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"Survivor" is an understatement, Anonymous (17)

I had been in a car with drunk drivers before, but this was the first time I ever had a real gut feeling. My inner voice was speaking to me. My intuition felt like an iron skeleton barried beneath my predisposed conceptions of what free will was supposed to mean. A tingling chill ran down my spine which felt like a warning sign, but my curiosity placated me, driving me through the moment and past my instincts. The trust of my intuition was smothered by a blanket of self-doubt. I had always been described as an “over-thinker,” or a “sensitive person,” by my friends and family. These same words still haunt me and follow me like a ghost, altering my perception of myself to this day. We slowly approached the end of the street when his hands abruptly shifted as the car rolled to a stop. He confidently asked me to get in the backseat of the car to look up at the stars. At the time, I had no idea what high school hook-up culture looked like. I had never experienced it so I willingly said yes. We got into the backseat and he told me to look up. As I was gazing at the stars above me, he moved closer to me. He started touching me. I quickly said, “what are you doing?” He ignored my words and proceeded to touch me. I then said, “please stop.” It now felt like I was talking to a wall. I had a voice, I was using it, but this did not stop him. "Get off," I said. His actions countered my words as I grew stiff within my frozen body. He grabbed my shoulders and pinned me down to the leather seats of his car. Physically, he was much bigger than I was. I mustered up all the strength I had to try to push him off of me with my legs. He then placed his legs over mine. I was unable to move. I felt like I was underwater, only this time I could not catch a breath. I told him I did not want to get hurt, but he said nothing. His fingers pressed onto the waistline of my leggings as he pulled them off. I felt one large piercing pain and then I went completely numb. I felt as if my thoughts, emotions, and body were all being ripped apart from each other. I will refrain from going into detail because it is not something I wish upon anyone to read. After it was over, he acted as nothing had happened. I told him I was going to walk the 10 miles home and as I tried to get out of his car his hand quickly reached for the car door and said: “no it's late and I don’t want you walking alone.” Panic hit me in a wave and I began internally panicking. I say internally because externally, I was masking it. As I sat in the front seat I did not feel like the girl I always knew. Like me. My skin felt different. My mind felt foggy. I felt like my body was not my own. As my emotions over took me, I lost the ability to keep it together. I became anxious to the point I could not breathe. He grabbed my hand and told me to calm down and that I was okay. I was not okay. There was nothing okay about the situation I was in. After I got into my house around 5 am I ran to my parent's bedroom and laid in their bed out of desperation for comfort. I don't have a good relationship with them and I hadn’t done this since I was a little girl, but I still did it. After that day I could not look myself in the mirror. I went to school the next day feeling like I was living outside of my body. Out of panic and discomfort, I cut the rest of my classes. That was the day I really started dreading school. I had to mask everything. Not only this, but everything else that was going on in my life that people were unaware of. None of my friends knew what happened and they all thought I was being careless and choosing not to go because I did not feel like it. It has been two years since then I finally had the courage to tell someone. When this happened it was my freshman year and I had been sheltered my whole life. I was innocent at the time and I was not familiar with any of the terminology or concepts most teenagers discussed. As the year progressed, I made a new group of friends and began partying and involving myself in things I would have never thought of doing on my own. On the weekends I would go out and share some reckless nights with the people I considered close to me at the time. I felt like I was truly living carefree while still maintaining the grades I wanted for myself. I had friends who I really loved. Around the end of that year, I met him. He came off as kind-hearted and open which made it easy to connect to his story. He opened up about his entire life which made me think he was being vulnerable for the right reasons. He was the first person I ever felt comfortable enough to open up to. He would drive 30 minutes every day just to pick me up and hang out. We went on walks, hikes and had long talks in his car for weeks. He was always respectful and never did anything to make me uncomfortable. Being the naive freshman I was, I thought I was in love with this boy before what happened, happened. Now I realize all of this was too good to be true. I had lost all trust within men specifically and within myself. I had a wall up with a desire to let people in emotionally, but subconsciously I was keeping everyone out. I started building a false identity. I started masking my true emotions because it felt better then accepting my real ones. The worst part was at the time I really felt like I had no one who could understand me. No one to pull me out of that headspace or keep me from turning into a version of myself I really hated. A year went on and I could not sit in the backseat of a car without having flashbacks. I started having insomnia and being scared of falling asleep because I feared the vivid nightmares I would have. I would get random feelings, thoughts, or memories from that night. I say random because they were. I would be sitting in class and all of a sudden I would have a piercing pain in my leg or my mind would be drawn into remembrance of that night. I would space out a lot and people used to call me out on it all the time. I used to wake up feeling gross in my body and those feelings never seemed to subside. Even to this day, I still have those same feelings sometimes. I go through moments where I feel trapped within my skin with no way out. I started distancing myself from my friends who had known me for a long time because I did not feel the same anymore. I found it really hard to be happy which was what everyone recognized me by. I was seen as "the girl always down for everything." But behind this deceptive mask, I hid a hole of sorrow which was pushed down deeper and deeper every day. I became the ultimate people pleaser. Scared of making anyone feel poorly I would try to live up to the person everyone wanted me to be. When I could not physically hold it together anymore I started making empty promises. I started tying my self worth to the wrong people. But now I realize this was not the way to do it. You're emotions are yours. Another person's belong to them. And no matter what, you always have to look out for yourself and what YOU want for yourself. The second lesson i’ve learned is that just because someone is hurt and has gone through things doesn’t give them a right to intentionally or carelessly hurt another person. I have expierenced dealing with people like this and at times in the past I have been like this too.

Months after I let him reach out and talk to me. When I look back on letting him talk to me after it happened, I see a girl trying to reclaim a part of herself. Trying to convince herself it was just a misunderstanding. Maybe he’s perfectly okay. And maybe it was me that was the problem. Maybe it was my fault. I trusted him therefore I let it happen. Those are the thoughts that jump around my head from time to time. Those were the thoughts that let me distract myself from the reality of what had happened. Another thing ive learned these past years is you cant seek closure or find in in the person or thing that caused you to feel a certain way. I feel like a lot of the time when we are hurt some seek validation for the way they feel through others when you need to find it in yourself. You cant get the same type of closure from another human being. It has to come from within. We all do things our own ways and sometimes there isn’t an answer that makes sense. Looking back my parents were absent from my life at the time. I couldn’t process what had happened on my own so how was I supposed to tell anyone how I felt. My mind started to do things and think in certain ways that felt uncontrollable. Not until later did I start to feel the outcome of it. Not until later did I start to experience more and more pain that he left for me behind. Things I still deal with to this day. Years later I got a boyfriend and it made it really hard for me to trust he was who he seemed to be. I became standoffish and reserved. I felt as if he did not actually know me. Whenever we would try to have sex months later I would freeze up and have panic attacks. Sex felt numb and I quickly gave up on ever thinking of having it again. I wanted to be able to. I just could not. However, it is something you can enjoy again with time and self-care. Don't stress yourself out about the idea or force yourself to do something you are not 100% comfortable with when you are still healing. Healing can take years. Time can be painful but it is never impossible. For a long time I thought the word "survivor," was stupid. However, over time I have realized I still have my voice and I am no longer as afraid to use it. I also learned part of the healing process was accepting what happened which made it easier to tell that one person who was there to listen. Wheather they fully understand or not, It was a way for me to share my expierence and verbalize it. It took me over a year to be able to do this so don’t stress yourself out about it. Do what feels comfortable but also don’t run from something that’s holding you down or haunting you. What you run from you are going to end up having to face eventually. If you're reading this and have ever gone through something similar, please remember it is not your fault. You did not ask for it. You still have a voice and there are people out there willing to listen and be there for you. I am here. Thank you for reading.

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