Owning the narrative

T.W: discussing sexual assault.

This is undoubtedly the hardest post I’ve ever written. One I’ve been contemplating for years now, but the timing either didn’t feel right or the motivation stemmed not from the right place.

The intention now is to heal, to own my story, to tell it on my time and for the sake of learning and maybe teaching something to someone.

Like you I’m not sure what the next lines will unravel, I just have a weight on my chest that needs to be let go.

On this day of December the 25th, only few more days before 2022 comes to an end. I sit at my own home realizing I’ve never known what feeling safe truly meant my whole life.

Like a couple years ago when I experienced my first ever anxiety free moments to understand that I’ve lead my whole life with crippling anxiety. Suddenly it dawned on me how unfair it was to carry through everyone’s expectations with heavy shackles around my ankles that no one else could see.

Between my 4th and my 10th birthday I was sexually assaulted several times by different people, related and unrelated, neighbours, strangers…

The most traumatizing assault gave me night terrors and nightmares for years. I couldn’t speak of it though. I didn’t know how, I wasn’t sure if I could. The subliminal teaching that I received was that good respectful girls don’t have those things happen to them. So I started covering up, long skirts and dresses, wide pants, baggy sweaters and shirts. Everyone thought it was virtue and faith. I was just deathly afraid and ashamed and trying my hardest to disappear.

All of my childhood I loathed men, deeply ans strongly.

Men that hurt me, men that failed me, men that didn’t protect me, men that enabled other men by looking away. I viewed all men as irredeemable flesh thirsty monsters. If it weren’t for a couple exceptions I don’t think I could’ve broken free of that hatred.

A couple exceptions were enough to provide a way for the light of critical thinking to come in and slowly over the years make space for more people to be exceptions too, until I found a balance.

I also loathed the women who complemented my looks, who said I looked pretty. I remember the long moments in front of the mirror repeating the word (pretty) in my head in a disgusted tone while wishing I could find the courage to take a razor to my face and undo all of that “prettiness” that brought me so much pain and suffering.

Until the last year of my middle school, I couldn’t talk to boys. I don’t mean I didn’t want to, or avoided to. I physically couldn’t. I’d start shaking uncontrollably, stuttering, sweating profusely and my face would become so red it made everyone uncomfortable. It didn’t take long before boys realized (consciously or unconsciously) I was unapproachable.

By the end of middle school I resigned myself to breaking the barrier between me and the opposite sexe. Three years later, I graduate high school capable of holding a conversation with someone I didn’t share a class with.

[One year after that I get married; what could possibly go wrong?]

I wished to have been a boy, I felt more comfortable in boys clothes, I hated most “girly” things. I went as far as internalizing a lot of misogyny to top it all off. Misogyny that’ll stare me down through my daughters eyes years later.

Needless to say I never had a boyfriend. I believed it was out of chastity at the time, but who knows? Although I didn’t hate all men anymore, I was the furthest possible from trusting them. But I had found a group of people whom I felt safe with. I thought the happy days and memories were enough to undo the damage sustained in childhood.

But words and innocent jabs were enough to peel the fun wallpaper off for my dark past to peek through. One of such comments was when a guy friend said jokingly : “did you know you walked like a guy?”

The question left me stunned and in a daze. I in fact knew. I had in fact practiced it to seem remotely threatening to boys, I have practiced my stare, I have practiced my frown, I have in fact mastered any expression that might just give men a second thought about getting close. And clearly I have succeeded, I couldn’t remember how to not walk like that anymore. I have lost me in the thousands of tweaks to who I am in order to feel safe.

I’ve felt self conscious about my walk for the following decade.

Another guy friend surprised me by his response to my fore mentioned inability to talk to a male human being. His response was : “where have you been this whole time?” Meaning that’s what he looked for in an ideal partner. This guy had no reservations about approaching romantically as many girls as he could and pushing the boundaries with them as far as he could get away with. Again, I was left without words as I reflect on how my response to trauma looked like a blessing to his eyes.

There is no amount of words that can describe the pain of being destroyed before even knowing who I were meant to be. Walking through life, trying to match pace with everyone else while suffering silently from shattered bones.

Being criticized for loving anime and children stories for far too long, while I was only clinging to a childhood I’ve been robbed of far too soon.

Being called too sensitive, when every little injury made me howl because it crossed a deep wound no one else could see.

I’m still too sensitive because I’m trying to tune to other’s pain so that no matter how well they hide it I can’t miss it, like mine have been.

This post has gotten too long, and a bit out of hand. Maybe there’ll be a part two, maybe not. Thanks for reading this far.

If you’re wondering what the take away is I suggest:

Be kind.

You don’t know what someone’s smile is made of, nor his anger. We all have our battles and we meet at different points, could be during the fight, or during times of peace. Don’t start fights and preserve your peace and light, we need it.

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