How My Trauma Became My Next Tattoo

My junior year of college has been extremely hard. One of the hardest I’ve experienced so far. It’s been harder than my parent's divorce, harder than outgrowing friends and harder than my transition from high school to college.

When I first came to Brenau University my freshman year, I was closed off and kept to myself.  However, I began to open up and let people in. I started to appreciate the community of women around me. After spending three years at Brenau and gaining leadership positions, like the coveted Chair Justice of Honor Court, I came into this new semester excited and eager to see what this year would bring me but life came at me quickly.

I was taking everyone in with open arms, being a support system and friend. I allowed too many people into my life who didn’t deserve to be there and I suffered the consequences. I missed all the signs that were right in front of me, put my trust in the wrong people. I did not follow my gut and offered entirely too many second chances. I let everyone around me drain my energy. The same people I started calling my friends began to harass, bully, talk about, lie to and lie on me.

All of these people, some who I barely knew, made up this new definition of who Charlene was, and people started to believe it, including myself. After being torn down for so long, I started to lose hope in myself. There was so much going on that it was hard to decipher where one thing began and the next ended. I lost friends and my reputation but most of all, I lost myself.  The people I expected to be there for me turned their backs on me.

In turn, I showed the most vulnerable parts of myself to the wrong people. I was relying too heavily on people that I had just met and although they were amazing it caused a strain on our relationships and a burden that they did not need to bear.

I was afraid to talk to my mom, my siblings, my family, my friends. I realized that I was going through all of this with more than half of my support system in the dark of what was going on.  By time midterms were over, I had no choice but to start talking to my mom and my sister about everything I had been going through.

After spending a month at home, I thought coming back to school with a fresh mindset would be good for me, but honestly, I was scared to come back. The place that had grown to feel like a second home was now I place I didn’t feel safe or have a desire to be at. I felt like there was no one in my corner. Even after all the drama from last semester was tied up, there was still a feeling I could not shake. I was not myself and no one noticed including me.

On February 28 at 2:53 a.m. after having a panic attack, with tears running down my face I realized this school year had broken me wide open. With that, I knew I had to make a change. I could not let this be my demise.  

Between writing my senior thesis on top of work in all my other class, running my organization and still taking orders for my business, I was too busy to drop the ball. I had to learn that everyone does not have my best interest and that I cannot help everyone. Mending relationships that were important to me and letting go of the ones that didn’t deserve me was a challenge. However, I had to put Charlene first and set proper boundaries for my well-being. It is okay to be selfish sometimes, and I know that now.

My life is not the same, and it will never be. The growing I was forced to do is making me a better person. While I still don’t have all the answers, all the closure and unpacked all that happened to me I feel so much better. On Friday, I defended my thesis and passed (with revisions) and on Saturday, I was crowned a ceremonial senior at Brenau’s class day ceremony. To commemorate the journey I have been on this school year, I decided to get a tattoo.



Perseverance, because preserving is exactly what I have done. I overcame everything that was thrown at me and I am stronger because of it. I have made some amazing friends, doing things I didn’t think I could achieve, wrote a 40-page research paper in a little over a month and still keeping my grades above a B and running my business. With less than two weeks left in the semester, I’m ready for a relaxing summer and to come back to complete my senior year. And as difficult as the year has been for me I can say that I did persevere and I am stronger because of it.


And for the people who tried to tear me down or lost hope in me, just wait to see what I do next.