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Have you ever been afraid to listen to your heart?

For a long time, I believed everything I did in my life must be done whole-heartedly. I wanted to follow my dreams, and as a young girl my imagination was always running wild. I figured this would always be a strong suit, a power of mine, and in fact it would help me one day be an accomplished writer.

I wanted to be a journalist and an author. Growing up, I’m sure as many people do, more importantly I wanted to be a good person.

As a young girl, I believed in fairytales and I believed in love at first sight. Believing one day I would meet someone, and I would just know. We must have all considered this at one point in our lives, you would see a beautiful girl and know she’s the one. Or the love of your life would spill his coffee all over your favorite blouse on his way to class and there it was, the cinematic story unfolds.

The problem is my high expectations and imagination belonged to me as a child. They were watered by Disney movies and love stories in pre-teen novels.

So here I am, afraid to listen to my own heart.

For the past two years I’ve been questioning the word ‘love,’ hesitant to trust anyone.

I know people throw around the term “emotionally unavailable,” but it is real. It isn’t a social construction or something to laugh about because it defines me.

Of course we all have our reasons, and a major part of this has to do with the era we live in.  It’s the ease of finding someone through a downloaded app on our phones, computers, or tablets. Or the ability to making last minute plans which feel like more of a call to have sex, guided by the power of our fingertips on a screen.  

Dating apps cause breakups, insecurities in a relationship, and create a giant cloud of doubt floating above two people who may very well be in love with each other but can’t beat the temptation of a popular app.

You think you’ve found the love of your life only until you see someone online who looks better.

In an article Barry Schwartz writes “Greater choice makes us fantasize about a better option out there.” And the truth to this statement is painful. It makes people hesitate to make a decision, in my own experiences this happens almost always.

However, the inability to trust I am talking about is much deeper than being played.

I’ve suffered through many obstacles, shattering my six-year-old image of myself dressed up as a princess.

For too long, I’ve sat around thinking of reasons why a boy should love me and have not considered why I should love me instead.

Two years ago, I was raped.

He was one of my closest friends. Last year I spent $3840 (after insurance claims) on therapy sessions. Once a week, I would sit in an office in silence trying to express what it feels like to be empty. Despite the expenditure, I had the chance to see my life for what it was and try to deal with this wrench in my life. 

Finally, when May rolled around, and second-year was through, I decided one day it would be my last therapy session. It was hard, and without sounding overly dramatic I felt good about my decision.

In retrospect, I had the opportunity to reflect on the last four years of my life.

I always knew that in high school my controlling boyfriend kept me away from my closest and truest friends, he made me feel alone, and he made me insecure.

But in retrospect, it was more than that. He took me away from me. And I belong to me. His psychological torment led me to veer away from my core values. He used to tell me religion was stupid and being a Catholic was stupid. He used to ask me why I wore a cross necklace and I would ask him to take me home, but he would refuse. Imagine that. What was I doing?

You see that’s the issue, for so long and even still, I catch myself. I still have moments where I act as if I were responsible for it. As if being trapped in an abusive relationship was my own fault. I was 17, and I knew in my heart that what we had wasn’t real love. So why was I afraid to listen to my heart?

It takes me to my present situation. I have days where I look back on being assaulted two summers ago, and I hate myself. I recently heard on an episode of Law and Order: SVU the main character Olivia Benson say to another character after being asked “women never really get over (being raped) do they,” and her answer was “no, but they can move past it.”

This scene woke me up. It kept me awake that night. It made me realize I need accept this idea that I can be okay, but not perfectly fine.

Truthfully, I haven’t been able to get over it and I don’t think I ever will. Have I moved past it? I would say so. And this is why I’m writing. Too many people don’t understand how a trauma like this can live and grow inside your brain.

Not only does the trauma follow you around like a big dark cloud, but it also puts up a wall. Being sexually assaulted has made me emotionally unavailable not only being afraid to let another guy in, but even to let myself in. It takes a toll on your confidence, and desire to follow your heart.

I think putting up a wall is the worst thing you can do, but for most of us it’s the only thing we can do.

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