We meet a great deal of inspirational people through this job, working for Instinct Magazine. Some of these inspirational stories are very open as the people are themselves very public, political, social figures and their strength is out there for all to see. Others have inspired us by what they have personally gone through, the struggles, demons, challenges, and life events that have surpassed to become who they are. Some still struggle and and continuing to grow and heal.
Below is one of those healing stories we would like to share with you. It may resonate personally with you or it may be something you can take with you and assist a loved one with if they find themselves dealing with what this young man has had the courage to share with us in his own words.
At 22 years old, I was raped.
It feels so good to write that down. I don’t feel liberated, I don’t feel happy that I have to write that, but I feel proud. I’m so proud that I can finally come to terms with what happened to me.
I understand I am one of the very lucky few. The abuse I was subjected to didn’t affect me sexually or socially. The scars were emotional. It’s taken me three years to build up trust and meaningful relationships with men, but I made it. However, this isn’t about my struggle, this piece is about overcoming my trauma. This is how I healed.
Initially, I pushed the bad feeling away. Immediately after the act happened, the murmurings of “I said no” and “that shouldn’t have happened” were locked away in my mind. The last thing I wanted to do was out this person, and it’s something that I will never do. A few months after the incident, however, I found myself in bed with another potential sexual partner. It was at this moment that I froze. I ceased up, I asked them to leave. I sobbed afterwards. It was as though the feelings about my abuse had been unlocked, and it triggered something in me. I was a mess, and I would continue to be a mess for years afterwards.
What I found to be the hardest thing to overcome was the isolation. I didn’t know anybody who had been in the same position as me, and I didn’t want to let them know how I was feeling. I was ashamed, as though this was something I had brought on myself, which isn’t the case. I knew that at the time, but my head and my feelings weren’t connecting. My brain was telling me to talk about it, my heart was telling me that this was my fault.
You may be reading this having gone through a similar situation as I did, and you may be relating to what I am writing. Please, even if it seems like the hardest thing on earth, talk about it. This is how I started to heal.
The Samaritans are a charity who are dedicated to offering emotional support to anybody who needs it. They’re there to listen to you and let you project your feelings onto them. They have my utmost respect for doing what they do and choosing to carry the weight of someone else's burden on their shoulders for however long they need to talk. They were my first point of contact. I spoke to the Samaritans before telling my friends. As I stated earlier, the shame was too great, and the fear of judgment was consuming me. As soon as someone said ‘hello’ on the other end of the line, I broke down. This was a year after my abuse, so the anxiety and the stigma in my mind had built up greatly at this point.
Imagine blowing up a balloon, the rubber skin slowly starts to expand and tighten, you’re aware when it’s taken enough air and you stop. I was never given that release, the doubt was continuously filling me, and my first call with the Samaritans was the pin I needed. I spent hours on the phone with this stranger going over the past year of my life, and when I hung up the phone, I finally breathed easy.
The next step for me was to talk to my friends. This still didn’t happen immediately, it’s not something I wanted to interrupt the group chat with. I don’t recall when or how I told my friends, but I do remember the love and support I received immediately afterwards. I was assured I always had someone to talk to, and I felt my fortifications growing stronger. My safety net was getting bigger with each day, but the battle was still far from over.
In January 2018, I was prescribed antidepressants. I felt my life was done. This wasn’t specifically due to the rape, but it was a huge factor in the darkness I was facing. Suicide attempts were cries for help that were foiled by the Samaritans, not something I have ever disclosed to my support system, and hurtful activities were confined to my apartment.
One day, in what I thought was a moment of weakness (that turned out to be a huge moment of strength), I wandered into a book shop and found myself in the self-help section. I picked up a book I had always heard about but never read, ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne; a book that teaches you to switch and feelings of negativity into positivity. I would never have practiced this if I was in any other state of mind than I was that day, and it changed my life, it’s what caused me to seek professional help.
Immediately I took on the mantra of positive thinking. I started to mediate as the book suggested, I looked at every negative in my life and saw it as a positive, as a learning experience, but the one burden I couldn’t view as positive was my abuse. I reiterate that I didn’t feel I deserved what happened. It wasn’t something I brought on, and never accepted. With the newfound power I had, I went to my local sexual health clinic, and they turned me onto a counselor.
Let me state now, counseling is the best thing I have ever done. Counseling saved my life.
The first session with my counselor was nerve wracking. Sure, I could speak about my sexual abuse over the phone, but face to face? This wasn’t something I had ever done and had no intention of doing.
My counselor, Lee, took me back to 2015, to the day the incident took place, and worked with me from there. Throughout the sessions, we spoke about the years afterwards. No topic was off limits, no question went unanswered. Session after session, I felt myself clawing out of the darkness that had consumed my life for three years. I started to feel like the happy go lucky, slightly naïve, very loyal man I was. The skeptical, anxious husk that I had become was disappearing, and it was still a person I wanted to hold onto. He helped me shut out all pain. He numbed any discomfort I should have embraced, and he was my biggest wall against any man who tried to get to know me. I was reluctant to let him break but break he did.
In 2018, I met who I now consider to me my best friends. After I had taken myself off antidepressants, joined a gym and had counseling under my belt, speaking about my abuse was a sign of dominance. And I let them all know early on that this was part of my life, and they have always acknowledged and respected who I am and who I was. The benefit of counseling is that you come out of it a warrior. You feel as though you’ve won a war that was being fought in your own head, and you’ve conquered your demons, and they are mere memories.
The last step of my recovery is this, talking openly about it, and making my struggle public. I find writing lyrics to be therapeutic, and music to me is my autobiography. Each song I have written is a chapter in my life. Today’s chapter is called ‘What’d You Do to Me?’ It’s everything I wish I had said to my abuser, and its symbolic that I am in a place in my life where I can channel my previous pain into something beautiful, something that I consider art.
If my lyrics or even my story has prompted you to seek help, and talk to somebody, then sharing my story has been worth it. I understand you may feel like you don’t have anywhere to turn, but trust me, there is always somebody who is here to listen.