I haven't been here for such a long time! I decided to log on tonight for one last time, to wish you all well with your journeys to healing and closure, whatever stage you're at. This has always been a great community to talk with people who understand and I sincerely hope that it continues that way, providing hope and support for all members, new and old. For those I was privileged enough to become friends with, and who offered me advice and comfort via this site, a huge thank you. At times, I honestly don't know what I would have done without you. To those I have never spoken to, I hope that you find the wonderful people here like a surrogate family, as I did.
Several months ago, I met a wonderful man. He helped me to get back in touch with the "me" that had been lost inside for so many years, and I will always be grateful to him for that. I had come to a point where I accepted that I would always be a victim, and should live my life as one. I hated who I was, I felt disconnected from my body, and from the people around me. Over time, I came to realise that the "old me" was still inside, I just had to unlock her. I surprised myself for doing, and saying, things that I'd never dreamed possible, and suddenly I was filled with hope for my future! I made a conscious decision to like, and to love, myself again. And I really do! I am a good person! All the hatred and disrespect for myself, that was the way "he" felt about me, not the way I should feel about myself! I thought about how much I love each and every one of my friends and family, and how it would make me feel if they felt such hatred for themselves. I knew I couldn't bear it. I then thought about how much they all love me, and I decided to love myself in the same way. At first it felt a little strange, but it feels so great just to feel good about myself now!
I've made some life-changing decisions to help me get back to the person I want to be. After all, as my dear friend told me, I can be whoever I want to be. If I don't like who I am, think about the things I think/say/do that I dislike, and change them. It's actually not that difficult if you believe you can do it; all it takes is a deep breath and a little courage. For example, for years I believed that if I made myself as unattractive as possible, I would be less likely to be attacked again. About a month ago, I cut down on junk food and joined a gym, and really started taking care of myself. My family and friends have been so much more supportive than I could ever have imagined, and I'm so grateful. They don't even know the real reason I'm doing this, and they're still being great! Also, I identified an area of my job that was placing me under an enormous amount of stress long-term, so I plucked up the courage to talk to my manager about it, and he has sorted it for me. In the end, all I had to do was ask, instead of hoping he would realise on his own! If I can make changes like this, you can too and I hope you believe that.
For me, I have forgiven myself. I know I wasn't to blame for what happened to me, but for the guilt I carried around for so long and for the way I let it affect not only my life but the lives of the people close to me, I forgave myself. It feels like such a huge weight off my shoulders! I have put all the books I amassed about rape and abuse in a box and tucked it away out of sight. I removed my links to websites for survivors. Not seeing constant reminders has definitely helped to get back to the person I was before, which is why I haven't been here for so long. And this is why I'm making this my last message to you all. I want to be the person I was before, and she deserves a chance!
About a fortnight ago, "he" friend requested me on Facebook. My immediate reaction was one of terror, and seeing his photo sent me into shock. But after a while, I looked at his profile page, read messages between him and his friends/family, looked at his photos, and realised that at the end of the day, he's just a person. For years I've been building him up as some kind of monster in my head, and he's just a small, insignificant person. Just to be sure, I declined the request and blocked him, but later I was talking to my Mum about why on earth he would friend request me, and she suggested that perhaps he either didn't remember or didn't think of what he did as wrong. Maybe. But I doubt it. But at that moment, having realised he was just a person, like anyone else, I forgave him. Everyone makes mistakes, and I don't deserve to have the rest of my life ruined because of his mistakes. Finally, I felt closure! I never thought I would understand the concept of forgiveness in this situation, but I do. It's not about him, it's about me. It's about who I want to be. And I don't want to carry around any hatred or stress any more. That's not who I am.
I'm coping much better with my panic attacks now. They're usually triggered by the rain (not helpful in the winter when it rains a LOT!) and someone very kindly taught me a couple of tricks to help me work through them. When there's a chance of rain, I wear an elastic band around my wrist or around the palm of my hand, and if I feel myself beginning to panic, I snap the band against my skin, to create a little pain to bring me "back in the room". If I can ground myself and remember where I am and that I'm out of danger, I can usually prevent the panic from taking over. Also, I was encouraged to think of a different, much happier memory, where I was out in the rain. Every time it rains I think about that memory, every little detail of it, even talk it through with someone if there's someone available, and gradually I hope that the rain will trigger happy memories of that time automatically, instead of triggering bad memories of the attack in the rain. It's all about training the brain, and I know I will get there. I think the key is believing that you can make that change, because I feel so different now that I actually, genuinely believe!
I hope that this post gives you hope and inspiration for your own journeys to healing. If you'd read my posts from around a year ago, you probably wouldn't believe it was the same person talking, and I do feel like a new person now. Or rather, I feel like I'm back to the old me! I like her!!!
Please take gentle care of yourselves, each and every one of you deserves it! And remember to love and appreciate yourselves like your friends and family love you!
Over and out