December 29, 2019
“I said sometimes I hear my voice, and it’s been here silent all these years…” (Tori Amos – Silent All These Years)
Every year I set goals and 2019 was no different. They comprised of the usual offerings; run a bit faster (5k in less than 30 minutes to be precise); do something a bit out of the ordinary (climb a mountain), do some things I have always wanted to but never made time for (make silver jewelry), and some things I knew would be good for me (learn to cook). And yet, like every year, it seems the things you really learn from are the things you achieve that you never even knew were goals.
For me this comprised of speaking three words aloud; he raped me.
For many is probably no surprise, but for me it felt like the shock of a decade. I had never conceptualised my own experiences in the way I needed to and I had never understood how the word rape might apply to me, and so I remained stuck and silent. For those into patterns, it will equally be no surprise to learn these are the same two feelings I had some 25 odd years ago. But there’s a risk in knowing, and in speaking. What is said can never be unsaid, and I never wanted to be defined by the moment someone else took my power from me. What I failed to recognise is that in silencing myself, I remained even more powerless.
“Shame derives its power from being unspeakable.” (Brené Brown – Daring Greatly)
It would be unfair to say I didn’t also lose myself this year. It has been one of the most testing years and in many ways I feel like I had to tear down the walls of everything I knew to rebuild again, stronger, more defiant. I refuse to be defined by the actions of another on my body. I refuse to be reduced to an experience that should never have happened, but in trying to deny it, I lost more of myself that I ever knew possible.
“I was broken and then I broke some more, and I not yet healed but I have started believing I will be” (Roxane Gay – Hunger)
I am not weak because of what happened to me, but it did not make me strong either. That strength, that grit, that relentless unwillingness to quit is all mine, and I will not give him the credit for the things which make me who I am. Yet, I will not deny it changed me. It has shaped more than half my life, sometimes for better, and sometimes for worse. And now it’s time to break the shackles of what was done to me.
So I go into the next decade in a new place, free from the silence that became my prison. More willing and able to speak my truth. Less concerned with how others might view or define me. Because in the year of losing myself, I also did so many other things I never dreamed possible. I swam miles when I lacked the skill to do so, I found the summit of a mountain when I longed to turn back, I found a new passion in academia, regained my love of writing, and walked on hot coals. I also found a peace within, cliché as it might sound, and I learned to value myself.
And perhaps most importantly of all, for the first time ever, I truly understood what hope meant.