Here’s the thing: we spend so much of our lives building an identity–a tower of self that is our foundation, what we base our whole life on–that when life begins to chip away at it, we begin to feel lost and confused.
I remember being younger and building my identity around people in my life, mostly friends, sometimes family. The problem with building your identity around others is that it’s permeable–there are cracks in the foundation, allowing water to get in, eroding away the tower brick by brick, piece by piece.
I left Elementary school with a reasonably adequate sense of self. I thought I knew who I was, what I was doing because when you’re one of the big kids in the school, you think you’re unstoppable, and maybe you are.
But then you’re not. You go from being the kid who’s gone around the block a few times to being the new kid in school. And it’s not the moving up of schools that bothers you because you’ve accepted that growing up and getting older is a part of life.
The problem is that you’re now a small fish in a big sea–you don’t know where you fit, where you belong, who your friends are. Something happens to people in Middle School–everybody is trying to find themselves, figure out who they are, and figure out where they fit. And everybody starts doing this at the same time, creating an upset in the social balance, causing hierarchies to form.
The massive upheaval of self-identity causes bullying to start. You try not to let it get to you. You try not to let the names they call you, the things they say to you influence your life. But they do.
And they did for me, too.
They began to chip away at my tower of identity bit by bit; it began to crumble, but because of the foundation, no matter how shaky it was, I wasn’t really scared of it falling.
But then it did.
When I was in eighth grade, I was raped. And it changed everything. It took everything. It took away the foundation I had spent 13 years building. It took away everything I thought I was. It took away my ability to say “No.” because if one guy asked me out, I rejected him, and this happened, what’s to stop it from happening again.
Being raped was like an earthquake–you’ve all seen the images: the violent tremors, the collapsing buildings, the swirling dust, the weakening skeletons still standing.
Being raped was a lot like that: quick and violent, and when the dust settled, all that was left was a shell of who I once was, who I wanted to be.
When it was all over, I was depressed and broken, lost and confused. I felt as though God had abandoned me.And I didn’t tell anybody. When it was all over, I cleaned myself up, covered the bruises as best I could, and carried on with my life as if nothing had happened.
The pain I was feeling was too intense; it hurt too much–I shut down. Becoming numb was easier than feeling, especially when the voices started, repeating over and over and over the events of that day, the words said I wanted so badly to forget: Slut. Bitch. No one will ever love you. You’re worthless.
I was depressed for so long, so numb that I had forgotten how to feel anything at all. That was when the cutting started. I wanted to feel something, anything. The pain reminded me I was alive, and it became addicting. Even that soon became not enough.Soon the self-harm escalated to self-loathing, subtly over time. One day, I woke up and couldn’t remember the last time I had eaten a full meal. The roaring of my stomach quickly drowned out the voices in my head.
I needed to grasp on to something, so I grasped on to the thought that maybe this would end someday, because even the idea of death is better than grasping on nothing.
Then, one day, I couldn’t take it anymore. I was tired; boy, was I tired. I let my guard down, stopped trying to shut out the voices in my head. I just wanted peace.
I don’t remember swallowing the pills, but I remember throwing them up. It came after a moment of peace and a whisper: You’ll be ok.
And I was, but not right away. Because I didn’t get help, because, I know this doesn’t make any sense, but I didn’t want to be seen as weak. So I pretended nothing had happened.
Then I broke down. I couldn’t take it anymore. I was so tired of feeling alone, so I started telling people my story. I got help. And it’s been a long, long process.
I don’t know where it ends, or who I will be when I get there, but I know it will be beautiful.
Where I am right now is beautiful.
I’ve started rebuilding myself piece by piece, bit by bit. And here I am today. My foundation is stronger now because it’s built on the assurance that I am a child of God, no matter how angry I once was at Him, He never left my side. He brought me back. He rescued me from me.
My identity is no longer founded on others, and I’m stronger now.
I am beautiful now.