Today Booklovers I write with trembling fingers. Today is a post I am equal parts excited and anxious to release onto the internet, because today’s post is of a more personal nature. This isn’t something I have done before and it is nerve-wracking, but I figure if my story can help someone out there not feel alone then that is surely a good thing.
Disclaimer this is a post that will be talking about sexual assault, and therefore if you are not in a place to talk about this, or find this very triggering in any way please do not read on.
Books for me are an escape, as I’m sure is the case for a lot of people, and normally I like to live in the walls of fantasy for that very reason. Every now and then I feel brave enough to read something closer to home. Something that is difficult but necessary for me. One such book was The Way I Used To Be by Amber Smith.
I went into this book knowing it was about rape, and I knew it told a story of a girl too afraid to speak out about it until years had passed. The thing is…at the point of reading this story it had been 8 years since I myself was sexually assaulted. I was only 15. I was drugged at a party, and woke up with someone on top of me. I froze (something that took me a lot of time to deal with), and only when I realised he wasn’t the only person in the room did it kick me into action. I pushed him off and ran.
8 years, you would think, is a long time right? I thought so too, I thought I had ‘gotten over it’. Turns out I wasn’t over it. I cried so much during this book. So much that I couldn’t read because my vision was blurred. While I can honestly say that the experience of the main character Eden is not exact to my own, I still found it very emotional. Some words cut deep, and resonated with me. This book made me realise that bottling up my feelings may have hide them from me, but they were still there, and still so very raw even after all those years. My first big breakdown in this book was the following paragraph (Features the main character over hearing her parents talking);
“I never would have said ‘I hate you’ to my parents,” She argues.
“Yes, you would have. And I’m sure you did. And so did I. And so did Caelin, if you remember. They never mean it.”
Except maybe I do mean it. A little, at least. Because I let them push me around just like I let everyone push me around. I let them make me into a person who gives up control over her life, over her body, over everything. I do what they tell me to do, what everyone tells me to do. Why didn’t they ever teach me to stand up for myself?
I know that paragraph might not sound like much to some, but for me it was difficult to read, because I remember thinking “Why didn’t I stand up for myself? Why didn’t my parents teach me how to be stronger?” It’s not my parents fault what happened to me, but when I was younger I still felt let down by them. Still do in some ways – which is another thing I feel guilty about. Sexual assault is all about the guilt, and shame. Shame that it happened in the first place. Guilt because you think ‘what could I have done to provoke such a thing?’. Why hadn’t I stopped it sooner? Why did I freeze. Why oh why did I let that happen to myself. Why couldn’t I be like one of those strong girls I read about that would fight off their attacker, and show them that they aren’t to be messed with. But I wasn’t that girl, and therein lay the shame, and guilt. I carried those feelings around for a long time. I became hostile, and defensive, and particularly wouldn’t let anyone (especially a guy) get close to me. I didn’t have relationships and wasn’t intimate with anyone until I met my now husband of 6 years.
Now , I bet your wondering what my point is right about now. Let me tell you:
Recently someone close to me (who is like family) was going through a rough time. Her mental health was suffering a lot, and she was spiraling out of control – taking drugs, getting herself into debt etc. I didn’t know how to get her to open up about what was going on. I’ve never done drugs, so really couldn’t relate, but I knew she was trying to bury something deep inside. It was about a month after reading The Way I Used To Be, that I found myself in this situation. So, like Eden I decided it was time to share my story, to talk about what had happened to me, and how that inner struggle shaped me. After divulging my story to that someone close, she felt brave enough to tell me about her own issues; one of those issues…was being raped at a house party. We had more in common that I could have thought, we just reacted differently, and finally she had someone to release those feelings with. We both did. I honestly can say she is doing much better now. Not 100%, because we are not perfect, but she is really doing better, and I can’t believe that it was our shared horror that contributed to her getting the support she needed to get back on track.
Amber Smith’s book helped me talk about my past, and in turn helped me talk to a much beloved friend about her similiar experience.
Now, in no way am I suggesting that opening up solves all your problems. It doesn’t I still have some horrors that are hard to talk about. Some mental health issues that sometimes clamp their jaws into me, but I can tell you how nice it was to talk to someone who had been were I had been. Who could talk about it with understanding. Opening up didn’t solve the problem, but it sure as hell let me know I wasn’t alone. And that, booklovers, is exactly why I am writing this post today. So that all those people out there who are hiding secrets about what happened to them can realise they are not alone in this.
Although my profession is in the medical industry, I am in no way a qualified therapist/ psychologist etc. However, if you need a friend to talk about your experiences, I can be that person. But remember, that if you are struggling there are doctors and helplines that can support you better than I. Getting support or help in any form is better than nothing, and I will be happy if I have managed to get even one person to take the step to get help/ speak up about what happened to them. Thank you all for reading this post if you have stuck it out, and know you aren’t alone.