Growing Through Trauma

It was a few days before my 16th birthday. I was in the kitchen doing homework when I heard my dog barking outside. This was usual for her because she’s see other animals, people, or hear noises that would set off her curiosity. But this day, her bark sounded desperate, full of fear, so I went outside to investigate. I went to the back deck and I saw him, a man I didn’t know, a stranger in my back yard. Next thing I know, he’s coming at me and tried to put his hands around my neck. I run into my house and go to close the door but he starts pushing against the other side and I’m in tights, so I start sliding backward, unable to keep the door fully closed. All I know is that I’m terrified and don’t have a weapon on me so I begin to scream for my dad, who works from home and thank God he was home that day. The man starts to push harder against the door when my dad storms into the room and chases him out of our yard. He ran to a neighbor across the street who was able to catch him and he and my dad kept him still until the police arrived. My mom came home to find me in tears. I couldn’t process what had happened. Then it hit me. We couldn’t find our dog. She was 6 years old and so small. She was usually so eager to greet my mom when she got home from work but she wasn’t there. We began screaming her name, running around the front and back yard and eventually the neighborhood searching for her but she was nowhere to be found. Eventually I looked behind the shed in our back yard and saw a small patch of white fur buried in a pile of leaves. I gently called for my sweet little Bella and she emerged from her hiding place. She slowly came towards me and I gathered her in my arms and rushed her inside. There was no physical harm to her and my mom and I showered her with love and treats for the rest of the night. The next thing I know, the man is taken away and I was left with the memories of what had happened. I was surprised that the police hadn’t come to my door to speak to me. Later that night, a police officer came to our door to explain that the man had been extremely high on acid and was hospitalized for it. I never knew what came of him.

This memory haunted me heavily for the next year. I refused to do my homework alone in the kitchen, I always made sure the door was locked, even when everyone was home, and I started to fear that he would come back. I went to therapy but nothing would stop my fears. The next year, I went to a neighbor’s New Year’s Eve party and a friend of the neighbor casually mentioned to me that another friend of hers was out to dinner with the mother of the guy who attacked me and didn’t understand why I was having issues grasping this. It hit me hard because I now had a name to put on him. I knew that he lived in the neighborhood next to mine. I knew that he was so close at all times and I was now more terrified than ever. I felt so betrayed that so many people I thought I was close to, people who were best friends with my mom, knew who this guy was and didn’t think to tell me. I went into a mental breakdown and ran home from the party in a complete panic. I don’t remember making it to 2015 because I was too busy rocking myself to sleep. I searched the internet for this guy but I couldn’t find him anywhere. I then found his mom’s Facebook and his face was everywhere. I was becoming more and more haunted by this man and it was becoming my own personal hell where I was the only person affected by what had happened. I remembered that my therapist said I should send him a letter to try to gain closure but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I then, sent his mother a message on facebook professing my forgiveness for her son for what had happened because I hoped that there would be a reconciliation to bring me closure. She never responded. I never had my closure. And despite saying I forgave him, I knew it wasn’t true.

Fast forward 6 years and I still think about him. When I’m out alone, I get scared that he’s following me into the grocery store or is going to break into my house at school to hurt me. My mom recently brought him up and all of these emotions started flooding back to me. I didn’t handle it responsibly so I sought solace in a bottle of wine and some hard ciders. I started to panic so I did something my drunken state thought would be a good idea: I wrote to the guy’s mother again. She never responded.

It’s been six years since the incident happened in the middle of November 2013 and although I’m usually alright, I still have triggers that bring this up for me. Sometimes it’s people in TV or film, sometimes it’s overhearing people talking about hard drugs. It can be anything, really. Just because something happened a long time ago, doesn’t mean that you won’t have triggers to bring it up to you again. It’s hard being strong when your family is constantly telling you that they never have to worry about you because you always have it together. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. All I can do at this point is try to grow from what I have learned from this. It’s become aparent that I do my best growth in this situation by myself. I have never had comfort from anyone regarding this. It’s a private journey that I must bear and it’s so hard sometimes. I have grown in my knowledge of keeping my defenses up and I am much more wary of people. It has definitely affected my trust, but I feel that anyone in this situation would have the same thing happen to them.

To the man who did this to me, I know you will never read this but here are my words to you. You made a mistake. Your anger and frustration from your parent’s divorce pushed you towards hard drugs and you seriously hurt a teenage girl. It’s been 6 years and she still has times where she struggles to cope. I want to forgive you but in the meantime, I can’t. So it’s with a strong and sound heart and mind that I say, FUCK YOU.

Healthy Habits For 2019

Now that we are in 2019, I want to start working in healthier habits into my daily life for my physical and mental health, and finances. Now that I have decided that these three staples are what I need to work on, I want to start going through realistic goals/activities that I can slowly implement into my lifestyle. If i say that I must do a complete 180 on my current lifestyle, I would never keep up with it. I’m not a perfect person and I will definitely slip up from time to time. But by thinking of small things that take a fraction of a second to consider doing, I am one step closer to becoming a healthier and more content person.

Some of the things listed below, I already do, but it’s good to remind myself of the healthy habits I need to continue doing especially while I have resources at college that I won’t have once I graduate.

Physical Health

  • Park farther away from buildings at school, stores, etc. so I walk a little extra every day
  • Go for a walk when I get too stressed (this will help with the mental category as well!)
  • Think twice before I snack when I get bored
  • Try to pick a healthy alternative to unhealthy food
  • Cook for myself more often
  • Go to the gym at school and walk/cycle while reading for class (we love multitasking here at the blog)
  • Stretch in the AM and PM

Mental Health

  • Meditation
  • Journaling
  • Keep a gratitude log (bullet journal)
  • Monitor how negative I am toward others
  • When overwhelmed, write out a schedule of what you need to get done and how long you think it will take you to accomplish it
  • Try on a bunch of outfits and appreciate how good I look in them
  • Gush over how cute your pets are

Finances

  • Evaluate if I really need to buy something
  • Put in extra hours for workstudy
  • Go out to eat less
  • Keep a spending log (bullet journal)

Anxiety

Anxiety is something that I have been struggling a lot with lately. I used to be super calm when I was younger but as soon as I started the second semester of my sophomore year of college, the feelings and intense emotions began to hit me hard and I began to struggle to recognize who I was. I would constantly repress my feelings out of fear of people thinking I was overreacting to things and I wanted everything to seem like it was okay But deep down, my mind and my thoughts began to eat me alive and I was struggling to cope. I would often lay awake at night rocking back and forth and struggling to breathe and I had no idea why this was happening. I was always crying and sweating and I felt like I was falling apart. Most of the time, there was no obvious trigger to bring these attacks on and that was the scariest part. I never wanted people to think that I wasn’t okay. A huge part of this was because my family constantly told me they never worried about me because I always had it together and I felt I had to live up to those expectations and thus began my spiral into self-pity and fear that slowly took over my life.

Things got worse as I entered my sophomore year. School got harder and I worked with a Director on a show who really tested me and he really added to the psychological damage I was already putting on myself. I felt like I was constantly failing and I took it really hard. I was sad and angry all the time and this director made me believe it was because I was incompetent when in reality, he was the one manipulating me in a very unhealthy way. Despite my friends telling me that I was doing a good job, I found that impossible to believe. Because of this experience, I started taking things more personally and it started to negatively affect my relationships with friends, family, and co-workers and I was ashamed of myself. My mind was attacking itself and I had no idea what to do and because I still felt that I shouldn’t tell anyone, I continued to keep my feelings bottled up.

This then caused problems with my relationship. My boyfriend and I were at a point in our relationship where we always knew if something was wrong with the other and when he would ask me what was wrong, I would lie and say everything was fine. He then got upset because he felt that I was refusing to open up to him and that I wasn’t being honest with him. And he was right. I was so scared of admitting that I wasn’t perfect and bubbly that I wasn’t opening up to the person who has always been my biggest supporter in my mental health journey. Two years later, I have made strides and have been able to speak to him freely about the demons that haunt my psyche. I still struggle to completely open up to him because, let’s face it, I’m a senior in college who is an anxious mess. My junior year was a pretty steady wave of being okay and being an anxious mess but I assumed I would have to live with it. I wanted to take meds for my anxiety but I was too scared to ask for them. I was worried that they would change who I was.

This summer, I went to my doctor and I started to take anti-anxiety meds. I am currently taking a 75mg dose of Zoloft and it has really changed my life. I went from not sleeping because I was scared of waking up to having a more normal routine. I feel happier and I can’t remember the last time I had crippling anxiety. It’s been a little over 6 months and I’m so happy with how this has changed me. I still have anxiety from time to time but that’s because I’m human.

If you struggle with anxiety, find the best way for you to have an outlet. I have found that talking to my boyfriend, journaling, taking long walks, cooking, and knitting have been FANTASTIC ways for me to calm my mind and come back to my preferred reality. These aren’t the solutions for everyone but these are the ones that bring me the most peace of mind. Mental health is not something to be taken lightly. Love yourself and respect your feelings. Find a way to help yourself in a healthy way.