, trying to forget it, there’s a part of my story that I never wanted to admit, too painful even for myself. What happened in that bathroom is one thing: I relive that every day with flashbacks and triggers and panic attacks and random encounters at Dick’s Sporting Goods. And I’m almost to the point where I can say, “This is what happened to me. This is what they did. But I’m stronger now.”
“At least we didn’t get you pregnant,” he smirked at me, his hazel eyes and nicotine breath forever seared into my mind. But what he didn’t know, what I’ve spent the last 10 years trying so hard to outrun, the secret that’s literally killing me is this:
Just a few days before the last day of eighth grade, just over a month after being raped, I had a miscarriage.
I had a miscarriage, and I feel ashamed:
ashamed that it happened; ashamed that I’m sometimes glad it did.
ashamed that I wonder what my life would be like if the baby had been born; ashamed that I think my life is better right now.
ashamed that I was 13 years old and terrified to tell my parents, my entire church community what happened because how would they respond?
ashamed that I was 13 years old and secretly glad that I lost the baby because I didn’t want to face the stigma of being a pregnant teenager, especially in the church.
ashamed that at 23, I’m still worried about what my church would have thought 10 years ago if I had shown up to Sunday morning worship pregnant, the whispers, the stares, the shunning. What happened? Are you going to put it up for adoption? This could ruin your life you know.
ashamed that at 23, I still feel ashamed for feeling guilt and shame over things that aren’t my fault.
And I’ve gone over the “what if”s in my head over and over and over again. What if
And now that the cat’s out of the bag, I feel as though I have to apologize:
Sorry for telling you; sorry for not.
Sorry for feeling guilty; sorry for knowing it’s not my fault.
Sorry for feeling shame; sorry for knowing that I’ve come so far.
Sorry for letting you in; sorry for feeling like a burden.
Sorry for regretting not jumping off the side of the parking garage that Monday back in September when I drove myself to the ER (because there are days when I regret that, and then feel guilty for regretting it).
I apologize a lot because I’m scared of living, scared of taking up space, scared of breathing.
I know how fragile this life can be, and I know how delicate the line between life and death because I walk it every day.
And maybe, if I apologize enough, invalidate myself enough, my impact on the world will be lesser, the crater I leave behind won’t be as great: a great void narrowing instead of expanding.
People can’t miss you if you don’t let them in. People can’t miss you if you never existed in the first place: invalidate yourself into oblivion.
I’ve come so far in the last nine months, the last four months specifically since beginning work with my current therapist.
And what we’re working on is Radical Acceptance: it is what it is.
My life is what it is. My past is what it is. My future will be what it will be. This moment is filled with me typing this post, backspacing again and again, trying to get these words right. Maybe lessen the blow because, after all, words do hurt, despite what that childhood adage might say.
And last month, I got baptized, signifying that I was ready to let go and let God. I was going to give up control, give up my story, give up my past, and let God work in my life, through my life, in spite of my life.
But, I’m stubborn. And I’m scared:
scared of living.
scared of loving.
scared of being loved.
scared of giving up control because I’m afraid I won’t be able to find my way back out.
I’ve spent the last (almost) 10 years of my life just surviving: moment by moment; too scared of the future to even plan for one.
But I want to live. I want to thrive. And holding on to these secrets, the parts of me I’m sure will scare people away if they knew, the parts of me I deem unlovable or too ugly or too broken are literally killing me.
“You want to drive into trees a lot,” the full weight of these secrets are on the gas pedal, and I’m not strong enough to pull them off.
Because that’s the thing about secrets: they weigh a lot more than the truth, and they’re harder to carry over the distance of life.
Many friends make light work.
And all I can do is shine a light on my broken parts, reveal them for what they are, for who I am. Because take me or leave me, I can’t keep apologizing for who I am.
(I’ll probably still say sorry a lot and continue to invalidate myself because trying to dig through 10 years worth of garbage to move what I know to be true from my head to my heart is a long process, painful, sometimes unending process.)
“You inspire me,” my therapist, Brandon, said to me today. “Do you realize how strong you are? That you have a purpose in life?
Because I don’t look at you and see your baggage. I see a young woman with a bright future who’s trying her best to navigate the storms of this life, who’s trying to process her past and move forward, who’s fighting so hard to stay here, who loves deeply and cares fully and feels wholeheartedly, who’s unabashedly wholehearted: who gets up in front of people and says: This is me. This is what I’ve been through. This is how I’ve been hurt. But I still get up in the morning and try my best to get through the day.
And to me, that is inspiring.”
This is real. This is raw.
This is me.
Love me, hate me, pray for me, complain about me. It doesn’t matter.
Nothing you say to me can be worse than what the voices in my head say to me on the daily, but I’m working on it.
I’m working on so many things.
And right now, what I’m working on is this: fully illuminating my past so that it can be a light for my future.
I can’t hide in the dark forever.
I can’t be scared to live, to exist, to breathe, to take up space.
I’m here. I’ve been hurt deeply and profoundly, and sometimes I feel so unworthy of love.
But I’m not going to stop living.
stop being who I am.
Because I don’t want to run from my past for another ten years.
because a) I have asthma and can’t run very far for very long. and b) simply surviving is so very unfulfilling.
So I’m sorry.
But I’m also not.
I can’t spend the rest of my life dodging trees while running from my past.
This is me: jumping fully in, ready to admit that I was raped and lost a baby, and sometimes I feel 100% at fault.
This is me: starting to recognize that I’m worthy of love.
Sorry it took me so long to catch up.