Remedial

I recently became a volunteer advocate at the Rape Recovery Center, a local nonprofit that provides counseling services, a crisis hotline, and hospital teams for survivors of sexual violence. In order to become an advocate, one must complete a 40-hour intensive training program. I’m at the midpoint of my training now, and while my experience so far has been one of empowerment, solidarity, and fulfillment, it’s also forced me to re-examine and really process (for the first time) my own rape.

I’ve come to realize that due to many contributing factors, I have yet to take the time to really process what happened to me, and how it’s impacted me physically, cognitively, and spiritually even now, a few years after the fact.

My initial response was one of damage control. Immediately after regaining control of my body, I sped to a pharmacy to pick up a plan-B pill, inquired a private feminist Facebook group that I was a member of about STI testing, and took the proper steps to ensure that my perpetrator would not be able to contact me again.

A member of the aforementioned Facebook group took it upon his (or her)self to notify my father of what happened to me. This member screen-shotted my original post about inquiring about STI testing, and emailed it to my father, which gave me more damage to control.

I’ve been floating around from day to day, somewhat numb, ever since. I’ve always been kind of a distant person, but since this occurred, I’ve been even more withdrawn, even less in-touch with my emotions and my ability to connect with people, especially men.

A guy that I’m not personally friends with DM’d me on Facebook the other day, and asked me if I was a rape victim.  I responded in the affirmative, and he proceeded to tell me that I’m so much stronger, and my spirit is more alive since I was raped.

I found this response both appalling and offensive, for a handful of reasons. First of all, this man does not know me. He didn’t know me before the rape, and he doesn’t know me now. How, then, can he feel confident in making such a statement? Furthermore, I was strong before this happened to me. Nobody needs to experience sexual violence in order to become strong. I had the strength to cope with this trauma before it even occurred, and I refuse to credit this incidence for giving me any such thing.

As for my “spirit being more alive,” I have felt quite the opposite. This incidence swiftly changed me into the cynical, numb person you all know and love today. I struggle with my emotionality every day of my life. I don’t know how to connect with people. I don’t even know how to process my own emotions without enduring a full-fledged panic attack. My sense of security has been breached, and I’ve realized that there are infinitely many things that are completely out of my control.

The man who made these comments did so with good intent. However, he does not know my experience, and therefore should refrain from telling me what it did to me. Perhaps I’m over-reacting, but I don’t feel like anyone is qualified to make such bold statements about an incident that had such a severe impact on my life except for myself.

Anyway, I am sincerely honored and excited to become an advocate in my community, and hopefully be the support that I so desperately needed when this happened to me. It’s going to be triggering, difficult, exhausting work, but I feel like taking it on will be a healing experience for me, overall. It will, however, force me to rely on others for support when the burnout inevitably hits, and discouragement sets in.

So I’d like to thank my amazing support system in advance, for helping me through this.

M.

 

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Cured

It happened last week-the most dramatic mental shift I’ve experienced since the day that Anorexia dug its sharp claws in to my then thirteen-year-old body and held me captive for almost a decade.

I’ve been weight-restored for several years now, and my disorder is no longer visible to the public. But my mind was a battleground, my thoughts plagued with calorie counting and clean eating and ketosis and carbohydrates, drowning any rational thoughts as it pertains to food intake.

I ate the same thing, at the same time, in the same quantity every day for years at a time without switching it up. I didn’t know what hunger was, because I was doing everything I could to prevent a binge, and, consequently, a purge and episode of debilitating guilt that would inevitably follow.

I would turn down dates and social outings that would involve food, and at a minimum would conduct extensive research to ensure that I could find something “clean” to eat that would fit into the latest diet plan that I was subjecting myself to. Because there was always a diet plan.

Some days, I’d look at my body and decide that I was too fat to engage with others. I was disgusted by what I saw, and would spend hours in front of the mirror, sniffling as tears dripped down my face and onto my chest as I poked and pulled mercilessly at the cage of flesh I was sentenced to live in.

Anorexia lost, so bulimia took a swung at me, and suddenly I’d find myself bingeing out of control, tearing through entire cereal boxes, eating full packages of Oreo’s and loaves of bread, in complete secrecy. I would then hide the evidence of my binge episode, shut myself up in my room, and cry until I felt able to purge it out through hours of cardio at the gym.

I’d sit in the break room at work, mouth watering, as I watched coworkers partake in catered lunches from the company, candy at halloween, and pie during the week of Thanksgiving. I never gave in once, and stuck dutifully to my low-calorie, sugar-free, low-carb lunch that I’d packed the night before.

But then, one day, I gave in.

Last week, my company catered Zupas for us, as we’d had a record day the day before. I had packed my own lunch the night before, as usual, and intended to eat the contents of my lunch tote and then chew gum for the remainder of my break to avoid any more “temptation.”

But I was exceptionally hungry that day, and I just so happen to really like Zupas. So, I took a deep breath and marched straight up to the table, and grabbed myself a sandwich and a chocolate-dipped cookie.

For the first time in probably a decade, I sat down and slowly enjoyed every bite of that half-sandwich and chocolate-dipped cookie that I allowed myself. I let myself taste it all, and savor every last calorie. And when I was through, I smiled. No feelings of guilt, no compensatory behavior, and honestly, not even a second thought about it. It was an effing cookie, after all.

But that’s the thing about eating disorders, they instill a completely irrational fear of things like cookies and sandwiches, things that a lot of people eat on a daily basis. Instead of feeling guilt-ridden and anxious, I felt at ease, comfortable, even.

Ever since that stupid little experience during my lunch break at work, my entire attitude toward food and my body has done a 180. I eat slowly now, without anxiety or agitation. I enjoy every last bit of it, and stop when I feel comfortably full. I go to the gym almost every day, and I do workouts that make me feel good about myself and confident in my body’s capabilities. I don’t purge, and I don’t poke at my stomach in bathroom mirrors in pubic restaurants anymore. I haven’t weighed myself in months, and people call me “Thicc” and it doesn’t offend me one bit. My “thicc” butt still fits in my size 0 jeans from high school, and has frankly become one of my favorite features about my physical self.

And I’m happy. Of course, I have a laundry list of things I’d change about my body if I had an unlimited budget for liposuction. But I don’t have an unlimited budget for liposuction. I do, however, have a life to live and I think that after ten years of limiting my experience as a human being due to the fear of weight gain, I’ve had a breakthrough.

I think I’m finally free.

M.

 

 

Aloof

Want to hear another tragic tale about how yours truly embarked on a quest for human companionship and, in turn, got royally knocked on her ass again? Okay, here we go.

Today’s story starts where the majority of stories of this sort start nowadays: The Tinder.  It started with a mutual right-swipe of the finger, and an impressive pun in the form of a pickup line. For anonymity purposes, we’ll call him simply by his initials: “AL.”

No one is immune to the alluring power of a good pun, not even me. So I humored him.

AL was intriguing. The kind of intriguing that kept us talking for six consecutive hours on our first date-we even got ejected from the little diner that we were having brunch at for staying too long. He had a way of conversing that kept my mind firing at a rapid pace, and the conversation flowed effortlessly. He was genuinely interested in what I had to say, and would often push me to provide more substance to my answers in order to understand me better.

We talked nonstop, both in person and over text message. Our dates increased exponentially in duration, as well as in frequency. We’d spend an entire day together, visiting the planetarium, loitering aimlessly downtown, showing each other books we were interested in at Barnes and Noble. He even bought me one of the books I’d mentioned and gifted it to me the next time I saw him.

He was polite, respectful, a self-proclaimed feminist with hypersensitivity to consent and ensuring that I felt safe, validated, and comfortable at all times.

His friends seemed to really like me.

AL was also a pretty boy, in every sense of the word. He was muscular, had a neat, slick hair cut, scruffy facial hair, and dark brown eyes. He was a bit narcissistic, as well as greedy; money-hungry. He talked a lot about money, and how important it was to him that one day he’d be “loaded.” I didn’t fully understand or agree with this hunger for tangible wealth, but was encouraging and pleasant whenever these conversations arose.

Overall, AL was quite the stand-up guy. He was the type to send me a message after a date thanking me for my company, and expressing how sincerely he enjoyed spending time with me. He told me when he missed me. He was a forehead-kisser, as well as a snuggler. He owned stuffed animals, and wasn’t shy about expressing his emotions or love for Disney films. He’d heat up a rice bag in order to keep my toes warm in his freezing apartment, and offer to make me coffee in the morning before I went to work. In other words, and all-around sweetheart. And in other, OTHER words, too good to be true.

From one day to the next, the text messages went from engaging to aloof. We went from seeing each other all weekend and a couple times during the week to not at all. I saw it coming. Or ending, rather. Not that it was anything per se, our entire story lasted for a duration of a month and a half.

Then, on Friday, AL asked if I had time for a chat after work. My heart sank into my stomach, and my suspicions were confirmed.

He came to my apartment and flopped back onto my bed, his hands covering his eyes. He couldn’t commit to me, he said. He ran into a girl he still had deep feelings for downtown earlier that week, and he has to see what becomes of them. I bit my lip. Disappointed, but not surprised.

I shrugged and told him I understood. He apologized. Again, and again, and then again. Profusely. I wasn’t upset, but told him that I swiftly would be if he apologized again. I didn’t cry. I was stoic. All I wanted was for him to leave.

He wishes he’d ran into this girl a month and a half ago, before he’d ever met me. (Read: he wishes he’d never met me.) So that I wouldn’t become “collateral damage” to his devastating situation that forced him to “hurt” me.

The whole ordeal lasted an entire hour.

I told him that it’s his life, and he’s gotta do what he’s gotta do. I told him that I’m more than fine, I’ve dealt with MUCH worse, and am actually quite comfortable going about life in a solitary fashion. He’ll go his way, I’ll go mine. Most people are temporary, including him.

That sounds so final, he winces.

But it was final. That was the end of our fling.

It’s disappointing because whatever we had escalated so quickly, and absorbed all of my time. It’s going to be an adjustment, the absence of someone I’d been consistently interacting with for over a month. But that will be that, and I will inevitably stumble upon another suitor that may or may not waste more of my time, and all of this will be but a blimp on my rearview.

I’ve never been “dumped” before, and it’s certainly not my favorite feeling in the world. I’d prefer to not allow people to gain positions in my life where they have the power to hurt me. And it will probably be quite some time until I do so again.

AL, you were a good guy. But not good enough to hurt me the way you probably think you have. You’re just another guy who tugged at my emotions for a short time, and then dipped out. There are dozens just like you, and I’m willing to bet that there will be more to come.

I’m not heartbroken, I’m not hurting. I’m not doubting my worth or likeability. But I am withdrawing into myself slightly further than I was before this experience.

M.

 

 

 

Passivity

I’ve lived my entire life thus far resigned to the excuse that I am simply incapable of saying “no” to people. I’m a pleaser. I’d rather run away to a new country and change my name than adult-up, face someone, and tell them something they don’t want to hear.

That’s 22 years of “oh, I don’t care where we eat!” and “yes, I can give you a ride even though it’d be COMPLETELY out of my way and quite inconvenient” and “no, really, we can leave the concert early even though one of my favorite bands hasn’t taken the stage yet!” and, most recently, “yes, despite my entire gut telling me it’s a bad idea, I will date you.”

This approach to interacting with others has left me unsatisfied, frustrated, annoyed, and taken advantage of. I have voluntarily taken the passenger seat of my own life for far too long. I’ve felt too afraid, and perhaps a little unworthy,  to grab the wheel and steer for once.

But the thing is, I know exactly what I want, in 9/10 situations. I do not resign myself to passivity due to uncertainty.  I definitely care where we eat, and I’ve probably been thinking about it for hours. No, it’s not okay with me if we leave the concert early-I paid money to be here and want to see the damn show. And lastly, I know EXACTLY what i’m looking for as it pertains to a significant other, yet I find myself accepting gentlemen’s advances, due to the mere fact that they are, indeed, gentlemen.

The problem is that I lack the voice to assert myself.

However, yesterday, thanks to a little push from my best friend, I did one of the hardest things I’ve probably ever done in my life. I confronted someone face-to-face about what I wanted.

And it was nauseatingly horrifying.

I broke off the situationship-turned-boyfriend that I’d found myself involved with for the past few months. In person.

You see, my default approach would be to shoot him a text saying that I was breaking things off, provide little to no explanation, and then hit the “block” button as fast as my little fingers could move.

However, I chose to take this opportunity to grow as a person, and decided to handle it face-to-face like a big girl.

Let me be clear, there was nothing particularly wrong with him. He’s a fine guy-nice, smart, well-mannered. Has his shit together. Pretty good “boyfriend material”, objectively speaking.

We hit it off in the beginning. We had plenty to talk about, had all sorts of fun together, and he treated me better than I probably deserved. But we just never had a “spark.”

I’d expressed this to him bluntly when we were deliberating whether or not to take our relationship to the level of exclusivity. I told him that my gut told me that this was a bad idea, and I didn’t think I’d find what I was looking for in a significant other in him.

Alas, he persisted. And so I gave in. He’s a nice guy-he deserves a shot. Right?

And I gave it a shot. I gave it my best shot.

He became increasingly clingy-freaking out when I hung out with a member of the male gender, needing to be in constant contact with me, declining to give me space when I deliberately asked for it.

Enough was enough. I panicked, and shut the whole operation down.

I invited him to my place, and explained to him that this relationship isn’t working for me, and that no, there was nothing he could do to fix it, and that I saw no reason to continue to see him, as it felt disingenuous of me to do so without having developed the feelings for him that he professed to have had for me.

I won’t speak for him, but I could visibly tell that I was hurting him with every word that came out of my mouth. And that was devastatingly hard to watch, especially as I watched him walk away from me for the last time, with his head hung, and his eyes down at his feet.

Hard as this experience was for me, I feel that I really learned a lot about dealing with confrontation and being honest and transparent about how I feel about things. It was uncomfortable, heartbreaking, and scary. But I’d rather feel all those things and say what I need to say than keep my mouth shut in the interest of not upsetting people because I don’t want what they want.

From now on, I’m the driver. I have a voice, and I am fully capable of using it. And I intend to.

I’m in charge of my life, and the direction it takes is up to me.

M.

 

 

 

Pieces

I find it notably paradoxical that oftentimes, I feel most lonely when I’m surrounded by people.

Interestingly, I don’t tend to feel this stomach-sinking emotion when I am all alone.

I think that I’m a fringe person. I dwell just on the outside; within arm’s distance of others, but never closer.

At work, I float around from clique to clique, managing shallow small talk and building bridges just strong enough to give me someone to eat lunch with in the break room.

Within my family, I am amidst most of the inside jokes. But oftentimes, I sabotage our kinship banter with annoyance or moodiness or an inability to just let myself enjoy experiences.

When it comes to anything relating to the male sex, sure, I’ve got a list of dudes that would likely be more than willing to spend an evening with me. They grace me with their attention and overdrawn compliments on the Snapchat or when I post a new selfie featuring my legs.

And I keep them around. Y’know, just in case loneliness sets in.

And for just an initial moment, I gain a minuscule taste of satisfaction.

Every now and then, I feel ballsy and decide to reach out. Give somebody a chance, if you will. But they say that there is no loneliness like the type you feel in another’s company. And they are right.

I’ve caught myself time and time again making the horrific mistake of trying to open up to someone and truly be understood. My cries for help are dismissed, and people come and take what they came for, and then they are back on their merry way.

Cynical? Perhaps.

That being said, I think I’m just intended to be a fringe person. And that entails drawing further and further inward, playing it all safe.

I’ve accepted this reality since the day the pieces of me shattered into too small of fragments that they simply don’t fit together anymore.

And so I carry on, broken and wounded from yesterday’s mistakes.

M.

Stuck

I typically try to be a little bit more eloquent and creative in titling my blog posts, but this simple, 5-letter word seems to be the most appropriate for encompassing the mood I’ve been in for the past, well, months.

Some nights, when I’m out inhaling the heavy summer air, enjoying the romantic landscape of a late night sunset, I feel carefree and optimistic, and completely in love with my life.

Other nights, and honestly, most nights lately, I feel a sobering sense of hopelessness- like I’ve dug myself into the ground, and there is no rope long enough to rescue me.

I miss who I was before I became who I am now.

I used to wake up every morning as a girl on a mission. I was charismatic, passionate, and a bit of a know-it-all. I knew where I was headed, and nobody was going to stop me. I knew I had a lot to prove, but I also knew more than anyone that I was more than capable. I was engaged in my everyday experiences, and I drank up every opportunity I had to learn something.

Even despite my history of trauma, anxiety-based pathology, body dysmorphia, and self-imposed tendencies to isolate myself.

But now, I am uninspired.

Or, perhaps, simply unconvinced of my own capabilities. Disenchanted with me.

I’m in a maze-no-multiple mazes at once, and I’ve hit a dead end in every one.

I chose an academic path that is insufficient for my career goals.

I chose to associate with people who were capable of more damage to me than I could have ever foreseen, and can no longer outrun the impact.

I am stuck in a body-a cage that I hate-and will never be able to mold into something that I can tolerate.

I am stuck in a toxic atmosphere, where I see real suffering by real people everyday, and am incapable of alleviating it.

I am stuck in a brain that won’t turn off, or simply even slow down.

At home, I feel like an intruder.

I feel distant from everything, as if I’m watching it through a glass barrier in a museum. Close-but not close enough to feel.

The best solution I can draft is the “clean slate” method. I want to run away-start over in a place where nobody has met me. Go by a different variation of my name. Become someone else. Someone better. Someone stronger.

A change of scenery is what I need.

And that, is the sole mechanism that propels me forward-the opportunity to never look back.

M.

 

 

 

Empty

There’s nothing like a solitary summer night drive to really get your feelings to surface.

But big girls don’t cry, and so I will write.

I spent the last hour coasting up the hillside in my car to the sobering melody of “Me” by the 1975, and thinking too deeply about how I got here. I’ve come to a couple of conclusions.

For starters, I genuinely like the personality I’ve developed. I like that I’m witty and weird. I like that I can talk about almost anything for hours and that I have posters of chemical formulas and DNA helices on my bedroom wall. I like that the people at work know me as a sassy-pants know-it-all who is a little neurotic about cats. I like being the cool girl that lets everything roll off her shoulder. I like the things I say, and the way I think.

I don’t like my body-it doesn’t feel like mine. I don’t like how my body is satisfying to men who have touched it, or thought about doing so, while I can’t even bear to look at it in the mirror sometimes. Or worse-that I can’t stop looking at it sometimes, and allow my thoughts to tear me apart, limb from limb, as I fight back tears of frustration and inadequacy.

I don’t like that I try so hard to be attractive. Even now, nearing the middle of the night, I sit here in a “waist trainer” that closely resembles the rib-crushing corsets that the ladies of the middle ages laced themselves into every day, in a desperate attempt to shrink myself smaller and smaller. I don’t like my freckles, or the fact that I can’t tan.

I don’t like how painfully aware I am of myself in space. I don’t like constantly trying to read others’ minds as they encounter me. I don’t like over-thinking every human interaction I have and anxiously hoping that I haven’t done anything wrong.

I don’t like living my life as though everyone is going to hurt me. I don’t like snapping at anyone who makes a pass at me-I’m practically biting their heads off all the time. I hate that I use previous unresolved trauma as an excuse for not allowing anyone within a five mile radius of me. I really don’t like feeling alone all the time, watching everyone else be, y’know, not alone.

I don’t like being considered an “attractive girl,” because that implies that my physical attributes are the primary cause that allures people in my direction. The “attractive girl” doesn’t seem to get what I want more than anything, which is the security of someone somewhere who understands me in all my flaws and contradictions, has seen me at my ugliest, and wants me to stay.

I don’t like holding myself to standards of perfectionism, and inevitably falling short of it every time-doomed to perpetual disappointment.

I don’t like that I’m still up writing this stupid post that will likely be deleted in the morning.

I don’t like thinking that things will always be this way.

M.