First, I want to thank everyone who read my last blog. I got zero troll remarks, despite being my most read blog, and nothing but support and some people brave enough to share their own stories with me. It was such a positive outcome from something that took a lot of guts for me to share, that I could not start a new blog without saying Thank you!
For those wondering what is on the other side of sharing such a story and overcoming the emotional baggage that came with it, I’m figuring that out. I’m not the person I was before the rape and I’m not the person I was for the last 13 years, nor am I so completely different that I am unrecognizable to myself. I’m stronger and more resilient to adversity than I’ve been in the past, but I can still get knocked off my feet and sent into a depression given the right circumstances. However, I can get back on my feet faster and I know I can because I faced my rape and got through that, so what’s a little depression and anxiety going to do to me that I can’t overcome?
Keeping a positivity journal has helped too. When I recognize an accomplishment or a talent or even just positive things that are happening, I write it down in my journal. This journal is kept separately from my journal where I process my thoughts, good or bad, so that when I’m in a depression or anxiety funk, I can focus on the positives that I know I believed about myself when I was in a better place mentally.
I’ve also started taking Krav Maga, which is an intense Israeli form of self defense. I am gaining a lot from that class. Not just knowing how to defend myself, but the fitness benefit and the self-confidence from seeing my improvements as I work at it are amazing self-esteem boosters. I’ve even become a little bit of a work-out-a-holic which is very different from who I’ve been for the last 13 years and different from before the rape because my focus is on strength and fitness, not weight loss (though weight loss is a benefit I’m enjoying) meaning I’m measuring my success in how much more I can do physically, not by the numbers on the scale.
But I still enjoy some of the relaxations I always have. I can still binge-watch my favorite shows for a day (though, admittedly, now, I find myself needing to exercise while I watch for at least part of it), I still love to read (currently reading Paula Poundstone’s The Totally Unscientific Study of The Search for Human Happiness and I highly recommend it), I still love to paint (I just finished my second painting in the Pussies For Peace series- see below), and I still love to sing karaoke (though, I might need to find new songs as I don’t seem to have the intense anger/sadness emotions that used to fuel my singing and I’m happy about that). I still love to cuddle with my cats and work in my garden.
Some newer things that I find relaxing are fixing my bike and going for bike rides, and organizing. My whole apartment recently got organized to the point where my plastic bags are even color-coordinated and my electronic cords are labeled and organized…. even my purses and clothing have an organizational system. I was never an organized person before. I remember being a child and having my room such a mess that I had a path from the door to the bed and the rest of my room was a wall of clothes and stuff. It was a huge project to clean! Now I’m finding peace in having everything have its place and I’m not holding onto junk.
I will also never change from the person who takes pride in being a little abnormal, as you can tell from my featured image for this blog. The picture was taken about 2 years ago at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio. Everyone else I saw taking pics with that tiger statue pretended to be friends with the tiger and getting hugged by it, I saw an opportunity to be a realist and show what a tiger would actually do to me if I came across one. But those little things that make people think I’m weird still fill me with a lot more joy than fitting in or acting “normal” ever will.
How a person changes after dealing with a big event like this will be different for everyone, but one thing I seem to see in every rape survivor who has made this big step is the sense of empowerment, of taking back control of their lives. For me, that is the most important change. It’s not becoming the person I was before the rape, because the person I was didn’t know I needed to be empowered, and the person I was after was too afraid to face the event to get to that place of empowerment. The new me embraces the empowerment as though it’s some form of protection. It’s not to say I won’t get hurt, but I’ll be able to come back through any hurt I get stronger than I was before. I used to hate that song/saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” because, when you’re depressed or drowning in anxieties, there are definitely thoughts that make you weaker but don’t necessarily kill you. They bring a lack of hope that you’ll ever get a break from fighting against the waves of emotions. But the empowerment helps create a life-vest so occasionally you don’t have to fight the waves of emotion because you’re just floating above them. And not to discount the role my medication has played in this transformation, the medication has acted as a life boat too. Without it, I might not have gotten to this point, but with it, I dove head-first into dealing with this issue that has been eating me up for 13 years and came out stronger and tougher. I hope if any of you reading this have things you need to deal with, you’ll feel inspired by my example and not be afraid to seek medicinal and therapeutic help and dive head first into it. If done with the proper life-supports (medicine and a good, licensed psychologist), it won’t kill you and you won’t lose yourself, it will only make you stronger.