Have you ever had a gun held to your head? Ice-cold metal, hardly an inch in diameter at contact, pressed to your temple? This experience I have had twice. Once from another, once from myself.
Let me explain. When I was fifteen-years-old, I was sexually assaulted near a movie theater right after Christmas. A man approached me, started talking, and I didn’t think anything of it until he pulled me to the side and ruined all the naive trust I had of the world around me. What felt like hours was only a few minutes, according to the police officer I described this to years later who, mind you, didn’t believe me. The man held a gun to my head and told me if I scream, he would pull the trigger.
I didn’t know if the gun was loaded or not. I didn’t care, I was paralyzed in fear.
He pulled down my jeans, tore apart my body, and thanked me afterwards.
I stayed on the ground trying to comprehend, then cleaned myself off, pulled myself together, and didn’t tell anyone for a year. These are all the details I can remember.
A month later, I got into an abusive relationship. Let me tell you, I became a professional bruise cover-upper. Make-up became my best friend. Bruises on my throat, eyes, and wherever else were quickly iced and covered up with apologies and CoverGirl. He would get angry about the most random things, only to grab my face to first threaten me and then punish my cheek against his fist moments later. Along with his fists, he treated me just as the man before did. It’s hard for me to consider his actions rape because I was in a relationship, but the pain and violation were all the same. Sex became punishment.
Physical abuse I began to accept, but what truly destroyed me was the verbal abuse. I was broken and had come to him for support. His support began with roses and adoration, but quickly turned to vicious name calling and demeaning sentences. You can only be told you are nothing without a person, be told you are a disgusting whore, a waste of time, and a vile, useless xyz until you start to believe it. Nonetheless, he would apologize profusely after and for six months convinced me to stay.
Why did I stay with him? People always ask me that question. Because it became normal for me. I convinced myself that this is what all relationships were like behind the scenes. The names he called me, the lies he said to me, the bloody noses he gave me.. All part of true love, right? Because apologies and tenderness came after.
I don’t know what finally snapped in me that made me leave him. But it was hard. Part of me didn’t want to, but the other was starting to realize this wasn’t correct. All those romance novels I read had nothing like this in them, none of my friends had bruises.
Again, I didn’t tell anyone for a year.
When I finally spoke, it was to the school counselor who legally needed to tell the police, who then told my parents. In my mind, shit hit the fan. But years later, I’m thankful it did.
I remember a friend of mine used to self-harm when I was younger and it didn’t make any sense to me, but as soon as I experienced this trauma, it made a world of sense. I first used a broken piece of glass before moving to scissors. To explain this to someone who has never experienced the need to self-harm is difficult. I was so numb, full of so much anger and fear and pressure that this reminded me I was alive, let me control something, gave me relief, and punished myself at the same time. There are still moments, years later, where it is tempting. I’ve been bullied, assaulted, ill, and nearly destroyed, but here I am. I have scars to show for it, but regret nothing.
I remember one time going into my shower and laying on the ground, clawing at my body and wailing, apologizing to whatever could hear me for all the ‘mistakes’ I had made. I was begging for relief.
I began contemplating suicide shortly after the first assault, but nothing truly advanced until after the relationship ended. The first time I tried was simply a call for help; I wrapped a belt around my neck and pulled it ’til I became light-headed and could only hear my heartbeat. It was peaceful. The second time, considering I was on a cocktail of medicine for my migraines that I had since elementary school (which frequently pulled me out of school due to blinding pain), I used whatever pharmaceuticals I could find and tossed them down. Besides slurred speech and loss of memory, nothing happened. I was pissed. I was ready to go, and nothing was working. Finally, I found a gun. I was truly convinced that I was a waste of air and energy. I went into my backyard, held the metal to my skull, and pulled the trigger.
I sobbed, I screamed, I tore at my skin and couldn’t breath. How could I have failed three times?
I slowly started to assume that I wasn’t supposed to leave yet. And now, I am thankful that I am still here. Sore, scarred, and stressed, but alive and in love.
Attempting or succeeding in suicide is not selfish, just as moving forward is both beautiful and a true challenge.
In love with what you ask? The world around me. My family, the giggle of itty-bitties, the way pouring rain feels against your skin in San Francisco outside of your hotel room, snowshoeing to feed Chickadees, the glorious hills in Ireland, fireworks in Washington D.C., how great my truck looks covered in mud, dawn patrol, Boston’s architecture, a solid stout and cheesy pizza, mountains, the way animals look at us, how a ’70 Chevelle sounds, history, tea, and music, and absolutely fuckin’ everything.
Why? Because I focused on the little things. The big picture was too hard for me, so I began to adore the way snow melts when you rest your hand against it, how it feels to wake up in a room full of people you love after a night of poison and laughter, how piano keys make more sense to me than calculus ever will because I’ve known ebony and ivory since I was four, how children who have experienced hell at the age I began piano can still play Legos with me for two hours. And so on. I could write novels on the little things.
This blog has been created to talk about trauma. To show what those around you have experienced. It is a safe place and always will be. These passages will be tough to read, but enlightening nonetheless. Experiencing trauma and working with trauma has actually restored my faith in the world because every one of us is so resilient, no matter how we end up. So it goes.