By Anna Haugabook
I am speaking from my own personal experience. I am in no way a therapist or self-help guru.
Now, let me tell you what I wish someone would’ve told me nine years ago after I was sexually assaulted: “It’s not your fault, but healing is your responsibility. Absolutely no one on this earth is obligated to spare your feelings or care about you, your traumas, your mental state, your emotions, or your well-being, besides you.” Some of us are blessed with people who look out for us even when we don’t care or have enough strength to look out for ourselves, but we should not place our trust in the idea that these people will be willing to take on this role forever, nor should we make it their responsibility to take on this role forever. In no way is it fair, in no way is it easy, but the absolute truth is that no one on earth is even able to mend you, besides you. When we experience life events that shake our mental and emotional states, it is our responsibility to care enough about ourselves that we begin the healing process. When I say no one is able to mend you, I don’t mean that you shouldn’t seek professional counseling, I don’t mean that you should keep your emotions bottled up until you break or until you program yourself to not feel anything at all, and I don’t mean that you shouldn’t reach out to trusted friends and family about what you’ve experienced. What I mean is that when you put all of your faith in other people hoping that they will be the ones to finally give you that feeling of peace, safety, security, love, happiness, confidence, motivation, strength, comfort, peace or whatever else that was stripped away from you due to a traumatic experience, you are setting yourself up for complete failure and constant disappointment.
After nine long, depressing, anxiety-filled, sleepless years I finally said the words “There’s nothing else I can do.” aloud. I was sitting on my basement floor wrestling with suicidal thoughts. This definitely wasn’t the first time, but it felt completely different (in the worst way) from every other time. I had absolutely no more hope, fight or strength left in me. I called one of my best friends and said to her “Am I not worth more than the bare minimum in life? All I can get is a roof over my head, food and clothing? I don’t deserve love or people who won’t give up on me?” I realize now how selfish and inconsiderate it was of me to say this, but as someone who had been battling depression, anxiety and PTSD since the age of twelve, it was all I knew how to feel. Little did I know, this moment was the initiation of my long overdue healing process.
Being sexually assaulted at the age of twelve damaged me, but the aftermath is what completely destroyed me. Telling the people that I was closest to and having them repeatedly laugh, take sides, threaten and blame me dragged my state of well-being to an extremely low point. I started hating myself so much that I abused myself for almost every thought I had, every action I made, and every word I spoke. I was constantly seeking validation from others because I had no idea who I was at that point, and truthfully, I was too scared to find out. Finding out who I was meant healing from the experience, healing from the experience meant accepting that it had actually happened, accepting that it had actually happened meant having to retell the story in therapy, possibly getting on medication, and being responsible for my own happiness. At twelve years old, it was just so much easier to let the world decide who I was, and that’s exactly what I did. I built my opinions, thoughts, actions, and belief system all based on who everyone else said I was. I didn’t want to decide anything on my own because that meant that I had to take responsibility for healing myself and I just wasn’t ready.
For years I suffered from constant panic attacks, vivid nightmares of the experience, severe depression, insecurity, constant overthinking and mood swings. I relied on every friend I made to be my therapist, and when they couldn’t fix me, I immediately blamed all of our relationship issues on them. I couldn’t understand why all of my relationships and friendships failed. I couldn’t understand why I never felt good enough. I couldn’t understand why I always felt so alone. I couldn’t understand why I never felt content. I couldn’t understand why I had so much hate for myself. Then, the night that I sat on my basement floor and cried, I finally realized. I realized that I had never even truly taken the initiative to try to heal from what broke me in the first place. I went through my high school and more than half of my college years still allowing other people to determine my worth and who I was. That’s why I was always so stressed. That’s why I could never take responsibility for my actions and shortcomings. That’s why I constantly felt on edge. That’s why I had trust issues. That’s why I had commitment issues. I let everything pile up for so many years instead of just facing the truth head on.
I don’t blame myself for not being ready to truly heal at the age of twelve years old. I don’t blame myself for relying on others for my happiness and emotional wellbeing for so long. I don’t blame myself for any of it. I only wish that 21 year-old me had a way to time travel to 12 year-old me and say “You are so much stronger than you think you are. Just take the first step now.”
Healing is not linear. Healing cannot and should not be rushed. Healing does not follow a concrete set of rules or regulations. How you choose to truly, healthily heal is up to you. The most important part, for the sake of your mental health and wellbeing for the years to come, is just taking the very first step.
Originally published by Anna Haugabook on Medium.com.