The Other Side of Recovery

light into darkness

When I shared my commentary about Kesha’s struggle to break free of her contract and desire to be free of her alleged abuser, a friend of mine reminded me that I had to include compassion towards those who have been raped and sexually assaulted. So this follow-up post isn’t just a letter to Kesha, but to all victims of rape, assault, and abusive relationships (physical, verbal, psychological, sexual, etc.).

My dearest sisters and brothers,

If you’re reading this, you probably feel broken. The world is not the same anymore. There were times that you felt like your mind and your body were not your own. You want to blame yourself for what happened. Why didn’t you see the red flags? Why are people blaming your behaviors? For a time, you were completely helpless. You probably still feel helpless right now.

You are not alone.

Just because there is a lack of evidence of this trauma does not negate the fact that this happened to you. The pain will not go away overnight. It’s a process, but believe me when I say that you will find your way out of the dark.

What’s most important right now is protecting yourself and finding a way to let this traumatic experience make you into a stronger person. It’s so easy to cut yourself off from the world, to build a giant wall around your heart and not let anyone in. But the first step to recovery is to find people who will support you. Reach out to a friend who will listen. Go to counseling or some kind of support group. It’s important to have a sense of community because pain and misery grow from constant isolation.

Once you’ve regained some strength from your support community, pay it forward and start helping your local community through volunteer work. Reach out to the less fortunate, offer to tutor your neighbor’s kids, or work for a blood drive. If you feel strong enough to help others who were in your situation, start training to work those crisis hotlines. Through serving others, you’ll find that you get a better sense of self and a sense of purpose as well.

The hardest part of recovering, I think, is finding a way to let go of the past. While there is a time and a place for catharsis, the feeling can only carry you so far. This is probably gonna sound impossible. Unimaginable even. But at some point, you need to forgive the person who has hurt you. I’m not asking to forget that it ever happened. I’m not asking for you to try and make amends with them. I’m not even asking you to contact that person again.

Forgiveness means letting go of all the anger and hurt. It means no longer plotting revenge or wishing that the worst will happen to the people who’ve hurt you. And yes, it’s really, really, really hard.

But here’s something I learned. The people who’ve hurt me in the past were all broken in some way. They suffered a traumatic childhood or had their own set of problems that I had no idea about, or grew up without any sense of direction in their lives at all. The people who have broken you have been broken themselves. And instead of choosing to try and get past all the hurt, they instead chose to hurt someone else. Misery loves company, after all. And misery may be all that they know.

So when I ask you to forgive the person who has hurt you, I am asking that you hope that the also find their way out of the dark. That they are no longer broken or defined by their circumstances. They may all seem like monsters right now, but there is still humanity within them, just as there is humanity within all of us. Let go of your resentment and anger and one day, you’ll find that the pain will soften to the point of being nonexistent.

The emotional growth you will receive will come when you least expect it. And trust me when I say you will not see it coming. Something good always comes out of something bad. Just know that you are already finding your way out of the dark. You are not alone.

 

Lent Day 3: Broken, Refined, Polished, Restored

Fr. Robert Barron’s Lent Reflection today compared humanity as diamonds covered in the muck of sin. This reminds me of a verse from Malachi 3:3

He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness.

Life is never an easy road. There are times that break us, times that test us, and times that heal us.

Today, I will post about a time that broke me.

This post is gonna get personal, so bear with me. I posted something about this in my first blog entry, but tonight, I’m gonna tell you about what happened in detail.

WARNING: If you have any emotional triggers tied to emotional abuse or manipulative and toxic friendships, please skip  to the end of the post which will have a cute picture of where I ate lunch today.

Back when I was in college, I had a friend whom I will call Narcissus Vanitas or NV for short. NV was the complete opposite of me, but he (using “he” as a gender-neutral pronoun) was there for me during a time that I really needed a friend. During my last two years of college, NV became my best friend and I helped him out during his own hard times.

However, last year things took a dark turn. Without even noticing, NV became codependent. He called me a lot, but I just thought it was just because we were helping each other with our writing. My subconscious started noticing that things were off, though, because whenever I wrote poetry, I wrote about having to leave a friend or feeling like I was being stabbed in the back.

It turned out that my intuition was right. NV wanted me for himself in the worst way. His constant calls were a way of isolating me from my family. He wanted me to change my name and all of my e-mails and cut myself off from my friends. Things went too far on March 7th, 2013 when he told me that he wanted to take my innocence. I was caught in the illusion, but my family staged an intervention and took my phone away before things could get worse.

At first, I was seriously defensive of NV until my parents gave me some perspective about the situation. I called NV for the last time that night, trying my best to try and cut things off without making it seem like my parents were making me say what I needed to say. But in the end, silence was the best answer I had to give him.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go through with cutting myself off from my now former best friend. But when I went to sleep that night, I dreamt of something. I saw myself at the cross, trying to hold onto it. Then NV appeared from out of nowhere and dragged me away from the cross. I kicked and screamed, telling him to let me go.

Ultimately, it was that dream that made me realize that my friend was leading me away from God, trying to hide it under the illusion of this whole “us against the world” complex that NV had.

At that point, I was broken. (Listen to Matt Maher’s “Empty and Beautiful” and you pretty much got how I felt during this time.) It took months for me to get myself together. I found new friends in places I never knew, found a strong support system through my family, and now, a year later, I can say that I have been restored.

As for what I wish I could’ve told NV, to quote my favorite character from Once Upon a Time…

YOU DON’T GET TO DECIDE WHAT I DO OR HOW I FEEL, I DO!

Also Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” because NV hates Taylor Swift. Yes, I’m immature.

Have a drink from In-N-Out, where I ate today. On me.

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