Before we begin:
This is Part 3 of my series: Words From a Decade, my story of trauma and recovery in my own words from the past decade. To go back: Words From a Decade: Part 2
In 2014 and 2015, I went from a complete denial of having been affected by my abusive relationship to gradually realizing I harbored trauma, although I didn’t have the language for it yet.
Once again, trigger/content warnings include: rape/sexual abuse, verbal/emotional abuse, self harm, substance abuse/overdose, suicidal thoughts. Take care of yourself first.
Thank you for being here.
2014: 18/19 years old
2014 arrived and not much had changed. I just strengthened my dedication to chasing- people, highs, fun times- ultimately thinking I could find someone new to love and a way avoid pain forever.
February 9th, 2014
- every action you do has the power to change someone else’s life. be careful.
- life is not and never will be fair.
- it doesn’t really matter how much effort you put into being with someone if they don’t feel the same.
- you can’t have everything you want.
- there’s nowhere to run from yourself.”
I was starting to come to terms with accountability, or the acknowledgment that the things you do have consequences. But I still had no idea how to live with myself and show myself any ounce of compassion. I barely knew how to cope with my emotions, but what I did know always relied on other people. I hated being alone and I hated being sober. I had a lot of people to keep me company in my blurry state, though.
May 5th, 2014
“conclusions from age 18
- take your damn time. you don’t need anyone else to make you feel whole. slow down and appreciate what you have in other areas of your life. realize how much beauty surrounds you.
- it’s actually reallllly hard to be heartless. and maybe that’s because love is where hope originates. stop trying to stop caring. let yourself feel everything. this is the human experience.
- e v e r y t h i n g is temporary. nothing is ever “yours”. thoughts, objects, feelings, people, they’re all here today and gone tomorrow. and that’s okay. if you’re content with yourself, you don’t need to own anything.
- don’t hold on to negativity. if you don’t like something, fucking change it. complaining won’t do a thing. you are in control of your own happiness.
- there’s always going to be people out there that will try and hurt you. some people just thrive on that shit. that’s the way life is. it’s up to you whether they get to you or not. it’s okay to not please everyone.
- you can’t change people. it doesn’t matter how hard you try, how much you think you know, how much you want for them to be different. people are people and if they aren’t what you want then they aren’t what you want.
- don’t offer your heart to someone that sees you as a option. you deserve better than being someone’s second choice.
- expect nothing / appreciate everything.”
There’s some good wisdom here. Clearly I was learning and growing. I was trying to get myself to see that other people didn’t hold the key to happiness for me. But throughout all of it I was ignoring the trauma of my high school relationship and focusing on people I wanted to love me in college. That’s where I was at, processing more current things while the trauma embedded itself deeper in my body.
October 12th, 2014:
“feeling new pain that hasn’t been experienced yet and trying to comprehend what’s really going on. hard to appreciate all the beauty that surrounds my life when im so focused on this terrible nauseating feeling in my stomach. it’s so hard. there’s so much good out there and by saying that over and over I hope to convince myself of it. I love it here. I will take a solo walk in the woods and I will breath in the fresh scent of pine trees and pure oxygen. I will remember that there is SO much life outside of romantic connection. and rejection. and jealousy. the world is such a big place. this house doesn’t have to feel constricting. nothing hurts if you don’t let it. I don’t want to run to weed and booze and drugs to cure the inner feeling of inadequacy. I will try to face it head on. my past has made me so resilient and taught me how to put up an emotional block between myself and everyone else. when I’m tormented inside I still smile and laugh and convince everyone (even myself for a while) that I’m happy go lucky. it’s sickening how much power a single person can have over me. I want to be numb. I want to never get attached to anyone again. I want to love being alone.”
New pain began with betrayal. I couldn’t be with the person I was desperate to have love me. I was with someone else that didn’t have a clue what I was going through. I felt like hardly anyone witnessed the pain I was in and I didn’t deserve to be heartbroken when I was in a new relationship. I couldn’t yet see that what I really needed was my own self love. You can hear how I wanted to dismiss how I felt and move away from it, because it felt like too much for me to handle. I had no idea how to make boundaries for myself or prioritize my wellbeing. I only knew how to run and numb. So I continued to get really good at that.
November 2nd, 2014
- “i don’t need anyone else to make me happy, but i appreciate those who do
- riding the wave of every emotion is much harder than denying them, but worth it
- just because you can’t trust people doesn’t mean you can’t love them
- happiness is in the little things
- don’t regret times in your life just because they hurt you now
- fucking stand up for yourself and don’t feel bad for having emotions”
Oh 19 year old Emmy. I love you so much. You tried so hard. I adopted this paradigm of never trusting anyone, because anyone could let you down and hurt you at any time. It was a really sad place to be. But I was done being soft, I wanted to be hard. I was sick of being hurt all the time. The walls around my heart began to grow.
December 26th, 2014:
“looking at pictures from summer 2013 and my drunk thoughts are:
was this my prime? i was sooo cute and little and in every photo i look so genuinely happy. i didnt give a fuck and didnt care. i lived life day by day and didnt look back. i lived for myself and no one else. i had so much fun.”
By the end of 2014 I was really depressed and genuinely believed 2013 was my prime. I felt this way for a long time. Like those days of living freely and without pain were the best I’d ever have, and I’d never find that happiness again.
2015: 19/20 years old
Right when 2015 began, the guy who assaulted me my second night of college died of a heroin overdose. As the community mourned him, I felt both a deep sense of connection as everyone bonded around his passing and isolation, because obviously he had hurt me deeply. Along with the mixed feelings came a sense of renewal and a reminder that life is short and I should try my best to enjoy it while I can. I was in a relationship that was not right for either of us, but I tried the best I could to make it work. As many survivors do, I was recreating an unhealthy relationship that in many ways mimicked my previous one, because I was still under the impression that it was what I deserved. I didn’t really feel seen and known by anyone, but especially not by my boyfriend at the time.
May 30th 2015:
“sick sick sick
shaking, fever spreading
tears running down as my mouth goes dry.
fucking up, looking for love and care
im scared, as usual
throwing my phone across the room
pleading, dont hurt yourself, please emily, it wont help
it wont fucking help.
remembering that no one will ever love you like you love them
give you the attention you give them-
you’re too loyal.
im so tired of being the perfect person i try to be
running every time i sense i might be of even remote use
prioritizing everyone else before me.
my core feels empty and rotten, abandoned rib cage
more alone than ever.
trying to convince myself that its
and its okay to want love and attention in times of suffering.
try, but cant take a deep breath
whole body shivers like needles
A reoccurring pattern I engaged in was always giving my all to anyone that needed me, or I thought needed me, and not expressing any of my own needs in return. This was written when I got food poisoning before a big party and was home alone, violently ill, while all my friends and boyfriend went to the party. I felt abandoned and fell into victimhood. I couldn’t express to anyone around me that I had needs and emotions, and so I surrounded myself with people who were emotionally unavailable to help me when I really needed it. It was a very sad and lonely time. I felt helpless to escape the patterns I had developed.
July 20th, 2015
“gotta just always remember not to trust/rely/DEPEND on anyone but myself”
That was basically my mantra in order to deal with the betrayal and heartbreak I had been dealing with. I thought it was possible to never need anyone. I thought that was strength. Although I had left an abusive relationship, I still didn’t have the agency to stick up for myself while maintaining interpersonal realtionships. I had no idea what a boundary was. I thought in order to be loved, I had to be whatever anyone needed me to be.
July 27th, 2015
“dreams about becoming schizophrenic, in stages, dipping farther and farther into insanity. unable to express myself, incredibly confused, seeing things that aren’t there. losing everyone. wake up, panic, shaking in the mirror.”
I started having my first PTSD flashbacks in the form of nightmares in July of 2015. I thought I was losing my mind. While I had dealt with chronic moderate-level anxiety throughout the years, I started having unprompted panic attacks every day, and it was too much to bear. This was written after a particularly acute nightmare, where I woke up depersonalized and derealized, and could barely get my head back to reality. It was terrifying and I didn’t feel like I could talk about it to anyone. I didn’t know how.
Some rage-induced writing from 2015
August 20th, 2015
“love/hate relationship with my sensitive nature.
love the beauty of emotions, the raw energy, the highs and lows and passion. the joy, the artful nature of the human mind, the love i can feel for so many people, places, memories.
hate the destructive nature, the overwhelming, the all-consuming feelings. hate the desire to be numb. hate the jealousy and the over-thinking of things that shouldn’t matter to me. hate the stupid fucking pain.”
At this point I still knew that deep down I was sensitive, and that it was a gift in some ways. But as you can see, I still hated it. I still wanted to be numb. I had no idea what I was in for. It’s interesting to look back and see how I directly manifested being walled off to emotions, how I really wanted that, when now (2019) I have been working on reopening my heart to feeling things for a couple years now. But it’s what I needed at the time.
August 29th, 2015
“sometimes I still can’t believe you’re really dead. someone who.. hurt me. badly. the first one to touch me on my second night at college, the one to violate me in the most direct way. the one who brought up horrible feelings I never wanted to realize. feelings I wanted to ignore.
how many times I’d actually been violated before you, how many times I ignored it and insisted it was normal. how many times I’d said no, please, stop. please, it hurts,
how many times the man has ignored these pleading requests, entirely.
how many times I’d gritted my teeth and prayed that it’d end soon.
although I tried to avoid you after our “incident” I still knew you. I saw everyone else too, my fast “friends” that didn’t know who to believe. random classmates I confided in what happened in random outbursts. I never cried after that day. I just ran and ran and ran (drank and smoked and partied) and tried to ignore the fear.
I didn’t hate you. I resented you. I knew your intentions weren’t malevolent but you reminded me of all the times I had been used. I was scared of you. I was scared of my past. I still am.
I thought it would just take time to separate you from my psyche. take some time to get over it. but you just fucking died. and it hurt so many people I love.
and I’m here drinking and I’m thinking of you. I can’t say I miss you. but you changed my life. I hope that wherever you are, you’re at peace.”
This was written about my rapist who overdosed in early 2015. I was finally coming to terms with the reality that I had been sexually abused for years during my relationship in high school, which I never knew how to identify and name, because I thought what was happening was normal. I had never been taught what consent was. I thought being coerced into sex multiple times a day was somehow normal. I thought being in pain and even bleeding during sex was somehow normal. It took an assault with a near stranger to realize it had happened hundreds of times with someone who “loved” me.
September 12th 2015:
“my pain is not poetic
there is nothing beautiful about my pounding heart. the deep ache of the past. the scars left behind. the longing to hurt.
building myself up so tough so strong. until one little thing shatters the glass walls i thought were steel.
the conundrum of telling myself “you’re okay. it’s okay. everything will be alright” while i feel the burden of a thousand moments of submission.
the pressure to be perfect suffocates me. i’m trying so fucking hard.
reading writings of a beautiful heartbreak and my mind numbs over. i am damaged. i can’t expect anyone to understand.
they say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. i’m not so sure. i feel so weak, still, after all this time.
i once thought i could live a life without fear but there is no denying the terror that haunts me. i don’t know what to do with it. it grabs me at the most unfavorable times and i try to deny it’s invisible touch. but the feeling inevitably remains.
i look to the sky and the trees and the waves and they are the closest thing to reassurance. they tell me, “you’re okay, it’s okay, everything will be alright”. and i want to believe them.
but i’m dragged back to society and the magic is gone.
the desire for someone to understand frustrates me. i don’t want to need anyone.”
This is when I started to believe something was “wrong” with me and I was damaged. Basically I realized I had PTSD, but didn’t have any support or resources to help me cope with it. This version of myself is another big reason I’m here writing this today. So if people are going through this feeling of being damaged and have no idea what to do next, they can see they’re not alone, there are resources, and IT CAN GET BETTER.
Some intense, desperate writing after a fight with my boyfriend where he was suspicious of me hanging out with my friend.
“He has no idea how many scars I carry. Physical ones that have FINALLY faded. The ones inside that are constantly aching. He has no idea. No one here does. I am doing so well.”
At the end of 2015 I felt very alone. I didn’t know how to talk about what I was going through to anyone around me. When I tried to tell my boyfriend at the time, he didn’t give me any safety clues or reassurance. I was at this point of believing I couldn’t trust anyone, and I figured no one cared or could be relied on anyways, and I’d have to figure out what to do about it on my own.
Part 4, 2016 & 2017 will be posted 12/26/19. Thank you for reading!