Please note: This blog post contains references to sexual abuse, eating disorders, and drugs and alcohol. We believe it is an important story of triumph, and one worth sharing but we do caution those who may be sensitive to these issues to consider carefully before reading on.
I was 8 years old. It was dark, and I was lying down, so I opened my eyes—and said nothing. It felt like I was dreaming, but I wasn’t. I knew what was happening was wrong. I knew this wasn’t supposed to happen to little girls. I knew it, I knew it—but I said nothing. I closed my eyes again, hoping that maybe it really was a dream.
It seems like my dream lasted for the next four years. Different places, different ways, different men.
Some dreams take parts of you. That’s what my dream was; it took up unnecessary space in my mind … so I let it go. Never again would I remember that dream. Never again would those places, and those faces, make me quiet, I told myself.
I was 14 years old when I was diagnosed with depression. I think the news shocked my parents more so than it did me. Not that I expected to be a depressed person, but I figured it was just another word in my life that had no impact.
Words can seem like that, just floating around, with no meaning whatsoever, until suddenly they become very real. Words like “depression,” “eating disorders,” “anxiety,” and “sexual abuse.” Those are the words I would hear and learn.
I was 15 years old when I was diagnosed with Bulimia Nervosa. Another word placed in my life, in the list of failures I had compiled. A list filled with words that never seemed to make sense. So what if I thought I was fat? So what if I didn’t keep my food down? So what if I skipped meals? So what if they say that sexual abuse and depression often go hand-in-hand? Why did these doctors and counselors need to keep adding words to my list? What was wrong with them? Could it be true? Could my life really be nothing more than an ever-growing list of words that were frowned upon?
I was 16 years old when I made my fourth suicide attempt … Why didn’t it work? Death seemed a better option than sleeping 18 hours a day. At this point, anything seemed a better option. I only had sex, drugs, and alcohol, so I took those for everything they had to offer. Suddenly, my life no longer felt like a dim crawl in the cold, but a non-stop party. However, like at all parties, eventually the lights come back on. Those words I’d ignored for so long suddenly became tangible again.
I was 20 years old when I had my daughter. I provided for her by working at night, dancing provocatively on strange men who never knew my name, just kept throwing money. I never knew that one could feel alive and dead at the same time. That word “depression,” that word “bulimia,” they were still there. This time I acknowledged that they were, and I was OK with it—as long as I could self-medicate with alcohol. That was what my life consisted of: getting drunk five days out of the week.
Week by week, day by day, I began to hate myself. Every part of my being disgusted me. No amount of alcohol was able to fill this gaping hole in my life. No amount of men. No amount of purging. No amount of life could permeate my mind the way my depression did. This was one hell of a journey, yet I couldn’t remember buying the ticket to ride it.
One night I went to a young women’s gathering. I was skeptical, to say the least. I only went because my mother kept insisting that by making “friends” I could be a bit happier. “What a bunch of nonsense,” I thought. Pissed: that was one word I was willing to bet on.
The night was nothing short of what I expected, everyone giggly and pretty and skinny. I was about to leave, as this was another night filled with words I didn’t care to hear about.
Then she spoke.
She brought up sexual abuse, and then depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. All those words I had told myself meant nothing to me, for so long. But I stayed that night, and I listened. The stories brought me to the realization that I, too, knew those words well. After all those years of masking their meaning, my soul suddenly erupted like a volcano of uncertainty.
When I was 8 years old. I stood there quietly, not daring to mutter a word.
When I was 20 years old, I stood there anxiously, waiting to pour out all the words I’d been scared of.
But after that night, I learned new words. Words like “community,” “honesty,” “understanding,” “healing,” “overcoming,” and “confession.” A new journey began.
People cared about what those words meant to me.
And I care about what your words mean to you.
Dictionaries define words, but we choose the words that define us. Our journey, hellish as it may be at times, evolves into new roads, new language. Don’t be afraid to speak up.