Growing Pains

This post discusses sexual assault and rape, which may be triggering for some.  I have opted for sharing my story as a means of personal catharsis but also with the hope that it may help others.  In journeying through this painful part of my own path, I am looking to further my own healing and hope that others can do the same in reading this post.

It turns out growing and healing, while super positive also hurt like hell and are just about as scary too.

I’ve been feeling off since getting back from Mexico.  At first, I figured it was likely me coming down from an amazing week away, but that theory didn’t click for a number of reasons.  Mexico was great, and while I may have extended the time I was there by another week or so if I could,  I was also more than okay with coming back to Canada.

I felt re-charged and had a renewed lust for life.  After eating at some pretty amazing vegan places, I was excited to try out new-to-me-recipes and ways to cook vegan.

The sunrise on the beach inspired me to seek out simple and yet beautiful ways to start my mornings, even though it is the middle of winter and a sunrise on the beach here would likely not have quite the same effect as a sunrise on the beach in Mexico.

Ian and I had spent a good part of the time I was there ironing out the kinks in a new business venture and I was getting some positive feedback which I was excited about.

For the first time in years I was actually comfortable in my own skin.  I was present.  I laughed a bunch.   My heart was so full.

Why then, did I crash and burn not 5 days into being back in Gatineau?

The month of January has rarely been a favourite of mine, but I have always chalked that up to post Christmas blahs and dead of winter theories.  When I really look back though, it hasn’t always been a trend for me to dislike January.

When I really look back, I realize it was A January when I was raped.  And I think each subsequent January I’ve been triggered in subtle ways without really being aware of it.  It is this painful memory which fuels my dislike for the month of January.

I touched on my rape in a previous post, but I’d like to revisit it here as it is front and centre for what has been going on now in this last week and a half.

My rape was something that I instantaneously dismissed the morning after it happened.  I knew something had happened, but as seems to be the case with many sexual assault survivors, I wasn’t entirely sure of the certainty that what I think happened, happened.  I realize that sounds somewhat contradictory but it is the best way I can explain my then thought process.

I realize the following statement is likely highly obvious, but I feel it needs to be put out there: Rape, and what it does to someone is pretty horrendous.  Of course, I can only offer up what happened to me, and how it effected me so the following is a laundry list of what I have gone through as a result of being raped.

It took a piece of my heart and humanity from me.  It took my innocence.  I don’t mean innocence in the classical form of the word, but rather in someone’s outlook and perspective on life.  It tainted me.  It immediately placed a lens on me through which I have since viewed life and those I interact with.  It has made me second guess the intentions of others.  It has made me afraid.  It has brought my own sense of worth down to a stark deficit.

For me, rape brought an already incredibly low self-esteem to a level of virtual non-existence.

I am now only beginning to appreciate how damaging that act was to my being, and how much worth, or rather how little worth I believe I have as a person.

I don’t remember the exact date in January of the rape, but I do know it was in late January.  Every January since has been a month of triggers and awful memories.  Every January has seen a tidal wave of paralyzing insecurity crash into me, and leave me immobile in its wake.  I drown in it.

After a month like that, I usually crawl out of my hole in February feeling damaged and raw.  Vulnerable and scared.  Alone and not trusting of those who say they love me.   I believe I am not worth any of their love, and I will seek out any instances or occasions where I can back that statement up, either through a misinterpretation, or an unanswered text.  Often through someone else’s bad day.

Ian and I have had some really profound conversations about the topic over the course of this last weekend when I was feeling especially low.

I’d like to detail a lot of what Ian brought up and offered in the way of insights and perspectives, but rather than saturate one post on the subject, I think I will add in his words in small increments as it best helps me process what was said.

I asked Ian during a conversation last night, how to go about letting go of something like a rape.  How was I to begin letting go of something that I have dismissed and questioned for years.  An act that I second guessed and felt a lot of guilt and shame over.

Ian informed me that I had to get to a place where I was grateful for the rape happening.  I’ve been working on expressing more gratitude and appreciation, and so the idea of being thankful even for the difficult and messy things in one’s life is not a new concept to me, but I will admit that I was at a loss for how to see the rape as something to be grateful for.  I hadn’t learned any lessons from it.  It was an event that has soured some of my interactions with others.  It is something that happened that has left me feeling, at times, completely worthless.  What was there in it that could possibly be viewed as a positive outcome?

To help me start small, Ian shared the idea that everything we each go through-positive, negative and even horrific-leads us all to our current place.  If I hadn’t gone through the events of that night, I wouldn’t be where I am right now.  I would not have met all of the wonderful people I have met, and I would not have gone through all of the amazing opportunities I have gone through-opportunities like going to see a great friend in Mexico in the middle of January.

This is my starting point then, if I am to attempt to let go of what happened to me in January of 2009.  I may not be able to glean the lessons that are there yet, but I can be grateful knowing that that event lead me to where I am today: someone who is slowly breaking away from conventions and trying to re-stack my own deck of cards to make the life that I want; someone who is gradually healing and recognizing the triggers, as opposed to being completely oblivious to them and overtaken by them; someone who has a pretty great roof over my head, good food in my fridge, and some really amazing people in my life.

Would I have turned out poor and destitute had I not been raped, some 9 years ago?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  The point is, I wouldn’t be HERE.

With Love,

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Olivia Shaw

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