I remember the day I first created a social media account to stay connected with friends. I was in middle school, and was so excited to be social on the Internet. But then I received a post on my Facebook Wall that changed my life forever: “Larry, can you do us a favor and leave us alone? You are the ugliest person ever, and no one likes you.” Comments came left and right; friends and classmates were comparing me to animals, and no longer wanted to be friends with me. The next day, all of my classmates ostracized and spread rumors about me. Then, the “friend” who’d started it all had five of her guy friends come confront me. The boys hammered me against the lockers, humped me, and told me they’d rape me I ever snitched on them.
After my assault, I was afraid I’d be attacked again by those same guys, or their friends, or their friends of friends. I was constantly watching my every move. I never felt comfortable changing in public, so I’d go into the bathroom stall and change into my workout clothes. I was never comfortable looking in the mirror, or at photos of myself, either – I was embarrassed, and felt like all eyes were on me. I thought that they had control over my body.
This went on for many years, but as I got older, I learned to reclaim and feel comfortable with my body. Here’s how I started the process of healing:
- I had to process and learn about my trauma
If you’re trying to avoid addressing or processing your experience, it will harm you in the long run. You cannot live, hold onto, outrun, or go under your experience; you have to go through it, whether you like it or not.
You can create healthy habits by meditating, which helped me to clear my mind and process the trauma.
- I had to face the obstacles of feeling comfortable around people
If I saw a man who looked like one of the assaulters, I would walk the other way. I was fighting anxiety through everything I did, and couldn’t stop the thoughts that one would get to me and use my body. This negative thought interfered with my relationships, so I decided to get involved with organizations that helped build my confidence in myself, along with in building relationships.
- I regained control over my body
It was vital for me to take baby steps to be gentle and reclaim my body. I had to take time to grieve, adjust, and recognize that I am not what happened to me. I learned to connect with my body, and when I tell myself that it’s not by body’s fault, the weight lifts off my shoulders. It took time to feel ready, but when I did I was able to make leaps and bounds with my body.
I decided to try yoga, which helped me reconnect with my mind and body. I was able to release the negative energy that came from the trauma. Yoga encouraged me to accept the pain I had been trying to deny for many years.
- I gave dating a try, and set boundaries for physical contact
Because of my trauma I didn’t have any experience with dating, and when I decided to join the dating pool, I needed to give myself time to process how I felt with someone I had developed feelings for. I was able to set good boundaries by telling people I didn’t want to become physical with them, saying no to many opportunities, like hookups and sex, because I needed to protect myself from rejection. I can’t let them rush things or pressure me to change my mind, and their actions should match their words after they say they understand.
Healing is a long-term process, but I make strides with it every day.
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