This is my story—the raw, rough, unedited version. I have never been able to sit down and piece it all together, nor have I ever successfully connected the words and events into a steady rhythm. There is still some shame that sits with me because some days I’m afraid that who I’ve been will affect who I’ve become or who I may become to you. But I must own it; my story is significant, as is yours. My life has been filled with moments of despair and utter loneliness, but it has also been filled with this deep hope that never completely dissipates.
It all goes back to that night in high school, that night from which I remember each and every detail. That night he raped me—a guy I thought I loved, someone I trusted. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I felt a weight (that I still sometimes feel) trying to pull me under. For two years, I didn’t tell a soul. I felt used, confused, and I ultimately believed it was my fault. I took it out on myself. I began running to guys for attention, seeking a false feeling of being wanted. Getting attention was easy, so I hid my pain in a series of flings, one after another, dowsed with alcohol and pain.
The following two years at college were some of the hardest years of my life. I struggled with depression more than I ever had, I began self-injuring more and more, I couldn’t feel anything. There was no happiness and no sadness; I was just alive … somehow. I was breaking, and no one knew.
I was nearing the end of my spring semester during my second year of college when, one night, I just didn’t want to keep going. I had forgotten what joy felt like. I didn’t feel alive anymore—so I didn’t want to live anymore.
To this day, I can’t even explain what it was exactly that stopped me. My heart started racing, my body gasped for breath, air began to fill my lungs again. I felt like I heard a voice, like somehow in that moment God reached out to me and called my heart back to life.
Over the next few weeks, I knew I needed to tell someone and finally find healing. Sharing your darkness is one of the hardest and scariest things to do, and fear can keep us from change. Sitting in your suffering is easy; it requires no effort. Change is hard, even excruciating—but you have to believe that in the end it will be worth it. So I decided to fight. I decided to enter a rehab program that summer, and I found more freedom than I had in my entire life. It was one of the hardest months, full of tears, hurt, and anger. But what got me through was that I wasn’t alone. Those people felt pain also and were desperate to find healing. Maybe that pain looks different in your life, but we have all felt it.
As the years have passed, I’ve learned to trust people again. It is still an incredible challenge for me, but I’ve finally been able to develop meaningful relationships. Life is about fighting through the pain and overcoming together. It is never going to be perfect, but I do believe it is going to be beautiful.
Throughout all of the hurt in my life, I have remained hopeful. I love people’s stories, I love to learn what it is that makes a person feel alive, and I desire to encourage others into hope and freedom. In the fall of 2012, I had the opportunity to intern with To Write Love on Her Arms, and it gave me the courage to acknowledge my own story and know that what I went through does not define me. TWLOHA will always be such a big part of my life, and it fueled my great desire to let others know that they are not alone. I’ll remind you again of that truth: You are not alone.
I still face bouts of depression and anxiety. I still work through days when I feel unlovable. I still struggle and wrestle with God regarding why we have to lose the people we love, why certain things don’t work out, why people have to go through such awful tragedies. Even last December, my cousin passed away at only 25 years old. I don’t understand why life is so hard, and I don’t know if I ever will—but I think it makes hope possible. I believe that when there is pain, hope will follow. It may follow months or even years later, but I believe it comes.
It’s up to us whether we are going to sit in our pain and let it engulf us, or if we are going to push against the current, out into new waters. I’m deciding to fight the current. By no means is it easy, but by all means it will be worth it.
Carolyn shares more of her story, as well as the stories of others, at Hold Fast in the Night.