I am the storm

by 'Kate'

Editors note: 

In this story we witness the relationship the writer has with her body go from one of being 'take what you can get' to something that is lived in fully, loved, respected, and appreciated. It's both relatable and inspirational. Content warning: non-graphic reference to emotional and sexual abuse

Thanks 'Kate' for sharing this with us!

"This is the story of how I am learning to love myself and my body again"

My relationship with my body used to be “take what you can get.” I’ve had body dysmorphia since elementary school and grew up feeling like whatever attention I could get I should just say thank you and be grateful that anyone wanted me anyway. This is probably the reason I didn’t realize I had been assaulted sooner. First it was a friend in highschool not taking no for an answer in his car (thankfully that time a friend checked on me at the right moment). Then it was a man in his mid twenties waking me up to unwanted touching/penetration at a party. Older men touching me at raves without asking and all of this made me feel gross and weird but I never really called it for what it was. Then I fell in love and I was sure he was it and none of what happened to me before mattered because it was over now and I had met my person.

I was 17, almost 18 and he was 25. He made me feel mature, smart, and beautiful. Things no one had ever made me feel before. We got a place together 6 months into our relationship and then things started to get bad about 9 months in. He would scream at me for hours, threaten to smash my face through our coffee table. I was terrified to make him angry but more than that I was terrified that I was once again going to lose someone I loved. Then he proposed and a bit before our one year anniversary we were engaged. 5 Days after that anniversary was the first time he raped me. It would not be the last.

For years after I called it (in my head) the “time I was forced into a threesome I didn’t want to be in” but I was under the impression that it wasn’t rape. That it didn’t count because I had eventually said yes. I may have been crying in a ball on the floor, I may have said no 30 plus times before but in my head one yes was still a yes. I was wrong and maybe lying to myself so I wouldn’t feel so bad about staying.

He got worse over the years and I excused it because he is an addict and he was drunk. He didn’t rape me again unil the last two years of our relationship. Sex became something I did without complaint, to survive, to get through the day, because I could maybe avoid it for a little but eventually I would have to because he had made it clear I would be emotionally punished if i didn’t. Every time I didn’t want to, every time I did unhealthy things to my body for reasons too sad to explain to keep him happy. Every time I waited for it to be over and cried in the bathroom. For years, repeatedly.

"Then after 6.5 years of abuse I got out.... I learned to value myself, and my body, and my heart"

Then after 6.5 years of abuse I got out. I got out by giving myself no way to go back. I got out because I was lucky, because I have the most amazing friends. I got out because I learned to value myself, and my body, and my heart. I don’t even know if I can tell you when but one day I realized I had stopped taking his shit. I looked him in the eyes one day and I said “You raped me” he mocked me but didn’t deny it and that fueled me. I was still sad but mostly I was angry and I gave myself permission to be angry. He thought he had broken me but in reality I had become so strong just by living through him. I saved that anger and drive, and used it to get safe.

I wish I could say it was all perfect when I got out but I was a mess. I was taken advantage of again by a friend I let live with me after my ex moved out and that betrayal is something I’m working on in therapy. I slipped back into self harm, I was hospitalized but it did get better. So much better.

It's a process, one thing I’ve learned about being a survivor in many ways, many times over, is that I survive. Through all of this I have found my passion for helping others the way they have helped me. I have gone to groups and made lifelong friends with other survivors. I have people in my life who see me as I see them. I see myself too now. I see my body as the shell that holds my soul and I love it for that. Things aren’t perfect but I have the tools to heal. I’m taking meds and seeing professionals and doing a lot of trauma work but I look in the mirror now and I don’t see my body as something for others to use. Something to maintain for other people. It’s for me. Now I dress for me, I live for me, I focus on myself and my friends. I don’t feel the need to be with anyone. I don’t feel unable or timid, I feel like the wind before a storm. I feel like creating change. I feel like being loud instead of quiet. I feel like I am powerful and wonderful and worthy and those are things no one can take from me, ever again.

"I feel like the wind before a storm... I feel like I am powerful and wonderful and worthy"

I’ve never felt so content being independent. I’m on a journey to make myself safe. I volunteer to help run a kids group at a Domestic Violence shelter and in that I found my passion. I found what I want to do for the rest of my life. I started writing, singing, and making music again. Life is hard sometimes, sometimes so hard I forget it was ever okay. But it’s also so good now that sometimes I almost forget it was ever that bad. I wouldn’t take my experiences back if I could. I am who I am today because of my trauma, my battles with mental health. It fuels my empathy and understanding. I am a survivor, it’s not all that I am but it's a part of me and when I think back on those years I feel STRONG.

"I've never felt so content being independent... I am a survivor"

This story has been shared as part of our virtual  'Strides For Survivors 5k' (registration open till 4/30/21)and sexual assault awareness month.

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