WHEN FREEDOM CALLS
It was some time around the first week of January 2017 (I’m horrible with dates), when I decided to think about my mantra for the year. Every year I like to pick something I will focus on, 2016’s mantra was growth. Some years however, the mantra picks me. It didn’t take long before I knew what my focus for 2017 would be: healing. A few months before the end of 2016, I read a book that would change my life forever, “The Untethered Soul”. In the book, the author talks about dealing with pain and learning to let pain go, among many other things. I don’t usually like self-help books, but this one was different. The author goes about getting through pain and finding happiness in such a practical way, that I use the lessons I learned from that book every single day. While reading, I went through all my painful experiences and found joy in seeing how capable I was of letting them go, all but one. There was one painful experience that had affected me so deeply, no matter what I tried or how much time had passed, the tears flowed every time it came to mind.
When I was very young, from the ages of 3 to 6, I was sexually abused by someone I trusted. Being so young, I never realized the impact this would have on my life for years to come. All I knew was that I absolutely could not tell anyone. Who could I trust, when someone I trusted violated that pact in the most cruel way? I never spoke about it and eventually, I never thought about it either. As a person, I am what a lot of people would describe as “cool, calm and collected”. I’m pretty chill to the point that people wonder if I’m having fun or not. This was especially true at parties. You see, I love music and dancing and self expression, but there was always this concern in my mind that if I “let loose” or danced a certain way that I would be bringing too much attention to myself, specifically sexual attention. I was constantly worried that a man would find me sexually attractive because to me that meant that I had done something wrong. This worry would consume me so that instead of feeling free and body rolling to my favorite song, I would chill and smile on the sidelines watching everyone else enjoy so easily what I wish I could. This pained me in ways I could never really express to anyone because no one really understood what was so hard, “just get up and dance!”. But I could never disclose the real reason why I felt the way I did. “They’ll think it’s a cop out or a silly excuse”, “they will treat me differently and pity me”, all things I told myself to convince myself that my story wasn’t worth telling.
Things quickly began to change once I became sexually active. I began to notice how much easier it was for me to be sexually open with someone if I had no emotional/intimate connection. Once I built trust or intimacy however, sharing that moment became pretty difficult for me. Relationships became strained because of this and I began to question what was wrong with me yet never addressing the root cause. One day I decided to change this by taking a step I never had before, I decided to tell someone. The first person I told was my mom. Now, I have never been very close to my mom. I’m not one of those people who says “my mom is my best friend!” or anything near that. I always felt a huge disconnect between me and her. However, nothing could have prepared me for what happened after I shared this with her. We talked and cried and she then shared with me how she too was sexually abused at a young age by someone she trusted. For the first time ever, it felt like we understood each other. That disconnect became a lot smaller, and I found some peace in knowing that I really was not alone.
That was years ago, and since then I have taken many steps towards healing from this event in my life, however, there is still a lot of work to be done. When I read “The Untethered Soul”, I knew then what my mantra for 2017 had to be, I knew I had to take my healing seriously. I began to manifest healing in my life through one of the hardest ways of all: forgiveness. I went through every painful moment in my life and worked through it until I reached a point of forgiveness. This was not easy. We often underestimate the power in forgiveness. It feels unnatural, to pardon someone who did you wrong when they deserve punishment. We feel that when we forgive, we lose. We lose power and justice, maybe even pride. What we often forget is the most important thing we lose when we truly and sincerely forgive, and that is pain. Through forgiveness we decide that pain will not rule. I can’t pin point the day or time I forgave this person for what they did to me, but I remember how I felt: FREE. Again, this wasn’t easy. I fought myself a lot on this. “He doesn’t deserve it”, was my first and really only reason I needed to justify not forgiving this person. As I prayed/meditated on this, these words came to mind: “I deserve this”. I deserved to be free from the pain that was ruling my life for so long. What was I truly holding on to by not forgiving this person? What was I winning? My pride took a huge blow that day, but my heart gained so much more than I had ever lost.
A couple months back I was watching “The Keepers” on Netflix. Watching the victim of sexual abuse tell her story on the show so openly and vulnerably, deeply moved me. Hearing her speak on her healing process and all it took, made me feel a little closer to my own, which brings me to why I am here.
Sexual predators draw power through secrecy, making you feel like you can’t speak to anyone and that no one will understand. I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe that I read that book exactly when I needed to, watched that show exactly when I needed to, and (finally) wrote this post right when I needed to.
I wanted to share my story for every person out there whose voice has been silenced, who feels like no one will understand, or who thinks they can’t be that person they long so badly to be. I’m here to tell you you’re not alone and the journey isn’t easy, but we can get there together. I hope and pray that through me sharing my story, you too can find healing and the courage to fight through the pain. A few years ago, I never thought I would be sitting here typing this post sharing my story with a group of people. I’m still working on my healing process, but I am finally feeling like myself again. I don’t question my clothing options and whether or not it will attract the “wrong” attention. I don’t second guess myself before showing affection to those I love. I no longer cry and feel silenced when I speak about what happened to me. Most importantly (to me at least), I no longer stand on the sidelines while everyone dances to their favorite song. I let loose, I dance, and allow myself to be free.