Telling my story kept me open for the moments of clarity my muse searched endlessly for. Then one day I stopped writing that story. I stopped writing all my stories, in fact. But the muse got the job done. Seeds she planted so long ago bloomed in front of my eyes as I cried my way through a particular Law & Order SVU episode. I sat on my ugly brown couch, salt streaming down my face. Somehow, everything became so clear. And it only took me to my 30s to figure it out.
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Eight year old Jessica B. loved to write and tell stories. But she could never finish one. She knew this, too. The stories she wanted to tell felt too big. She would start at the very beginning and get overwhelmed both by the enormity of the project and all the endless details along the way. So many stories started and never finished.
There is a story I’m wanting to tell right now, today. But I’m not sure what it is yet; a story I’m trying to find. But then I think, what if there are multiple stories? Some might even say the best stories told are the ones about the journey.
I still struggle to telling my story for the same reasons as eight year old me.
Throughout my education I learned to tell short stories, usually called essays. Creative writing classes in college taught me to jump directly into the meat of the story and fill in the details later. These classes gave me permission to write messy as I used my essays to work through troubling issues from my past. I didn’t realize then, that the story my soul kept trying to tell, was trying to reveal a truth to me. My obsessive writing on this one moment of my life helped reveal a very painful truth about my past.
The act of telling my story via essays over and over again helped reveal the trauma to me. I told this story over and over again for a lot of years. Writing helped me heal. More than that, telling my story so many times kept it alive so I could one day truly understand.
At 16, I didn’t know the haunting questions to ask myself. I don’t think anyone else knew, either. Working in the sexual health industry as an adult years later taught me what kinds of questions to ask an adolescent who discloses sexual activity. Questions like: How was it? Was this concensual? Are you okay? How are you feeling? What kind of protection did you use? But I didn’t think to look back and apply these questions to me at 16 years old.
If someone asked me one question from this list back then, I wonder what might be different. Instead nobody said much of anything to me after I disclosed apart from screaming at me (mom), ignoring me (dad), congratulating me (friends) and helping me repent from my sins (church).
Telling my story kept me open for the moments of clarity my muse searched endlessly for.
Then one day I stopped writing that story. I stopped writing all my stories, in fact. But the muse got the job done. Seeds she planted so long ago bloomed in front of my eyes as I cried my way through a particular Law & Order SVU episode. I sat on my ugly brown couch, salt streaming down my face. Somehow, everything became so clear. And it only took me to my 30s to figure it out.
I don’t think I could fully grow up until that moment of owning my truth. See, I always knew that truth, deep within. The muse trued to find it for so many years. I’m grateful to her. My life started to change after that day of realizing my trauma.
Until I acknowledged what happened to 16 year old Jessica, I couldn’t grow past her. Maybe on the outside I did. And obviously I’m an adult now doing all kinds of adult things 16 year old me could never do. But I think we have different past selves that we need to heal. I knew about 8 year old Jessica for a long time. I also knew Jessica at 16 needed healing, too. I felt immense guilt from the sin of what I did. And that’s all I knew at the time.
So I assumed it was me, the problem. I believed the cliche things I heard about girls being raped: She asked for it. She led him on. She just regrets it now. She didn’t say no. It’s her fault for being at the party.
Nowhere in my vocabulary lived any words of grace for my sin.
So I took it all on. I believed what everyone around me accepted as innate truth: I made the bad choices over and over again and then made the most “stupid” choice of all. The big No-No. I desecrated God’s Holy Temple. Forever. But God could renew me, church said. I could repent and some would even encourage me to revirginize.
I believed for so many years in the shame and guilt I carried like a badge. As if to say, “Ya, I’m that cliche damaged girl with daddy issues.” Which I was all those things.
Some time later, I received an email from my rapist. I have no idea where this email is now, so here it is to the best of my recollection:
I’m in China now and very happy. I’m a Christian now. I’m very sorry for what I did to you.
I never heard from my rapist again. What blows my mind, though, is he admitted to doing something bad to me and I still couldn’t see the writing on the wall. I mean, what else could he be referring to? He never treated me badly in my eyes. Now, I did wonder what he meant by his email. And yet at the same time I knew exactly what he meant.
He and I alone knew the dark truth behind the celebratory sin of losing my V card so young.
I’m sure sending that email had its elements of catharsis for my newly Christianized rapist. Well, good for him and his new life in China. (The China references are a story for a different essay.) I didn’t respond to the email. Instead I spent the next 15 years questioning what happened that morning.
Currently I like to say I’m in my Healing Era. Perhaps this will morph into my Freedom Era. Or perhaps experiencing freedom is all part of the healing process. Whatever era this is, I feel free here. Free in a new way. There could be a lot of reasons for this: The EMDR I did earlier this year; cutting those last invisible strings, moving to a brand new city, letting go of religion to embrace spirituality… I could go on.
There are so many reasons I can feel free now. With that freedom comes healing, too. This messy blog is a great example of that. For me, every time a write I give space for my muse to come out and play. And every time I write I am healing wounds, some crusty and dusty, some still pink with freshness.
I am experiencing more and mare freedom to simply exist as me, telling my story one piece at a time.
I am a story teller and my canvas of choice is a blank page for me to fill with words. I think eight-year old me would be proud of me today. And a little sad, too, for what we lost along the way.
*Some names are changed to protect those who “would very much like to be excluded from this narrative.”
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