My Story: Part 3

Almost fifteen months after the second assault, I met Mark online on a dating website. Now, this was before dating sites were everyone’s go-to, so it was a little taboo still. I had gone out with a couple of guys over the months, but nothing really came of it-except I got a stalker for a few weeks (a story for another time). I kind of felt my options were pretty limited considering I rarely went anywhere other than work and church. So, I decided to try out a dating website. After a few exchanges, I decided to send him my number. He was going to be attending the same community college I was and I figured, why not?

We spent over two hours on the phone. I fell in love with his voice almost instantly (I still love to hear his voice), and he was funny. Like, super funny. My brother later said he hadn’t heard me laugh like that in a really long time. I couldn’t wait to meet him the next day.

It was a hot, August day in south Louisiana and I was sitting on a bench outside the restaurant where we were meeting for lunch. I was wearing blue jeans, a baseball tee and chuck taylors, smoking a third cigarette, waiting for him to text that he had arrived. (I only know these details because he remembers them so clearly.) When he did arrive, we greeted each other with a sheepish hug and went inside. I honestly don’t remember much about the date itself, but I know we had a very good time. It was the first time I had gone out with a guy and he didn’t kiss me goodbye. We held hands at his car and neither of us wanted to leave, but he made no moves for that first kiss. That confirmed for me what I had been thinking the entire time. This guy is different, but special. He would later tell me that he felt God telling him to “stay with this one”.

Over the next several months, as I began to open up to him about my past, mainly my journey to heal from my assaults, we grew closer and he was determined to help me work through my healing. We knew that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. But I was having some hang ups. Namely, I couldn’t heal from sexual scars and be sexualy involved with my boyfriend. I loved him and I knew he loved me, but the fact that we were sleeping together threw my entire mental state into a tail spin. So, I broke up with him. I don’t remember the reasons and excuses I gave him, though I do know I was not gentle or even nice to him, to be honest. I know I never expected to ever see him again.

I moved on and tried to continue to work on my healing process over the next eight months. My struggle with same sex attraction remained an internal one as I still felt very strongly that God had allowed me to be assaulted to “wake me up” and felt too guilty to even mention the desire remained. I threw myself into the college ministry and working, changing jobs so I could afford to move closer to campus and have more free time in the evenings and weekends. I admit I had low points, but as the new year drew closer, I felt I was doing well: emotionally, spiritually and mentally.

January 1, 2007. My roommate and I were running errands together and she needed to get a money order. So we stopped at the grocery store Mark worked at. I didn’t see his car, so I figured he wasn’t working and it would be ok for me to go in with her. As we walked to the front counter, there he was, running one of the registers. I decided to go ahead and go talk to him, so once he had finished with his customer, I walked over to say hi. I had actually been wondering how he had been, if he was doing well. He had been a good friend and I honestly missed him. He was surprised to see me and even more surprised that I talked to him-though he wouldn’t show it in our brief conversation. I intended to wait and see if he would try to reach out to me, but I was reminded that I had told him when I broke up with him “don’t call me, I’ll call you”, so it was up to me to reestablish a relationship. I didn’t have his number anymore, so I checked to see if he was on Facebook. I found him and sent him a friend request. He texted me almost immediately, “Are you trying to be my friend on Facebook?”

The text conversation led to a phone call in which I apologized for hurting him and begged his forgiveness. I was leaving for a week-long mission trip to Mexico in two days, and there was no time for us to get together and talk before I left. I saw it as an opportunity for us to take some time to pray over our relationship and let him figure out if he felt we should get back together. He agreed. When I got back from my trip, I texted him to see how he felt about things. He asked if we could meet for dinner. As soon as I saw him, I knew what his decision was. We both couldn’t stop smiling and giggling at each other over dinner. We talked about how we were doing and what we wanted to do differently in our relationship. We were both very excited.

Fast forward a few months. I began having severe flashbacks and panic attacks. Nightmares were once again part of my nightly routine-if I allowed myself to sleep. One night, we were at the college service at our church, and I began having a panic attack. A couple of our friends helped Mark help me to a back room where it was quieter and I could ground myself more easily. But instead of working out of the panic, something triggered a flashback. So, I began this cycle of being in the midst of the panic attack to my body being frozen in a flashback. When the flashbacks would hit, I could still hear everyone around me, but everywhere I looked, I was on the ground, in the woods. Sometimes a dark figure would be there and sometimes I was alone. This would last for hours at a time. This first instance, I don’t remember getting home. I don’t remember when Mark left. He couldn’t be around me. Not because he didn’t want to, but because my mind and body would react to him being around me. I hated that he felt pushed away by me, but I could do nothing about it. He told me later that he wasn’t sure he could handle this part of me. But he remembered the voice he had heard when we first met, and knew God would help him to work through all of my pain. And help us work through all of his.

We got married on September 19th, 2008. That first year was tough. Shortly after we returned from our honeymoon, he lost his job and had to go back to his grocery store job. A few months later, I lost my job and our first child within weeks of each other and just before our first anniversary. But God held us close and had much bigger plans for us than we did. We spent our second Thanksgiving moving to a new city across the state for the job Mark still loves. We were excited for the new adventure, and nearly eight years later, we are still just enjoying the ride.

God knew what He was doing when He placed Mark in my path. It’s not just that he makes me laugh, or that we are total opposites and can still enjoy lots of silly things together. It’s not just that we balance each other and help each other cope with just our day-to-day tasks. He truly is my best friend. God knew exactly the kind of man I would need to help me deal with life, and He made sure Mark fit the bill. And He is still molding him to fit. God doesn’t finish working on you for your spouse once you are married. Just like He contimues to mold us into Christ’s image lon after we have surrnederd our life to him, he contimues to work on us and mold us into the spouse we are meant to be for our mate. He contimues to work on each of us as our lives shift and change, from newlyweds to parents to one, two, then three children. To parents to one, then two on the Autisim spectrum. He continues to shape our hearts for each other long after we have gotten comfortable with each other.

The nature of abuse means that the healing process is long. And sometimes we never fully allow the wound to close. Or we just can’t resist scratching at the itching scab until it is reopened and bleeding anew. Overcoming patterns of self-sabotage and replacing the lies we were force fed with the Truth of grace is an almost never ending battle. But when we surround ourselves with grace-filled, gospel-filled people, we can find ourselves winning the battle more and more and having to fight it less and less.

I am tremendously thankful for the many, many people God has placed in my path along the way. There have been so many influences, mentors and friends, who have come in and out of my life and impacted it deeply. I am most thankful for Christ. What He has done for me, I can never repay. I am thankful that He chooses to display His wondrous Glory through me and my life.

Darthface

He’ll always be my favorite Sith.

My Story: Part One

The following is a part of my story. While I try to be truthful without being explicit, there are things in my story which cannot, and should not, be altered for a softer read. Please feel free to comment with your own story or ask any questions you may have. Let’s start a conversation.

High school. Senior year. Some say high school was the best years of their life. I never aspired to that, as I knew adulthood would be much better. Had to be. The previous three years hadn’t been terribly special. I didn’t expect my senior year to be much different.

Well, it was quite different. We started off with a new schedule: block scheduling. Four classes a day for two semesters-each semester with completely different classes. I liked it because most teachers didn’t want to lecture for the whole hour and a half, so we got time to work on homework. I spent a lot of time writing that year, as I either finished my homework quickly or simply didn’t do it. I wasn’t playing volleyball or basketball anymore because I had injured my left foot over the summer and couldn’t run on it yet. Some days I wonder if things would have been better if I had been able to play…

Then the attacks on September, 11th happened. ¬†Everyone was an emotional mess for several weeks afterward. I don’t know how many in the school were truly impacted, but we readjusted as things settled down. A few of the guys and girls in my class were talking about joining the military after graduation; we wondered if President Bush would reinstate the draft.

By the time December arrived, I had gotten into my groove and was looking forward to all the activity the month had coming. My eighteenth birthday was going to fall on Homecoming and my friends from church had a surprise planned. Then, the choir and drama classes were putting on A Christmas Carol. This was going to be the biggest production I had been a part of, and I had a lot of roles, both on and offstage. They were all small, but that’s what I liked, so it worked.

I was preparing for the play, painting a mask for one of my costumes. There had been a group of us, and technically, I was supposed to be at lunch with the rest of them. I had decided to work through lunch-I really couldn’t tell you why. Maybe I was just that into making it perfect, who knows? So, I’m sitting in the hallway in front of the choir room. The choir room was at the end of a hallway which also had the upstairs bathrooms and the civics and biology classroom on it. Our canvas was situated pretty much in front of the bathrooms, too, so anyone going to use them had to walk right by. I’m sitting on the floor, minding my own business, working on my mask. One of the eighth grade boys walked by and headed into the restroom. When he came back out, he just stood there leaning against the wall. At first, I didn’t even notice he was still there, but then I looked up at him. He had unzipped his pants and was holding his penis, smirking at me. He probably said something to me, but my ears had started ringing and I couldn’t move or speak. He walked over to me and pushed himself on my cheek and tried to move toward my mouth. I was able to lean away from him, but I couldn’t make myself get up or speak or scream. He kept trying and I could tell he was talking to me, but I didn’t hear him. I began to feel numb and my mind was screaming, “Get away!!” but I couldn’t do anything. Thankfully, someone began to come down the hallway and he darted back into the restroom, then returned to class. The teacher of the class he was supposed to be in came and stood at the end of the hall with him a bit later and asked if I had needed his help. All I could do was shake my head. I wanted to scream, to jump up and run to her and tell her what had happened. But I was still numb, and all I could do was shake my head.

I went the rest of the day on autopilot, barely speaking to anyone. I was just ready to get away from that place. After my last class, I practically ran to my truck. But as I got there, he was already there. “What the hell?!” I thought. I thought about going back inside, but I was just ready to get out of there, so I got into the driver’s side and prayed I had remembered to lock both doors. I hadn’t. He got into the passenger side and started talking and unzipping his pants. I began to hyperventilate as he grabbed my letterman jacket and covered himself. He grabbed my hand and all I could do was lean forward onto the steering wheel as he held my had on his penis. Just as I thought I was going to pass out, my friend Jess tapped on the window. That jolted me enough to jump out of the truck and hoarsely whisper, “Get him the fuck out of my truck.” She ran around to the other side and yanked him out as I sank back into the driver’s seat. I was shaking, hard, but I was determined to get out of there. She climbed in next to me and I drove her home.

She was the only person I was able to tell about it. She wanted me to tell someone else, but I couldn’t. And I couldn’t explain why. I was scared out of my mind, I started having nightmares, flashbacks and panic attacks. The strange thing was, it didn’t seem to be connected to the incident. It was something else altogether, and that scared me even more.

It was the beginning of March when she finally convinced me to tell someone. She knew what was going on in my mind and we thought maybe I would get some relief if I talked about it. So, I approached the teacher who had asked me about needing his help back in December. She didn’t recall the day, but she listened to what I had to say about it. I don’t remember how long it took between me talking to her and the guidance counselor coming to see me at the softball game, but I don’t think it was the same day. We were watching the game when she came and pulled me aside and asked to hear “my side of the story.” Anxiously, I recounted what had happened. She listened very quietly, and took a deep breath before she spoke. She told me she was very sorry, but there was nothing they could do. It was my word against his. I don’t recall how I responded, but I know that moment was when I gave up altogether. They didn’t believe me and nothing was going to be done.

My suicide attempt was a cry for help. Which I got while I attended the adolescent day program for five weeks. Turns out, I was having flashbacks of being raped at ten years old. Figuring that out turned out to be a setback, as I then decided I would rather stroll through traffic than deal with the emotional repercussions. So I spent a week on the impatient unit, getting to know kids who had a lot of problems. I started realizing how blessed I was to have a stable home and an environment where I could heal.

Once I got back to school, I was just ready to be done with high school. There were, of course, rumors about why I had missed five weeks of school, but I really didn’t care what anyone thought. I knew what had happened to me, and I finally had some answers to why my mind was driving me crazy. I thought once I got out of high school, things would get easier, but they don’t really tell you what it takes to grow up, do they?

Reflections on St. Patrick’s Day

Two days ago was St. Patrick’s day. I usually just let the holiday go by like any other over-commercialized, not sure why we celebrate it, just another day to have a party and don’t forget about the parade, holiday. But two days ago also marked 15 years.

Fifteen years ago, on St. Patrick’s Day, I tried to kill myself. I was a senior in high school and I was tired. I was physically tired, mentally tired, and emotionally tired. I was done with no one understanding, no one seemingly being on my side. I couldn’t handle the unexplainable nightmares, the panic attacks, the exhaustion and I just didn’t care anymore. Looking back, I probably didn’t truly want to die or I probably would have made a better attempt than a bottle of ibuprofen. But in the moment, I just knew I needed to do something drastic, something that would make sure someone knew I needed more help than I was getting. My parents knew something was going on with me because they had started sending me to a therapist. But I didn’t like her. I felt like she was a bit patronizing and I never felt comfortable talking to her. I remember my mom being super mad at her for not alerting her to how bad off I was. But it really wasn’t her fault; I never really opened up too much to her.

Turns out, I was a pretty messed up teenager. Really, I was just wrestling with things I was not emotionally prepared to deal with. I had been assaulted by a boy at school earlier that year and it affected me very deeply. I hadn’t been able to talk about it and I had reached the breaking point. Finally talking about it opened up a mental and emotional can of worms that I still use as fishing bait to this day. I spent five weeks attending an outpatient day program for adolescents who were struggling with all kinds of things, from drug abuse to mental health issues. One of those weeks I spent on the impatient unit because sometimes, things get worse before they get better. I began to uncover a lot of things about myself, some good, most terrifying and awful. With the help of the therapists, I began to try and decipher the flashbacks I had been having. Turns out, I had been assaulted before-and much worse. I still can’t put together all of the pieces and most days I’d rather not try. I still grieve for my ten year old self, even though I don’t really have a lot of memory of my childhood. I feel sad for the pain and burden she was asked to carry so young.

Looking back, 15 years later, there are still a lot of things I am dealing with. But I am no longer an angry, emotional teenager, and I have a much deeper and more trusting relationship with my Heavenly Father. I have very dear and trustworthy friends who listen to me to be able to help me instead of using my pain against me. I am strong in my fight against depression and anxiety, even though they plague me more often than not. I go months between panic attacks rather than days. But most of all, I know that God has a plan for my story. He has set my life on the path it is on for His greater purpose and glory. I know that my story may be unique, but my trials and tragedies are not. There are other voices in the world who cannot speak because of fear or shame and I have been called to awaken in their spirit a confidence and knowledge that they are not alone in their fight. Childhood sexual assault is an ugly reality for many. Too many. Depression and anxiety afflict more and more every day. Flashbacks, PTSD, childhood trauma and abuse, being a Christian who struggles with homosexuality, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, cutting and self-harm; all of these things are things I have and do fight with. But healing can be obtained. Hang around and I’ll share with you my story.