What It Means to Heal

By Anonymous

Trigger Warning: Relationship and Sexual Violence

“I want to start this post by saying I’ve never really talked about this before. I mean, that’s kind of a lie. I have a little bit, in snippets with my therapist when she asks me why this week has been so rough, through panicked sobs when I call my best friend at 3am because I had yet another nightmare, alone in my room to my stuffed animals who never judge me. But I’ve never really talked about it like this, all at once and out there for everyone to see. It’s kind of scary for me, and it might be kind of scary for you too, reading this and being reminded once more just how fucked up the world can be, but it’s okay. We’ll get through this together. Let’s get started, I guess.

Let me start by telling you a little bit about me. Not everything, but enough for this story to make sense. I’m awkward, like painfully so. That combined with a pretty strong bout of social anxiety means I’ve never really had close friends. I wasn’t a total loner or anything; I had people to eat lunch with at school and hang out with on the weekends, but I never really had those close friendships you see in the movies and all over your Instagram feed. Not to mention, the summer before my freshman year of high school, I made a major move from East Coast Canada to the Bay Area, leaving behind everything I had ever known. This combined with Asian parents who loved me but never really knew how to show it left me feeling particularly lonely.

Enter Him. In retrospect, he wasn’t that great, I guess, but in the moment, he was everything. He made time for me, staying up until 3am just to talk to me on the phone, and the conversations never felt forced or awkward. He had anxiety and depression too, and he got it when I talked about the fog that never really seemed to leave my head and wanted me to stay in bed all day. Not to mention, he was totally my type, tall and blond with the most gorgeous blue eyes. At first we were just friends, and that was enough for me, but the day he told me he liked me, I felt like I was made of stars. It was the best day of my life.

It didn’t stay like that though; things rarely ever do. This is the part where I skip over things a bit and rush through the details, because even though I’m writing about this, will I ever really be ready to talk about it? If you don’t want to know the specifics, I’ll just say that it got bad. If you do want to know more, I guess here we go.

I didn’t know if I was ready for a relationship, but he started telling me he would kill himself if I left. Spring break junior year, I went to a party and a guy did things with me when I was drunk that I didn’t consent to. He told me it was my fault and I made him feel bad by talking about it because I had cheated. He told me nobody really liked me, not my family or my friends, and that nobody but him would ever love me. I wasn’t meant to date. I wasn’t meant to be happy. I was ugly/fat/stupid/worthless/fill-in-the-blank-here and that meant that I didn’t matter. He would follow me around in his car to the point where I called 911. He hurt me a couple times, like bruises hurt me, and I say it was just a couple times when I tell people so they don’t freak out, but isn’t even once too many times? I started drinking and doing drugs and waking up in the morning knowing he’d had sex with me but not remembering it, and I remember when I asked him, he said “You weren’t really that out of it,” like being blacked out wasn’t “really out of it.” I ended up pregnant, and you already know he didn’t help pay for the abortion. If I told him that he was hurting me, that I wasn’t happy, that what he was doing wasn’t okay, he’d say I was abusive because I was trying to make him feel bad, and I would end up comforting him. Nothing was ever good.

Nothing was ever good, until it was. Sort of. The relationship ended right before second semester senior year. This is the part where it was supposed to get easier, but it didn’t. I told a close friend about what had happened, and she told me “I would never not believe a survivor, but I don’t believe you.” He was still at my school, still in some of my classes, still friends with all of my friends. The night of prom, he was staring at my date and I, and I had a panic attack so bad I ended up in the hospital instead of the post prom party I was supposed to go to. This detail is important, so keep it in mind.

This is the part where I admit some of my faults too. I am far from perfect. I know I focused on what he did to me, but it’s not like I was Gandhi, turning the other cheek while he hurt me. I screamed, at first. I fought back. I tried to stop what was happening, not always in the nicest ways, but it didn’t work and I gave up. This so far, is understandable. The next part isn’t. I lied. When people asked me how post prom went, I pretended everything was normal and okay, because admitting otherwise would mean admitting what had happened to me, what was still happening to me. Of course, people found out. Lying is bad.

This was the lowest it ever got. I lost all my friends. Nobody I had talked to previously believed me about my relationship, and I didn’t want to tell more people to explain why I had lied and have them not believe me either. Everyday I would go to school and see him be okay and I would feel like screaming what had happened, but I couldn’t. It felt like I was never going to be okay again.

So far, this story has been depressing and not at all related to the title. The title is about healing, and so far all I’ve talked about is breaking down. I must admit, the title is a bit of a misnomer. I don’t really know what it means to heal; does anyone really? This is what I do know, though.

Drive to the beach. Cry in your car when you get there because it reminds you of him. Don’t get out of bed for days on end. Try to avoid sleeping because the nightmares you have are worse than falling asleep during class. Almost fail a couple classes. Cut off all your hair. Flinch every time a guy gets near you. Go to therapy and stare at the clock the entire time, waiting for it to run out so you can go back to bed. Stop talking, stop smiling, stop eating. Post a happy smiley picture with a witty caption on your Instagram every couple weeks so that people know how well you’re doing. Go back to bed.

Get back together with him for a bit because you think it’ll make you happy. Realize, for the first time, that you don’t deserve this. Leave him.

Get out of your bed and make it. Shower, brush your teeth, do your makeup for the first time in months. Tell your best friend what happened and have her hug you and tell you she loves you still. Finally tell your parents how bad it got. Go to therapy, and actually say a few sentences this time. Start reading again. Start going on hikes. Redecorate your room. Go to therapy and pour your heart out. Start laughing again.

See him across a crowded parking lot and have a panic attack in your car. Go back to bed and don’t get out for a week.

Get out of bed. Go to therapy (yes, again) and talk about it. Talk about everything. Tell more friends. Pack for college. Go to college. Love your classes, love your friends, love your roommates. Talk to them about it and have them believe you. Fail a midterm, but get right back up again. Get an A on the next one. Start talking to a new guy who makes you laugh. Post on your Instagram because you’re genuinely having a good time. Uber to the beach with a good friend and sit on the ferris wheel, watching the sunset and laughing the entire time. Think about him for a second, but only because you’re grateful to be so far away.

Write about it in shaky, incoherent, rambling paragraphs because you heard a girl talk about being a survivor and it inspired you to no end, and you hope that others will hear your story and maybe it will help them too. Know that, for once, you are okay.

This is what it means to heal for me. I’m not all the way there yet, and I don’t really know if I ever will be. Here’s what I do know; last Thanksgiving, I was sitting alone in the park near my house crying after a panic attack because of an incident with my boyfriend. This Thanksgiving, I’m eating dinner with my family, and oh so thankful to be alive.”