This piece talks about suicide, domestic violence, trauma, and sexual abuse. Please use your discretion.
Most of my childhood memories are distressed.
At school, I would often get into trouble because I’d swear at other kids for no reason in kindergarten—it was common to hear my parents swearing at each other. Initially, I was that outspoken kid that would talk back and get punished. A few years later, I became that quiet kid that internalized everything because speaking up and talking back would mean that I was disowned. I remember detectives pulling me out of class in 7th grade and being told by my parents to make sure I was telling the officers a story that was an accident and not the truth. The battle was always this: Do I speak out when I see injustice? Or do I keep quiet and keep the peace for everyone else’s sake?
At home, I remember my parents fighting constantly—verbally and physically. I grew up with my parents always yelling at each other, at me, and at my sister for the smallest things. I grew up seeing my mom suffer so much physical abuse—seeing her on the floor with a knife to her chest, coming home from school, and seeing her with a black eye, the list goes on. I remember being told extreme, dramatic apologies that made me believe that’s what apologies should be like. I remember being scolded and hit when I did choose to speak up. One of the more frequent comments I can recall was “I hope you get struck by lightning” and then being kicked out of the house for the night to sit on the front porch in the dark.
As life went on, I had deeply ingrained beliefs in me that I never really questioned until my early 20s. I knew that there was something off and wrong, but I always felt disempowered to challenge them. I had beliefs like: There is nobody trustworthy in the world except your family. Everyone is out to get you and take advantage of you. All men are violent, manipulative, and aggressive.
These beliefs truly struck a chord in me. Why was it that every time I worked up the courage to share about what was going on with me, it didn’t really seem to make anything better—but just made matters actually worse? Because I embodied that way of thinking, I started to find myself in situations where all of those beliefs became true. I found myself in more troubling and traumatic situations—physical abuse, verbal abuse, and rape. I started to push away my loved ones completely. I remember vividly, on multiple occasions, going on night drives to plan my suicide. I would set a date on the calendar, replay the scenario over in my head, and then actually attempt it—I had many failed attempts over the course of three years and once ended up in the hospital. It wasn’t until an abusive relationship ended so badly that I woke up feeling like there MUST be something life is trying to tell me if I keep waking up from this nightmare alive and not dead.
I pondered questions like: WTF am I doing with my life? Why do I actively push away my loved ones?
The truth is, after you have lived through repeated traumatic experiences, things considered ‘safe’ are exactly those traumatic experiences.
Anything that is positive, fun, or joyous becomes unfamiliar and even frightening because it would feel fake and undeserving. It might be hard to try and grasp what that even means, but until you have survived trauma, it’s difficult to understand what it’s like to always be in a constant fight or flight mode.
I was 21 years old when I decided that I wanted to live differently and truly show up for myself. Almost a year after my last relationship ended, I pushed through to graduate college and began my healing journey. I started to let my loved ones back in my life. I started to rebuild my life with this new sense of empowerment, trust, and confidence in myself—something that I had never really experienced before. I started to forgive people who hurt me, as well as the ones that I hurt. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t and isn’t all sunshine and rainbows—I still have days where I struggle and contemplate what it means to have joy in your life, but I’ve come to realize that life is worth living. Life can be beautiful—it can be graceful, innocent, and enjoyable. By choosing to live, I am choosing to try and be at peace with the messy and flawed parts of myself. By choosing to live, I hope that I can set an example for others that healing is already within your reach.
For those struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel, know that there are joyous days ahead. If you’re open and willing to believe it, you are already on your way to the start of a beautiful blossoming. The flame of a candle does not shine as bright as it does when there is also darkness.
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].