a healing journey

Hello all! I am so happy to be back and writing. I had a good break, but I really missed my me time. A lot has happened in the last couple weeks. My friend, Kitty Sopow, who you know a little something, something about from a previous post came to visit. We had a blast exploring the city and being all around basic. This included a photoshoot in Brooklyn Bridge Park, watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, tons of shopping/eating, and seeing Hamilton. Hamilton was a bucket list item and I can’t believe I got to cross it off the list #blessed.

Lately I have been in a pretty good headspace. I mean Hamilton was really my peak so it may all be down hill from here, but I digress. I am still riding the waves of my human emotions because I am not AI, but overall I feel grounded and it is amazing. As I feel this sense of grounding I find it more difficult to write. Comedians and artists alike often joke about their best work coming from dark places. So, when I am not in a dark place in can be harder to find inspiration. I thought about this as I geared up for another new blog post. “What can I possible write about today” I pondered and then I thought if I can write a whole post about my 5 hours at the DMV, I am pretty sure I can find something meaningful to write today.

In fact, when I first sat down to write, I wrote a ton of different things, but none of them were the story I wanted to tell. I probably could have made them work, but I don’t like to force things. Then this voice kept showing up. There is a story that I was never sure I would be ready to tell, but my head keeps saying today is the day. So, I guess today is the day. This is a story that I have alluded to many times over in previous posts, but never really said outright. I am ready now. Today’s story is about my own experience with sexual assault, so please read only if you feel in the right place to do so.  

C/W Rape, sexual assault, suicidal ideations.

Today I want to talk about the time I was raped. *I originally wrote assaulted here, but I want to name it exactly what it was, it was rape* A moment that really shaped the person I am today. I don’t really want to talk about the details, because I don’t think it is necessary. I think there are enough movies and TV shows that depict the horrific things that can be done to a persons body without their permission. I have no desire to further that aspect. What I do want to talk about is the aftermath- the hardship and confusion I experienced for many, many years.

When I first started writing, like way back during my first blogging days, this was the story I really wanted to tell. It was actually the first story I had ever written about myself, I just never posted it anywhere. I saved it to my desktop and still have it hiding in a documents folder titled ‘extra school work’. Sometimes when I am feeling confused or lost I go back and read it. It reminds me of how far I have come.

My experience was my first time, I was 20 years old and it was with someone I liked… well if I am being honest, who I thought I loved.  I spent a long time confused about the entire situation which in turn made my whole understanding of sex and relationships confusing. When I told a previous therapist about my ‘first time’ I told her a lie. I talked about how sweet he was and recited a scene that could have been placed in any romantic comedy. That lie morphed over time and depending on the person asking I would share different versions of what happened. I was disappointed in myself and scared to tell the truth. Alcohol was involved and so for a long time I blamed myself. Actually for a long time I didn’t even consider it rape; it was just sex that I didn’t remember. Throughout my early twenties I would sometimes close my eyes really tight and just whisper “remember, remember” over and over to myself, hoping that I could get one glimpse of what happened that night. What I do remember is that next morning. Every single part of it. I know what I was wearing, what we talked about. The exact words exchanged. When I would close my eyes and try to remember that is what I would see.

After that, I spent most of my early 20’s drinking a lot. It wan’t too unusual to people though because it is so embedded in college life. I was exhibiting normal early 20’s behavior, which now that I am a bit older is entirely alarming. I would drink to the point of blacking out, more often than I would care to admit and still this was pretty mainstream in the college scene. The thing is I didn’t want to remember things anymore. After that first time blacking out and with everything that happened I wanted to be this alternate universe Sarah who, in my head, was promiscuous and confident and attractive to others. I didn’t know who showed up when I was blacked out of course, but I remember she would make my friends laugh and they would give me stories that I didn’t know about my own life. I couldn’t be intimate with people unless I was drunk. I didn’t know how to feel safe any other way. My vulnerability was stripped with alcohol and I could hide behind her and block out the truths that would shout at me in the daytime.

Many weekends would be filled with alternate universe Sarah, but as time moved, the more I drank the less I would black out and the higher my tolerance became. Instead of becoming alternate universe Sarah, I became sad Sarah. I would drink and I would cry and my friends would take care of me. And then next time we drank I would begin the nights with promises that I wouldn’t cry this time and of course I would and the cycle would continue. My only saving grace was school. Just as school saved me as a child, it saved me as a young adult. The more immersed I became in school the less I could drink and the more head space it would take up. School has always been my safe space.

The first time I really talked about it to a professional was at the counseling center in my college, junior year. I was 23 at the time- 3 years after it happened. I was extremely depressed, suicidal, and my binge eating was at it’s worst. My best friend said ‘I think you need to go talk to someone. I’ve never seen you this bad’. So I did and I told her everything. I told her about my first time, my real first time. After I let it all out she said “Sarah, what you are telling me is rape”. I remember feeling taken aback. My first thought was that ‘that can’t be right. I don’t even remember it. I don’t know if I said no or fought back.’ She went on and said she experienced the same thing with her ex-husband. She broke down the stigma’s that I carried around like they were a part of me. She lifted each one off by saying what I needed to hear- “It wasn’t your fault. It doesn’t matter if you were drinking. He had no right to do that to you.” I connected with her in a way I never had with my previous therapist. I never went back after that first session. It was too much to process, too much that happened. I wish I could remember her name  or send her a thank you card though because she was my first step in a long healing journey.

The assault happened when I was 20 years old. It has now been 8 years and for the first time in those 8 years I truly feel at peace. I think this is why I couldn’t write about it before. It was too raw and I hadn’t done the appropriate healing to write about it in a way that felt healthy. I didn’t want to write this story and not be able to end it with a sense of hope because I needed the hope when I was in the beginning of my journey. I didn’t need the detailed stories or even what the healing was supposed to look like, I just needed to know it was possible. I get to now say that it is possible. I went through this really awful thing and there is no erasing it. However, I also got to do some pretty amazing things through that. It drove me into my career choice. The older I got the more I wanted to help people that had similar experiences. I now get to sit with people who have experienced similar situations and I am able to be that therapist that is sometimes their first step in healing.

Over and over again I have read from all the brave and honest people who said #metoo and told their stories. I read poems that stuck cords with me. I listened to stories that I played on repeat sometimes. I want to continue the movement of shedding the stigma, breaking down barriers, and keeping the conversation going. To know I wasn’t alone was another part of my healing journey. Most friends I disclosed to shared their own stories. Little by little I let go of that pain. Today I write this with a scar that will never fade, but one that I look at with gentle love rather than pain. It marks the beginning of journey I never expected to be on.

If you are on a healing journey or don’t know how to start a healing journey you can reach out to me for support on my contact page or you can go to RAINN the largest anti-sexual violence organization that has a 24/7 hotline 800.656.HOPE (4673).

A[wo]men

i had a dream last night that you apologized for all the ways you hurt me.

you listened to what I had to say and you heard all the bad you had done.

you owned up to it. you accepted it. you cried.

it was only a dream, yet it was the closest i felt to closure.

we swam in the moonlight.

you kissed me like I deserved to be kissed when i thought i loved you.

it was a goodbye kiss.

goodbye, forever.

-healing

Fighting the Good Fight

*Warning: Topics of sexual assault and violence discussed*

Alright folks, today’s post is brought to you by sugar, spice, and everything nice. This is, coincidentally, the ingredients to make the PowerPuff girls, sans chemical X, and they are a great segue into what today’s post is all about: Why I love being a lady. Before I dive into that, though, some housekeeping must be done. First, on March 8th it was International Women’s Day(IWD) and that is what prompted me to write this (that and my instagram poll). Next, it is important to note that not all ladies have a uterus. I happen to identify as a lady and have a uterus, it just worked out that way. To be honest, I’m don’t always identify as a lady, but I most certainly am a woman.

People’s ideas of what a woman is can get a little confusing. For example, Donald Trump thinks women are grab bags for his personal pleasure. *I watched copious amounts of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee last night and this post is also brought to you by her influence.* Other people’s definition of ‘woman’ means I dress in dresses and wear makeup and shriek at spiders. I mean sure I do those things, but that is not what makes me a woman. To me being a woman is something I know in my core. It is just as clear to me as the way I love. I can’t tell you how I know, I just know. Isn’t that exactly what love is? This imaginary feeling that comes over us and we can’t pinpoint its origin, but we feel it all the time.

That is how it feels to be a women. Possibly how it feels to be a man as well, but that is definitely not my area of expertise. So, when I got challenged with the task of writing down why I love being a woman, I felt a little overwhelmed. At first I thought, “my goodness… there are so many reasons”, but the more I looked at those reasons the more I realized those are just reasons I love being me. They had nothing to do with being a woman. That’s when it hit me.

The thing I love most about identifying as a woman is getting to identify as myself. It is the best way I know how to celebrate me. My gender pronouns are she/her/hers. Not to brag, but I have the same gender pronouns as Malala Yousafzai, Oprah, Laverne Cox, and Kesha. All women who have had battles I can’t even begin to imagine and that I feel proud to share even the tiniest amount of commonality. See, they have all worked hard to identify as themselves and now they are some of the most celebrated people. As a woman, I love to surround myself with other women who are just out there being who they are.

Of course, it is not always easy or safe to identify as a female. Girls around the world continue to be denied access to learning. Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head for defying the Taliban and demanding education. Tonya Harvey was shot and murdered for identifying as a transgender woman. According to GLAAD, almost 27 transgender females of color were murdered in 2017, just for being who they are. RAINN reports that college women are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted than to be robbed. These are not things I love about being a woman; these are things I need to be aware of if I want to identify as a woman.

These hardships birth a new meaning to my identity; I am an ally above all else. To me, my identity as a woman is linked to my ability to fight the good fight. Malala was shot in the head and doesn’t stop fighting. Oprah had repeated sexual abuse from a young age and doesn’t stop fighting. Laverne Cox suffered from bullies and tried to end her life and doesn’t stop fighting. Kesha was sexually assaulted and went on to write the song “Praying” (which gives me chills very time I hear it) and doesn’t stop fighting.

That is the final reason I love being a woman. We never stop fighting. Day after day we continue to put on our boxing gloves and get in the ring. We call out the rapists and murderers. We march for our lives, whether it is on the streets of Washington or in our own backyards. I will continue to fight for women everyday I am lucky enough to do so.

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,

A hive of honey bees.

I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,

They say they still can’t see.

I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
-Maya Angelou, “Phenomenal Woman” from And Still I Rise.