TW: sexual assault & intimate partner violence
We cannot erase and replace the things that have happened to us with what we wished would have happened instead. You cannot go back; you can only move forward. It happened, and there is nothing you can do to change that now. You can only change how you move forward and heal.
I repeat these words to myself, over and over again. I remind myself how the past is the past, and I am no longer that same woman. I remind myself that healing is not linear. Healing is a roller coaster. A rocky, winding road. Healing is a giant cliff you dangle from, all the while praying that someone offers you a hand to pull you back up.
Healing will not always feel okay. Some days, healing will hurt. Healing will make you cry. Healing will make you question every choice you have ever made.
But then, there will also be days when healing will feel glorious. Healing will make you laugh, while tears of happiness stream down your cheeks. Healing will offer you a hand and pull you back up so that you can begin again.
No matter how many times I try to remind myself of these truths, I cannot shake this shame from my being.
One moment, I am fine, and the next, I am catapulted back to that night and into that bed. I write this as I am sitting on the same comforter that haunts my memories. Maybe this is part of the reason I cannot let go. I may have left the bed and the boy in St. Louis, but the trauma?
I brought that back home to Chicago with me.
The hot pink shade of this comforter reminds me of the way my cheeks burned in shame that night. We always spent all of our time on this comforter, on that bed. Maybe this is my way of always keeping you with me. Maybe this is the memento from the relationship that ruined me. A glaring reminder of some of the worst years of my entire life.
That night started off normal, just like our nights together always did. Cuddling on my bed until you decided that cuddling wasn’t all that you wanted. Cuddling was not the reason you came over. So like clockwork, each and every time, I would do what you wanted, and yet, it would still never be enough for you. I could not say no. I dared not say no. If I said no, you would think that I did not love you. And that was a road I never wanted to go down.
And yet, every time, I still continued to go down.
I can’t remember why exactly I ended up completely naked, but I did. You always had a way of getting me to do everything you wanted, even when it was something that was so far from what I wanted.
Just the night before, you had gotten me to do the same thing. Stripped naked on this hot pink comforter, not ready, but ready to give you everything in a desperate attempt to keep you by my side.
You lied to me that night. You told me you had protection, and I believed you. Just when I had finally convinced myself to just get it over with, you finally told me that you had lied.
And in that moment, I wish that I would have woken up to how toxic our situation was then. I wish that I would have thought about the successful relationships I saw those close to me having and then compared this situation to them. I wish I would have called him out for treating me like I was nothing more than a body to use, if and when he wanted. I just wish so badly that I would have opened my eyes to the abuse, instead of shutting them as tightly as I could to try to keep all of the pain out.
I never should have let you come over again. I never should have agreed to do this the last night of my senior year of college. I should have been with my friends, saying goodbye to the people who actually loved me. Instead, I spent my last night of college with you. Naked, scared, and ashamed. I spent my last night of college on top of you when all I wanted was to talk.
Just when I got used to it, and I thought that maybe it would be okay, you made sure that it wasn’t. Our bodies were not in sync, and things just were not working out as planned. And you blamed me for it.
You told me I laughed at you, when all I was doing was smiling because I was happy. All of this time together, and you couldn’t even recognize one of the most basic emotions within me. Did you ever even really see me? Did you ever know who I was? Or was I just an easy target to take advantage of while you went about your life like I barely even existed?
Sometimes, it feels like I never did.
We stopped, and you tried to convince me to try again. But I was frozen. Upset. Ashamed. Embarrassed. Every negative emotion was swirling around inside of me. How could I have let this happen? Why did I finally have to let you in?
You wouldn’t touch me after that. I sat there naked beside you, as you flinched at the touch of my hand on your arm. You wouldn’t look at me. Or talk to me. Or touch me.
This. This was the last night we ever spent together. This was the last night we ever saw each other. This is how you chose to end all of the time we spent together.
We never saw each other again after that night, but you didn’t leave my life for another year. You continued to “date” me, even though I felt more alone with you than I ever did when I was single.
You took someone who already hated herself, and you destroyed her. I am not sure how you can destroy something that was already so far gone, but you did. You took everything I had, and you left. You left me far before you ever admitted to doing so.
The day you took another drink was the day our relationship ended.
It was over before it had even begun.
I am in shambles. I am a wreck. Wreckage in human form. I cannot date. I cannot form meaningful romantic or sexual relationships. I am afraid to ever be that vulnerable with anyone again. I tried so hard to let others in. I thought that finally, I had met someone who could undo everything that you did. Who could make that night from hell disappear. But I was so, so wrong.
What happened with you, happened with him. Four years later and it was like I was holding a mirror up to that night I shared with you. I froze. I shut him out. And the worst part was that I didn’t even realize I was doing it until it was too late.
I am no longer in control of this body, you are. I close my eyes, and I see you. I see you in my dreams. I see you in my nightmares. I see you in the men I pass by on the street. I see you in the eyes of a new lover. And because of this, I am alone. I am nothing. I am desperately trying to reconnect with myself, a person I barely even knew in the first place. A person I was finally getting to know before you destroyed her. A person I fear I will never be again.
I ruined one of the best relationships I ever had because of you. Because of the anxiety and the doubt and the fear you nailed into me. Because of the hell you put me through. I could not look at him and see love; I could only see you.
There are so many things that I wish I would have done differently. But I know that what’s done is done, and I cannot go back to who I was then or before I met you. I cannot go back and start over. I cannot go back and put on my clothes and kick you out of my apartment like I should have. I cannot go back and save myself from you and from who I was then, but I can do my best to build a better future for myself now.