Trigger Warning: details regarding sexual violence and suicide
There are many reasons I chose to share this story as my first blog post. And also many reasons why I am scared to. I have debated in my mind since establishing this website exactly what approach to take with what led me to yoga. And over and over again I keep coming back to the truth. Share it. It needs to be known. Yoga is a practice in which the user finds relaxation, focus, concentration, decreased stress levels, and increased health. But what the books don’t always talk about is the stuff that comes to the emotional surface. The realness. The ugliness. The stuff that either gets repressed or dealt with. Many of you know that bad things happen in the world and it is usually easier to watch those things happen to someone else rather than yourself. “Yourself” is always the hardest thing to look at. But here I am and here you are. We have survived this long on earth by the choices we have made thus far. And here I am making another choice of survival. Sharing my story in my sincerest hope that someone else will not be afraid to share theirs. I promise it has a happy ending.
At the age of 15, the adventures of high school began. My friends and I had officially made it! Now granted, we lived in small-town Kentucky so we already knew the people in the school and every single teacher and whether or not to cross them. But something about that first day of Freshmen year was like a rite of passage. In my mind, I was no longer a kid. My maturity level had just gone up 3 notches (in my sweet naive mind). I don’t think we were even a month into school when the boys started eyeing the newbies. And of course what Freshmen girl did not receive instant cool status with senior boys talking to them in the hallways between classes? It’s just how things were, right!? I’ll spare you all the details but fast forward into the middle of that year and I entered a relationship with a boy. Here’s where this blog gets tricky. I am going to leave out his real name because, for all practical purposes, I do not know if this particular person has since moved on to become a different soul and made new relationships that I could possibly ruin by being so outright with the events that I went through because of him. And anyway, this is my story and belongs to only me.
I believe this relationship started off innocent enough. Watching movies together, hanging out until my curfew, you know, teenager stuff. But even looking back now I cannot remember (maybe because I have still yet to untangle some of the repress memories) where exactly it went wrong. So some of the details in this narrative might get a little spotty. I do remember it started with the breakups and getting back togethers via text or phone call to come over when I eventually got my driver’s license. Going into my sophomore year of high school I began to lose focus. I didn’t have a name for it then but now I call it stress. I was stressed not knowing if I was going to get in trouble by him for helping other boys in my journalism class film a story. Or if he was going to need a ride somewhere after school when I needed to get my homework done or study for a test. Everything was getting confusing and unpredictable. Rumors started circulating in school and my friends would come up to me on a daily basis asking if he was doing pills or getting drunk all the time. I honestly didn’t know the answers because I was only catching the parts of the conversations he chose to have with me, which were usually sentences like “come over” or “can you take me to *insert random person’s address*” I chose to ignore the pill and alcohol questions and try to maintain a normal teenage agenda outside of the presence I sometimes shared with him. I rode in my friend’s convertible with the top down, I went parties, I laid out at the pool with friends in the summer. I really can say I have some great teenage memories that I can hold onto to forever.
But there was always a sunken place that I went to in these 4 years between 15 and 19 years old. And I got good at hiding the darkness that was following me. What began as an innocent relationship started to turn into control and possession. My opinion on anything was no longer needed. All that was needed was my physical body to lay claim to. He began marking what was his as bite marks on my arms and legs. This usually occurred during intimacy. During sex, or simply lying together on the couch watching a movie. I learned to tense up because I never knew when the next bite was coming. I hid the bites pretty well for the most part but there were some who saw. Because I was so good at putting on a smile and saying “ah its nothing” they thought I was ok, even I thought I was ok. I was becoming an expert at survival by tricking my mind into okay-ness.
But my mind would always come creeping back to me at night when I was back in my own bed after I got home way past curfew. The darkness around me when my dad thought I was asleep began to creep in. It was hard to toss and turn because the bruises were swollen and achy. But that voice would come to me. Many times it would talk about death. I began having conversations with death almost every night. Some nights death would say “I am the only thing that waits for you in this town if you stay.” Other nights it would welcome me like a friend. Someone who wanted to help me overcome an obstacle I was facing. Yes, this is the part where I contemplated suicide. Of course, after thinking about it for a second I would always go back to the fact that I had a test the next week and killing myself was out of the question. On top of being too scared to inflict physical harm on me. But there was death, always offering me a way out. Yes, I had fallen into a deep depression. It surrounded me like a black fog. I could no longer see anything clearly.
This person’s actions had defeated me. It was a hatred not of me and my personality and all that I was. It was a hatred of my femininity. The very thing I was born into. The energy and power that I brought into this world without choice was the very thing that threatened another person’s place in the world.
The depression was set in me until I became numb. Then there was a climax to this whole narrative. I had gotten used to the “I am so sorry and I love you so much and I promise to change” that it was almost like a high I was chasing. I would deal with living in the “sunken place” for the few and far between moments that gave me hope. I think that’s why I stayed. Until one night when we were in my car and things turned into an intimate makeup session. Halfway through he became angry and I was in pain. It took me almost 10 years to realize that me saying “stop” and his response being “you better not cry” was rape. Even typing that word holds a power in me that needs to be released. That word was stored in my body as tension and stress since the night it happened.
Looking back to that night, something changed in me. Something began to shift. I started to develop a kind of willpower. This was the turning point when I started to realize that the anger he had put into me was what I was becoming. And I didn’t want to be that person. If I stayed I would live an angry, bitter life. I saw everyone around me living healthy and happy lives and I would scream at God, “why me!” I was even angry at God for His unanswered responses (which I can now see as an answer in and of itself.).
So I decided to leave. I knew I had to make sure he knew it was over. So I went and told him in person and I used the excuse of getting all my clothes that were left at his place. It was an ugly encounter. I stood up and said, “it’s over”. I was slammed against a wall. He ran to his roommate saying he was going to kill me. I believed it for a split second, grabbed my things, and ran to my car. He followed me. Grabbed me by the hair as I was sitting in the driver’s seat and proceeded to kick my steering wheel. I put the car in reverse so he was forced to let go and I left.
Of course, there was a good 2 month period afterward this occurrence that he tried to make it up to me through texts and voicemail but I think both him and I knew it was time to move on. It was toxic. We both survived.
Even though I had got out of a bad situation the depression still lived in my body. I was unhealthy, tired, and stressed as I moved out of my hometown and 60 miles away for college. I became destructive and alcohol was a friend. After a time, I think the universe decided I had made all the right choices up to that point and sent me a gift. The night I met Jeremy everything became calm. I had never met him, but somehow I knew him. He was so easy to talk to and I was desperate for a friend who knew nothing about me. He was my chance to start over.
I never knew exactly what I did to deserve Jeremy (we have been together for 7 years). Sometimes I look at my experiences and the obstacles I had to go through as a test I needed to pass to really and truly appreciate his sweet soul. He saw my walls and came crashing in and plowed them down. I remember our first year together was a rollercoaster ride of emotions. I was holding on to old relationship patterns. But his love was so much stronger than my habits. He was real. He is the realest thing I have ever known besides myself. He knocked down the surface but as I entered my twenties, and the reality of adulthood set in, something in me was missing. By this time we had moved 6 hours north to Columbus, Ohio. We were both searching for something that wasn’t offered where we lived in Kentucky. With our families’ blessings we took a leap of faith.
I was excited about my own little apartment in a new town with Jeremy. But soon I learned that everything was still the same. Sure, I was making money and somewhat securing my place as a bona fide grown-up but physically, mentally, and emotionally I was spent. I reached a place where my survival was no longer threatened. But the years of blame and self-loathing were taking a toll. The depression would still peak its head in every now and then and if I did not address it, it would come as aches and pains. Why was I still hurting? I took every step to get out of a bad situation only to enter a more internal crisis. The aches and pain took their toll when I developed sciatica and it affected every part of life. Work, home, driving, everything. I had such bad self-esteem issues that I knew if the doctor put me on steroids I would gain 10-15 pounds and that was an unbearable thought. That’s when I heard about yoga.
I cured my sciatica after 3 months of watching the same Denise Austin video on YouTube. I was probably doing it wrong but something called me to know more about this yoga stuff. Again, something was shifting. It was time for me to stop looking to the men in my life to rescue me. I needed to rescue myself. The only thing I had ever been able to be truly authentic with was that little YouTube video on yoga. And I desperately needed to know more. So, I worked up the courage and stepped into a studio for the first time. The rest is where I am today and everything that I have learned in between. And trust me, those are for other blogs all on their own.
I told you this had a happy ending. Many paths led me here but had it not been for my trauma and the fact that I know so many people are in pain in the world is what drives me to take a bad situation and use it for good. Part of what yoga teaches us is to share the narrative but do not become attached to it. It is my sincerest hope that by sharing my story, along with so many others in the Me-Too movement that I can be part of a societal shift. Here’s to making the world a better place!