My body was not my own on October 30th 2015. It became separate from myself. My body was taken advantage of and the choice I made was not respected, not listened to, not valued. I’ve always had anxiety for as long as I can remember, but the year I was sexually assaulted, it all boiled to the surface. Everything I once thought I had control over fell out of the palms of my hands. I wasn’t able leave my bed, I was so afraid that I would fall apart or that I couldn’t hold the shield up long enough to last through the day. I attend a pretty demanding university program, and it made me so angry to be there. I couldn’t understand why everyone felt so passionate and dedicated when all I could think about was the assault and how terrified I was of my own bedroom. I always felt like I was parodying myself, and I could barely stand being alone because I was so afraid of the thoughts that would build up inside my mind. Things truly took a turn for the worse when I went to the library one day to study. As I was working on an overdue assignment, I looked up from my laptop and saw the very person who assaulted me, sitting in front of me at the next table. My heart started racing, I couldn’t see clearly or feel my hands and feet. I quickly shoved everything into my backpack and ran out as fast as I could. This was the moment where I felt a really bad series of anxiety attacks began. I had experienced them before, but not like this.
I remember begging someone to tell me what I “had”. I wanted to put a name to it. I thought if I did this I could do something about it and be ok, right way. I hated losing control. I wanted to know if I became depressed because of my assault or because my mind finally let me really feel it, once I gave it permission to.
I tried hard to pretend it wasn’t there. Yet every time I would try and do all the things I normally did before October, nothing helped. Nothing would stick and the very realization of that made me feel worse. I felt so alone, so disappointed in myself and unshakably angry. Going out, seeing my friends, playing guitar- nothing distracted me from it. I felt hazy, cloudy, and ultimately, like a different person. It seemed like all my friends could see it on my face and I didn’t want them to have to hold me together all the time. But I knew they would, and they always did, never thinking twice. I couldn’t have survived this year without them. During this time, a good friend and I used to joke that this year was like war and every time we saw each other, and it was time to go, we’d both shake hands, and wish each other luck in battle. We were both going through a really hard time and it helped to laugh at how ridiculously shitty things had become.
I knew I had to do something, and that as much as I wanted it to, talking to my friends and family wasn’t helping enough. I began seeing a therapist, I joined the Womyn’s group at my school, I began writing again, and went to a Sexual Assault Survivor’s workshop. It took everything out of me to go, but being around other Womyn who had experienced the same thing, helped me realize that this all would end and I could get through it.
This summer I decided to go tree planting. I knew nature, being out of the city and being thrown into a new environment would help me heal. I was terrified. I was so unbelievably scared that being alone in my head for nine hours a day would send me into an anxiety attack or force me to quit, I almost didn’t go. But I am so grateful I did. With everything that happened this past year, being away for 3 months helped me more than I could have ever imagined. I started getting my period again, I felt loved, supported and appreciated. I wrote every day, and really allowed myself to fall into this new world, and the incredible people in it. I’m not sure if I could pinpoint an exact time where everything started to feel less hazy, and I can’t say for certain if I know exactly what to do now if I feel overwhelmingly sad or anxious. I suppose, I appreciate that side of myself and I know that it’s not permanent and not forever, and that to have good you have to have the bad too. I try and really listen to myself, take time to be alone and not feel bad if I don’t feel up to going out on Saturday night. I recognize now that listening to myself and what my mind needs is extremely important. I am able to calm myself down when the anxiety becomes too much or if I picture his face towering over my body. I know how strong I am and how beautiful the people around me are, and how much they love me.
Having anxiety and going through depression is not easy, and it definitely took a lot out of me to get to the place I am in now. It is something that still exists within me, something that I am aware of and dealing with constantly. I cried myself into a state of silence so deep it took me 11 months to wake up.
I could not have made it through without my amazing friends and family, but most importantly, I could not have done it without realizing I had to be an advocate for myself. It’s ok to take time off, its ok to say it’s too much and sometimes you just can’t do it all – I forgot that.
But I am here, and I know that I got through it and I really do believe that we all heal, in time.