As I tried to open my swollen eyes, I could feel my heart pounding in my head. I tried to take inventory of the situation through my senses. Excruciating pain radiated from my head. “Okay, sit up.” As I tried to sit up I felt stinging pain in my entire body. “Okay, maybe not lay back down.” As I tried to sort through all the sensory input, I was hit with an intense waive of nausea. As a feeling of fear and helplessness began to take over, I instinctually reached for the phone on the side of the hospital bed. I began typing in my best friends number, over and over. I am not sure how long I laid in that hospital bed, raped, beaten, and broken down, using one blood vessel filled eye to type her number over and over and over.
Eventually, the nurse came in and disrupted my panic. In that moment I felt so powerless. In that moment, the moment that is so deeply ingrained into my memory- I knew I was vulnerable, exposed and unsafe. Those feelings stayed with me for so many long nights, so many nights that felt like two weeks a piece. So many long nights that turned into long days, that turned into long weeks and months. The weeks that followed were riddled with flash backs, fear, and insomnia, statements, news reporters, prosecutors, and detectives.
But most importantly, it was riddled with strong and powerful women.
The nurse gently took what I thought was the phone from my hand and in a soft voice explained that this was the remote. She handed me the phone, and smiled.
For some reason I cannot remember the first phone call I ended up having with my best friend. I don’t remember telling her. I just remember the excruciating vulnerability that washed over me, and needing her. I needed her, and she showed up. She showed up in so many different ways, on so many different days. She opened her phone line, her heart, her house, her bed, her couch, her wine cabinet. She gave me a safe place to land. She held space for me to heal.
In the months and years that followed my assault I swore I would never let him take my power. I think I was pretty successful at that, but as time passed my assault became ammunition. Standing up for justice and speaking my truth made me a target. From his girlfriend screaming at me in the courtroom, to friends leaving because “I shouldn’t have been there to begin.” To everyone who walked away because it was too hard, too messy, too dark- eventually it all sent me the same message. Eventually, it even became ammunition for my own inner critic. I found myself repeating things to myself like “I am broken. I am damaged. This is the love I deserve. This is the way I deserve to be treated.” Eventually, the combination of my vulnerabilities caused by the assault, the back lash of people who began treating me poorly became the perfect cocktail that sent me out in- this world- with a sign on my head that said “open to abuse.”
At this point, my inner critic had taken ahold and I believed I was these toxic things others fed me. The only protective barrier I had between myself and a world of abuse was the very thought that I do not deserve to be treated that way. With that thought gone, I was prey to the predator.
By sending the message to myself that I deserved abuse, I was sending the message to the universe that I was open to abuse- and it delivered.
I wish I could say this was the first time in my life that this has happened, but that would be a lie. From the time I was a small kid experiencing abuse I fell into this cognitive trap. The trap of believing you’re so unworthy of love you deserve to be mistreated or abused. I had got pretty good at getting out of it. This is something I learned how to crawl and scratch my way out of. I worked my fingers to the bone to take care of myself. I learned to stay close to the light, and people that made me feel good. They were my beacon in the dark that guided me back home to myself. To the place of self love, the place where I know how I deserve to be treated. The place where I feel strong enough and worthy enough to set boundaries. The place where I can protect myself.
I remember when I met my best friend. It was so weird. We finished each others sentences. We loved the same music. We loved the same music so much that we had the same favorite sentences of lyrics out of the same favorite song off the same favorite albums. Anyone who loves music understands how important this is. We spoke the same language. She is the first place I felt unconditional love. She has hugged me at times no one else could of or has. She was there for adolescents and adulthood.
From the time I was small, I knew who I wanted to be. I wanted to be a woman other women could count on. One that built them up, one that saw their light and empowered them. Eventually, I learned that this is the type of women I needed to be to myself. I learned that my friends can remind me who I am, when I truly need it. But in order to be successful and stop falling back into this pattern- I needed to truly change my relationship with myself.
I started to ask myself “Would you say this to your best friend?” every time I spoke to myself. When others spoke to me I asked myself “Would I allow someone to speak to my best friend that way” and before I put myself in situations I asked myself “Would I feel safe putting my best friend in this situation and being responsible for the outcome?”
She was the first person I tried to call. She was the first person that I was able to allow in. Together, through building each other up in our weakest moments we have built a beautiful friendship. She was one of the first but she has thankfully not been the last in a line of the women who have empowered me, and had a hand in my success. She is in a long line of women who I have built up when I was strong, that returned the favor when I needed someone. The women who saw my vulnerabilities and weaknesses and tried to build me up, like I did them. The women who saw me slipping and reached out a hand, like I have so many times in my life. The friends who shared their light in my darkness, so I could find my way. The friends who empowered me, and helped me reignite my own light and find my way out. The people who encouraged me to open my eyes, and face the darkness. The ones who told me I was strong enough to open my eyes in the dark, befriend my demons and face my truth. The friends who held a space for me to live my truth. The friends who did not fear emotional honesty. The ones who challenged and inspired me to do better, to be better. This is the person I strive to be, and these are the people I deserve in my life. These are the people I want to build a tribe with. Time spent with anything less than I deserve, is time spent away from what I deserve and the people who deserve me.
From those raw and vulnerable moments laying in the hospital bed, needing my friend so much, to now – I have come into contact with some women who are so fiercely themselves that just being in their presences made me feel stronger. I thought I needed my friends, and as much as I did- I needed myself. I showed up for myself on a thousand different days, in a thousand different ways. I have always believed that true strength is sharing your voice, and strength with those weaker than you. It is being a voice for the voiceless. I came across women who did this for me. I will never stop sharing my voice. I will never stop sharing my story, for the mere fact that it may help someone else find their voice. This is the woman I have always tried to be, and my heart is eternally grateful that in my time of need the universe provided. It wasn’t just close friends, sometimes it was interactions with professionals along my journey. It was the people who moved in closer when so many seemed to pull away. No matter how hard or messy my truth was they accepted me as I was. They did not try to control me, there was no games. They met my honesty and vulnerability with an honesty and integrity. I will never stop searching for these women both inside myself and in the world. I will never stop looking to be inspired, and empowered. I will never stop seeking to empower and support.
Ultimately, I needed to be the friend to myself, that I was to everyone else in order to survive. All to often we forget to extend the kindness, compassion, and love to ourselves that we so desperately deserve. It is imperative that we surround ourselves with people who see our true worth, even when we forget. However, at the end of the day it is up to us to put the work in and be the person we are intended to be.
I am proud of the women I have become, I am a leader, I am an advocate, I am a voice, I am compassion, I am ambition, I am kindness, I am fierce…
I am a powerful fucking women.
The world can be a really hard place, and the only way we are going to get through this is together. So, if you have light- I implore you to share it.
If you are a women who stood by me, or any other women in her time of need I extend the deepest gratitude and appreciation.