This piece discusses the topic of sexual assault. Please use your discretion.
I want to be honest with you. Life hasn’t been easy—the past few months, the last year, the year before that. For four years, I’ve been trying to get my life together. This is particularly hard when there was a moment where everything I believed in shattered. It was the moment I learned the truth about my past and finally got the right mental health diagnosis: complex PTSD caused by childhood sexual assault. The perpetrator was my brother.
I am still collecting the pieces of the life I thought I knew and trying to sort them. I am pretty sure there are parts that I will never find again. And some pieces I don’t want to add to the new picture of me, my person. It is hard to find words to describe the change my life underwent. Normal things became huge obstacles. There were trust issues and fear, disgust and broken family ties. There were panic attacks and a lot of crying but also a great numbness. Not knowing. Uncertainty.
The hardest part was starting again. Beginning to live again after hospitalization in the psychiatric ward. I didn’t know if I could start university. I didn’t know if I would find a therapist to help me navigate what seemed like a minefield. I didn’t know if I would talk to my parents again. I didn’t know much of anything.
But I did start somewhere. I had an apartment. I had friends who stayed by my side after learning about unspeakable things that happened in my past. I found consistent professional help and a therapist.
But that was just a beginning. It wasn’t a happy ending. Still isn’t.
After having contact with my parents, I had to stop again. Not because I don’t love them, but because they don’t really understand how much changed for me. They would like to have their daughter back. But I am never ever going to be that person again. And I won’t.
I fought hard to get to the point I am at right now. I am not sacrificing my progress. For anyone. Regardless of the love I have for them. It has more to do with the love I have for myself. It is my right to protect myself.
If there was a map explaining how to navigate life, I would take a long look and then hand it to you. But none of this is simple. A map for me might not make sense to you. The places I would love to go or need to go, aren’t the places you hope to or will visit. Life is tricky. It is complicated. And everyone has to figure it out for themselves. What they wish for, who they want to be, how they hope to spend their days.
Life also isn’t in black and white. I was convinced that was the truth for a long time. But it’s not. Life is not only good and bad. It is more of a kaleidoscope of, for lack of a better or different word, everything.
Sometimes I imagine life to be like a playlist of songs, but it’s on shuffle and you don’t know what song will come next. Maybe it’ll be a sad one or something upbeat asking us to dance. Regardless, I know that I love music. And just like music, I adore life—even if it hands me some pretty rough days.
In the past, there were days of deep depression and despair: not wanting to exist, not wanting to feel the pain, not wanting to feel anything. But I also got so many beautiful days, especially this year. Like the wedding of a best friend and welcoming her child into this world. Finishing my studies and gaining my first academic title. Celebrating my birthday. Meeting up with friends after a very long time.
If I had decided that life was too hard to go on, I would have missed these days.
And yet, there are days like today. My back hurts, I am exhausted, and panic radiates in my chest when I think about certain things—like my parents, my brother, December, Christmas.
There are things in my life that are not all right and maybe never will be. I try to accept that.
There are things “missing” from my life, but that doesn’t mean I have failed or am failing at life.
There are things I hope to have someday—a partner, a job in academia, maybe even a child of my own.
But not having these things right now doesn’t make my life empty.
On days when life feels hopeless, I want you to know that someone else has hope for us. On the days when I can’t see my path, my friends have hope for me. On the days you can’t see your path, I have hope for you.
Hope is a wondrous thing—and it doesn´t become less when it is shared. It becomes more—abundant even. So, if you need some hope, I hope you find it. In these words, in the company of friends, in a colorful sunrise or sunset.
And on the days that are particularly hard, remember: I have hope for you.
Someone Who Cares
You’re more than your pain, more than what happened. You are strong enough to heal from the heavy you carry. We encourage you to use TWLOHA’s FIND HELP Tool to locate professional help and to read more stories like this one here. If you reside outside of the US, please browse our growing International Resources database. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected for free, 24/7 to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor. If it’s encouragement or a listening ear that you need, email our team at [email protected].
As someone who had their innocence stolen from them before their first kiss by their “grandfather” I really appreciate your kind words and upbeat philosophy on life. We will come out stronger, maybe not today but we will. Take care my friend.
I’m 55 years old and I have experienced some ofvtge save stuff that you have .And so much more that I pray you will never see .I just want to say No matter what always honor your mother and father you will have a good future I believe this is a good rule to live by.Just a little good advise from a wise old lady .I pray for peace and favor over your life
Thank you for sharing and being open about your own experience. It is not easy to talk about topics that are considered “taboo”, so I applaud your strength. It took me some years to see things from a different perspective and recognise the beauty in the pain. And if not yet the beauty, then the possibility of change. This is my wish for you, dear friend. Even if not today, then in the foreseeable future.
I have hope for you. Take care!
Thank you for commenting and sharing a part of your story. It sounds like a lot you had to go through and I hope you found a way to live with the past. I am grateful for your words and I am taking them to heart. I wish you the best, dear wise lady.
Peace to you, too. Take care!
Thank you for your words even if the words together aren’t a nice story. I am proud of you that you could write them and show them to public.
Whereas you started your letter, “Dear friend, I want to be honest with you. Life hasn’t been easy—the past few months, the last year, the year before that.”, I directly thought of one of my ‘lost’ friends. Because of a PCS (permanent braininjury, gotten at the age of 21, Im almost 30), my whole life changed and I couldn’t adapt. After years of therapy I’ve learnt new boundaries and got a life with different rules. Life is totally different (among other things I’m hypersensitive to noises and lights) and some friends won’t/can’t adapt? understand? So yes, I do terrify december and Christmas too.
There is a lot in this letter I resonate with, unfortunately.
“It has more to do with the love I have for myself. It is my right to protect myself.”
Selflove hadn’t my top 1 priority (before PCS), now it does. Choices I make are based on this principle.
And sometimes, I don’t want to go back to the old version of me, even if it means I can do all the things I would love to do right now (celebrating birthdays, having lunch/dinner somewhere, going to a party/concert, playing a teamsport, vacation with friends, driving a car). Even if your life isn’t the one you have wanted for yourself, it doesnt mean that this one isn’t fun.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
sorry that my reply is late, but I definitely wanted to respond as you opened up so bravely.
There is so much in your message that resonates with me. Even if the reason why our life changed are different, I can relate to elements of your story. In your case, the restrictions seem to be more severe and I really marvel at your will of life and wish to continue. Your sentence “Even if your life isn´t the one you have wanted for yourself, it doesn´t mean that this one isn’t fun” moved me especially. I often feel a lot of heaviness due to my circumstances and your words encourage me to find more lightness and be brave in my decisions – to find joy in this version of life.
I am sorry that some friends won´t or can´t adapt to your reality of life. I hope that there are people present in your life that are able to do that or going to do that in the future. You wrote that you weren´t able to adapt after your permanent brain injury, but it seems that you did a very great job of accepting yourself. You really did a lot of work – with therapy and organising a life fitted for you.
I wish you all the best and wanted to let you know that your story moves me very much. Your comment made me feel seen and understood. It also inspires me that your choices are based on the love you have for yourself – and I am going to remind myself of this principle in the future.
Thank you for commenting on my piece of writing. It really means a lot, because the reason I am writing is that it is worth it, when one person can take something from it – feel seen, understood, nodding along while reading. You gave me so much back.
So, thank you, thank you, thank you.