“We’re praying for you”…while those words bring comfort to some; the look of pity generally accompanied by this phrase has brought me little consolation. On the contrary, it made me want to completely shut down.
I didn’t see God anywhere and I certainly didn’t feel watched or protected while I was being brutally attacked. I had questioned faith and God many points throughout my life, but the stark darkness that encompassed me the days, weeks, months and even years after the attack were unlike anything I had ever experienced. It felt like no one knew how to be around me, the few people that had a vague recollection of my experience had no way of knowing the gritty, awful, sweaty-nightmare inducing details. I participated in my own isolation by refusing to divulge, it brought immeasurable pain to articulate and I felt as if I was spreading pain by speaking of it.
There is vulnerability in sharing pain that for years was more than I could handle. I tried, in earnest, to convince myself that I didn’t need anything—not God, not help, not support. I fooled myself into believing I could move forward selectively, with only the parts of myself and my experience that made sense. Armored with my capabilities, I could show the world that I was impervious. I cluttered my mind with work and school and commitments, packing it so full, I thought the fear would get crowded out. When I would panic in confined spaces, or nearly collapse when I saw a profile that reminded me of my attacker, I added items to my to-do list. I began to feel far away, I could hardly stop to look in the mirror because I didn’t recognize the reflection’s blank stare. I was exhausted, empty and numb. Not being able to accept my whole story, my entire self, left me a shell. I feared that opening myself up to my entire experience, all the pain and shame and fear I was working so assiduously to crowd out, would be more than I could handle.
When concerned loved ones would check in or let me know they were thinking and praying for me, I smiled politely and gave them some platitude—hoping that if they believed I was okay they would leave me alone, because all I wanted to say to them was, ‘I reject the idea of God, I’ve been sold a bill of lies, there is no one, we are all alone… ‘ The isolation fed on itself, like a self-fulfilling prophecy, the more alone I felt and reminded myself I was, the less I was able to connect with myself and others.
While my beliefs and thoughts continue to evolve and I still struggle with many aspects of faith, I now choose to believe that no matter the circumstance, I can choose to build walls and hide or I can choose to show up and participate in all the messy, beautiful and challenging aspects of the experience. Brene Brown, sums it up nicely when she says, “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” I was selling myself short, victimizing myself by believing I was unable to be all that I am and was made to be, all that I have experienced and all that I can share with others.
These days when someone hears my story or learns bits they didn’t know before, and with a tilt of head and hand on my shoulder says, “I’m praying for you”, I choose to embrace it and hope that all those prayers are being woven together to strengthen all of us.
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The Last Battle Blog aims to provide meaningful tools and information about the issue of sexual violation. We offer a way to express yourself, as you engage in your own personal awareness and share your strengths with others. Our goal is to cover a variety of topics, stories, ideas, and to create a blog that is beneficial and honoring to those who read it. Last Battle’s contributing authors help make this happen.
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