Thursday, September 26, 2013

I Was Raped

When I was 14 years old I was raped. His name was Jeremy, he was 17. It was the first time of 2 total times in my life that I ever experimented with drugs. It was late at night, I was at my Youth Pastor's house with a group of friends for a sleep over. The adults were all in bed. A girl that lived with my Youth Pastor, her name was Sara, was on some sort of anti-psychotic drug that I am not entirely sure the name of. Needless to say, this girl was bat shit crazy and this drug allowed her to live happily among the "normal" people of this world. She offered it to me, telling me it would relax me. This was in March of 1995, 3 months after my mother's unexpected death. I wanted nothing more in this world than to not feel anything and be relaxed. I popped the pill and the rest of the night become one big blur.

I woke up in her room, on her bed, the lower half of my body hanging off the edge of her bed, with my pants off, and him on top of me with my legs spread, having sex with my comatose body. I told him that I didn't want to do this and to stop. I tried to push him off of me. He pinned my arms down and I passed back out. I woke up again as he was fastening the belt on his pants. He kissed my face, I don't remember where on my face, or what my response was, and then he walked out of the room. I sat there, stunned, unsure of what just happened. I then pulled my pants on and stumbled out of the room. I stumbled down the basement steps where my other friends were and where he was now sitting. I was completely dazed from the drug and from what just happened. I felt the understanding start to creep into my brain and I had to get out of there. I had to be as far away from him as possible. I walked back up the stairs and I heard one of the girls, Missy, call me a slut. I ran out the front door, down the road, and to the park where I hid in a plastic slide, sobbing for what felt like days. I sobbed for everything that I had lost. I ached for the protection from my mother, who had been known once to chase my first ever boyfriend down the road with a machete when he decided to see what my face looked like with a blackened eye from his elbow. This is how my virginity was taken from me.

The following day was Sunday. I was crying in Youth Group, but during those months, I seemed to always cry so it was easily explained away. I told my Youth Pastor what happened that evening after our Youth Group meeting. He was the only person I told all of the details to. He pulled Jeremy into the room with me, it was the large conference room in the front of the church, and asked him. He said we had sex but that I had wanted to do it. I was still crying. My youth pastor, wearing a light blue, long sleeve dungaree shirt tucked into his pants with a black belt, tackled him on the floor, got on top of him, and held him down while screaming at him. He told him to never come back to our church. My Youth Pastor was a prison guard who had a lot of aggression some times... he was wearing the black belt that went with his uniform. It is bizarre to me how the brain can remember such miniscule details sometimes and forget entire chunks of ones life at other times.

I went to school the following Monday. A girl that I was friends with at the time had a crush on this boy... she heard through the rumor mill at school that I had sex with him. We were walking to her house from school that afternoon when she called me a slut, and told me I was going to end up just like my mother. I got home from school that day and a boy who lived in my neighborhood that  had been there the night it happened was at my house... ironically, it was the same boy my mother chased with a machete only 6 or 7 months earlier. He told my sister that I was having sex. My sister forced me to go to Planned Parenthood and be put on birth control. I had no idea what was happening to me at the time. I was shamed into thinking this was all my fault, that it was consensual and that I was a whore for having sex before marriage. This was the mentality of everyone, with exception of my youth pastor who knew I was passed out. I tried to tell everyone that I didn't want to do it, but I couldn't give all the details away without also telling them that I was experimenting with drugs. I am not entirely sure why my Youth Pastor never went to my sister with the details, maybe he thought he had handled it in the conference room.

I was told that I was a slut, and that I was going to end up pregnant and amount to nothing. I was made to feel like maybe this is just how sex was and I needed to accept responsibility for my actions. Being 14 at the time, not knowing what real life was like, and trying not to slit my wrists on a weekly basis, pushed me into thinking that what happened was normal. After all, I watched my Mother get raped when I was 10 years old and watched him piss on her body afterward. I felt like maybe I had gotten off easy by not getting pissed on and being blacked out for most of it. It pushed me into thinking that there was something wrong with me because I didn't think this behavior was ok when it was SO OBVIOUSLY my fault due to the fact that I was a slut. So much, that this boy asked me to hang out again about a month later and I agreed to it just so I could feel like I had control over the situation and that I wasn't a slut who had one night stands.

This next time hanging out with him is what made me realize this wasn't my fault and that there was something wrong with this situation and with him. I don't remember all the details, but apparently he only likes to force himself on girls who are unconscious and can't fight back because I remember wrestling with him quite resolutely and him not liking my fight. My sister and her boyfriend came home around this time and took him home.

I never hung out with him again after that nor saw him except in the hallways at school, but I also never reported what happened. I took the birth control pills my sister forced on me for a few months, I accepted my actions, and I vowed to not have sex again until I was married. I also vowed to never use drugs again. At 14, my naivete was boundless. As I progressed through high school and learned more about life, I learned to forgive myself, and I learned to be extremely self-conscious about sex. I discovered that I would feel guilt and shame whenever I would be intimate with a man again until I was well into my 20's. It was a complex feeling, a mixture of home sickness, guilt, and shame that left a ball of anxiety in my stomach whenever someone touched me.

My story is the story of millions of women. The details are different, but the story is the same. Sexual assault happens every single day and the victims of it are often shamed into thinking it was their fault in some way, not just from the attacker but also from society. I don't know how to go about changing the way it is often perceived, nor do I know how to help people cope with being the victim of it. This is just my story, I needed to share it. I needed to write it for myself and for so many other women who have been the victim of sexual assault and can not write their own stories.

I was not the person then that I am today. I was painfully and awkwardly shy, I could not talk to people, and I was embarrassed by my circumstances in life. I could not just scream at the top of my lungs then like I can now that I WAS RAPED. Shame and humiliation have a way of silencing the weak.


Tail Between Legs? Check.

When I was 17 years old I tucked my tail between my legs and I ran away from home as quickly as I could without having to service old men for money. I went into the military to get as far away from my home town, my family, and my past as a 17 year old with a high school diploma could. While growing up, there was nothing I wanted more than to get away from that place. I wanted to go to NYC and live the glamorous city life, not the life of a Republican majority small town, where the smell of cow shit was as normal as the maximum security prisons that dotted the town. After all, this was New York State.... where Rockefeller's drug laws from 1973 and Reagan's War on Drugs has left New York State's prisons over populated with drug offenders who have no business being in maximum security prisons.

Getting out of this place had been my main goal from the time I was 14 and took my first trip to NYC, until my high school graduation at 17. Not because of the town exactly, it was actually a very pleasant place to grow up... boring, yet safe. Kick the Can was a game routinely played by all the neighborhood kids well into the dark hours of summer. My main reason was because of all the craziness that was my family. It was the drugged and drunken binges that my Mother would go on, where she would "disappear" for 3 days and "Mildred" would step in... stabbing notes into the doors of our house with butcher knives, letting us know that "Mom is on strike and that Mildred was home." It was my homicidal sibling turning the dryer on with my cat inside it, killing it (I'm fairly certain that was on purpose). It was the violent fights my other sibling and I would have that often resulted in one of us getting stabbed or hog tied by the other. It was the men that came to our house when "Mildred" was home. I didn't know at the time that these things were not *quite* normal, they were just part of the life that I knew. As soon as I had some control over my future, I exerted it and left. I knew that if I stayed there I would end up working at K-Mart, having 3 children, and probably living in a trailer. I was a precocious child, I knew that life was not for me.

I have not always been this open about my life, but at some point in my life I found it therapeutic to discuss some of these things... subsequently,  I discovered that I was "abnormal." For many years after I left, I had a lot of guilt and a lot of homesickness that would just not go away. I would travel home often to visit, and often times the visits would end with violent fights and arguments that left us not talking to each other or with black eyes. I don't know when it happened exactly, but at some point I decided that I had to live for me and that I had to look out for myself because our families have a way of bringing out the best and the worst in us. My sister still has the ability to send me into a rage within 3 seconds of walking into her door, but I have learned to control myself a little better than I used to. I have learned that stupid cliche of "life is short" and I do my best to remember that when dealing with all of the bullshit that is spewed at us in our lives.

I'm extremely jealous of the people in this world who have stable, loving relationships with their families but I also can't say that I would change the circumstances or the experiences with mine. We don't get to choose our families, it is just a crap shoot of who gets what, but I can change my perspective when dealing with them. I can try to make the best of the situation at hand, and I can do my best to let things go that I have no control over. I still struggle with this... there are times when I am so angry with my siblings that I am left in a fuming rage of wanting to round house kick the refrigerator or their faces, but lucky for me (and them) I live 5 hours away from them and can walk away from what I don't feel like dealing with, or not answer the phone. Maybe this isn't the best approach for dealing with it, but it is what has allowed me to stay sane, stay out of jail, and still talk to them (sometimes).

Our families have the ability to destroy our lives or to enrich them. Trying to find the middle ground is something that I have struggled with for almost 20 years. At the end of each day, I have to remember that this is my life. It is my only life and I must be the best person that I can be. I must be kind, I must be compassionate, and I must be honest. These are all values that my family taught me, even if they do not practice them... but through their actions, I learned these lessons that they did not mean to teach and I am thankful for that. They inadvertently contributed in a positive way to the values and principles of how I live my life.

Family is such a delicate thing to deal with for most of us in this world. Sometimes I'm an asshole and get a little preachy about it, I need to learn to keep my mouth shut and let people deal with things on their own. I just can't help being pissed off at shows like Leave it to Beaver, Lassie, My Two Dads, Full House, and Growing Pains for filling our heads with expectations of what the normal family looks like. That shit isn't normal, that is why they make TV shows depicting "normal," because it doesn't really exist. It is fiction that is meant to make us all feel like shit about the actual lives that we have. The same exact way that TV/Marketing still plays on our insecurities.

I'm leaving tomorrow morning to go home for a weekend visit, wish me luck! This is my life. :)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Finding Your Happy Place

When people used to talk about "finding their happy place" I would just look at them like they were complete lunatics that had bad coping mechanisms. People who were unable to deal with the stress of modern life, so they detach from it with drugs, alcohol, mind numbing television, shopping their way to happiness, or some other bad habit so they can numb the frustration they feel with life and "escape." Until recently, this was my thinking when people talked about "finding their happy place." Because for me, my happy place has always been the fact that I was still alive, and still able to view the world in a positive way when I could have easily been jaded early on in life.

Recently, I have decided that being able to feel all of the emotions that a human being is capable of feeling is my happy place, and I go there often. Knowing that there are people who are not capable of feeling the entire range of human emotion makes me even more sure that it is my happy place because they tend to be unhappy individuals that are missing out on an integral part of life. Raw emotion... not to be confused with scripted emotion that is done by unhappy people trying to hide that they are unhappy.

I am a very emotionally animated person and I do not hide my feelings well. I cry when I am frustrated and sob when I am hurt, I am giddy and exaggerated when I am excited, I am grateful to have wonderful friends and obliged to have crappy family that make me appreciate my friends even more. I am quiet when I am thinking about something serious, and I become withdrawn when I am overwhelmed. I get a pit in my stomach and a weight on my chest whenever I am afraid, nervous, or anxious. I become ridiculously sanguine when a man takes me to dinner and opens a car door for me, or grabs my face and kisses me as the endless possibilities race through my brain even when I know things won't work out. The ability to feel these emotions makes me happy.

The feeling of sunshine on my face in the early days of Spring or late days of Fall, when the air is still crisp. Riding some gnarly single track smoothly, with no struggle or fear... just flowing over everything with strong legs. Running on an empty trail in the early mornings when there is dew on the grass still and everyone else is asleep (this doesn't happen often for me, I'm not a morning person... but when it does it is one of the most amazing feelings ever). Being in the passenger seat, staring out the window, lost in thought on a long road trip, content with your company and the sound of the engine. Watching the moon rise above the mountains at 10,000 feet and the absolute feeling of joy and relief when you reach the toilet to pee just in time. The absolute indifference you feel toward the ex that broke your heart... and the realization that you will love someone again someday. The sound of crickets on summer nights and the smell of a storm rolling in during hurricane season. These feelings make me happy, they soothe my soul and silence the doubt I sometimes feel about humanity. 

A happy place is not a place at all, nor a tangible item... those things don't last. It is what centers you and makes you appreciate this life you have and the emotion that comes with it. It is so cliche to say that life is short, but truly it is... I suppose that is why it is a cliche? It is a treasured thing that is often denied to many. So embrace it, live it, love it, and appreciate what you have. Appreciate the fact that you can run, or dance, or talk, or feel because there are people who can't do these things and would give anything to be able to. This is what makes life memorable, not going to your cubicle or owning the newest Gucci bag.

Whether your happy place is doing yoga, spending time with friends, going to the mountains to get away, reading a book, running long miles, or just a quiet place away from all the noise, be sure to try to go there as often as possible and experience the full spectrum of human emotion that makes this your happy place. Crying, laughing, sadness, anger, pride, elation, contentment, loneliness, rejection, feelings of failure, ecstasy, bliss, joy... this is life and I wouldn't trade any of those feelings to feel "happy" all the time. The loneliness and rejection I have felt at times makes the sweet times sweeter and enhances the contentment that I feel on most days. This is life. This is my life, and I love it. I am absolutely, positively, ridiculously in love with my life.