This one is probably the hardest, most courageous blog post I’ve had to and will ever have to write, but it is one that I feel necessary for my wellbeing and mental health to share. I’ve found blogging an incredible outlet since the boys were born, from my NotWhatItSaysOnTheTwin blog to my MS Warrior blog, it’s helped get me through some mentally tough times. And this post is one that, once again, I have to thank my MS for giving me the courage to share because MS has changed my life in both good and bad ways. The bad ways speak for themselves, I don’t need to go there. The good ways are not only the health and fitness benefits, MS has also changed my mindset and perspective of life, it has helped me realise the ways in which I have not been living and this, here, is the main reason:
20 years ago this month, when I was 16 years old, I was sexually assaulted on the living room floor of my family home by an apparent “friend” of the family. At the time I did nothing about it, I was a shy 16 year old tomboy, I was shocked, embarrassed and scared; terrified of what would happen if I told anyone and I naively thought I was protecting everyone else’s feelings by keeping quiet. A decision that remains the only regret of my life to date. I kept quiet for the 5 years that followed, until I was 21 and I couldn’t keep it to myself any longer, so I wrote a letter to a friend of mine who I told to read and then burn. From then on, I’ve told a few people, my mum, a few boyfriends including the man I married and subsequently separated from, then my dad, stepmum, brother and a couple of work colleagues only recently, and I have spoken to the police about it on a couple of separate occasions; once back when I was 21 and again in the past year or so, but it was never enough. The anxiety, the guilt from not reporting it at the time and the fear deep inside me has never left and I have let it ruin my life for all that time.
For a long time afterwards I felt bitterness towards everyone, including myself. I never once blamed myself or felt ashamed, I knew I didn’t do anything wrong. But I was bitter that I’d been too afraid and weak to fight back and I felt bitter that no one noticed what was going on. I felt bitter towards everyone but the one person I should feel bitterness toward: him. He just made me feel numb. Not like the MS, not physically, but emotionally numb which I think is even worse. I didn’t feel anger, hatred or any emotion towards him, I was angry and full of hate for myself but to him, I felt absolutely nothing, like he’d killed any emotion I should feel towards him.
This year has been quite difficult for me and I think deep down it’s because of the fact that it has now been 20 years and I’m still letting it affect me. 20 years for fuck’s sake, more than half my life, what a waste of 20 whole years of my very existence. I’m annoyed at myself for letting it shape the person I am, in terms of my anxiety, I’m always worrying about the what ifs and what could happen, instead of living in the present moment. That is the sole reason for my anxiety and I think I will have to live with anxiety for the rest of my life, hand in hand with my MS.
They say everything happens for a reason. But what reason would there be for that to happen to me? At 16? In my own home? What reason would there be for that to happen to anyone? At any age? Anywhere?
It’s hard not to think how different I would be if I’d found the courage to speak up at the time and report the assault and get some kind of self fulfilling justice, whatever that looks like. Would I be more self-confident instead of having absolutely no confidence? Would I not have the trust issues I have? Would I be less of a worrier? Would I not have this crippling anxiety that grips me so tight? I guess it could’ve been worse, it could have so easily turned me into a horrible person but luckily it hasn’t, I’m probably the kind hearted, thoughtful, empathetic soul I am today because of what happened to me 20 years ago so I have to be grateful for that. But I refuse to keep letting it get me down and stopping me from living my life. I’m sick, tired and emotionally drained from not being kind to myself for all these years.
So I’ve made a decision; the tears that are streaming down my face as I write these words in this very moment, are the last I’m ever going to shed over what he did to me. I’m going to focus on learning to live in the present not the past, to love myself without an ounce of hatred and to live my life and enjoy every last second of it.
And please, not just on World Mental Health Day but every day of every year for the rest of your lives, don’t let any bad experience stop you from living yours.