The Darkness, Pt. 1

**trigger warning**

I have been working my way to this post. This is the really hard one to write, the one where I explain the lowest points in my life and how I got there. While I will try not to be graphic, I feel some things need to be explained in order to deliver a better understanding.

When I was a teenager, I had my very first boyfriend (someone I’ll call Vader).We shared mutual friends who set us up together. He seemed like he’d be the perfect first boyfriend: kind, funny, great to spend time with.

I quickly discovered, however, that he wanted things his way, not mine. As I said, he was my first boyfriend. I had never even held hands with a boy before him. I wasn’t ready to do anything beyond that. Vader had other ideas, though.

He planted a kiss on me knowing I was nervous and not prepared at all. Two weeks after I met him, he decided he wanted more. I tried to fight his wandering hand, but he refused to listen. He just kept telling me to relax and enjoy it.

I didn’t relax, and I did not enjoy it. I was saving myself for marriage, and he knew this. I cried because of this, but he said he did it because he loved me. I wish I had dumped him then. I had no idea that the worst was to come.

One month after we met, Vader and I were alone in his house. As far as I knew, someone else was supposed to be there so we had a chaperone of sorts. Plans changed, apparently, and I was not aware of this until we were already there.

Could I have left? I wish. He is a couple years older than me, so he had driven. I wasn’t yet old enough to drive. If I had called for a ride, I couldn’t figure out what to say without making Vader look like a bad guy. I thought I loved him. He said he loved me. I thought I could trust him.

We ended up in his room, how or why I don’t remember. I recall him stripping his clothes off and starting on mine though I told him to stop. He pinned me down and raped me. I was so terrified, I went into shock. I couldn’t talk. I could barely breathe.

I cried when he was done, and all I remember him saying is that I should get dressed so I did. I was numb at this point. My parents were gone when I got home. I showered, dressed, and thought about what happened. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t stop seeing it and feeling it.

I was too frightened to tell my parents or any other adults. The few people I found the nerve to tell either didn’t believe me or didn’t want to. They questioned what really happened or whether I saw it differently than reality. They made me feel it was all my fault. After that, I didn’t trust anyone else with this information.

I knew one thing and one thing only: I had to make the pain and sorrow end.

I came up with a plan. I knew how I would kill myself and when. I thought it out for two days. On the third day, the day I’d decided on, I found myself crying on the bed. What the heck was I doing? I wondered. I was planning suicide because of a boy. I would no longer exist on this earth because of one boy and what he did.

Obviously, I didn’t go through with it. Thank God I didn’t even try. Instead, I broke up with Vader. I did it publicly for safety. I had an urge to slap him across the face, giving him back a bit of the pain he caused me. Even with witnesses, though, I was too terrified he would hit me back. It was all very messy but quick.

I wish I could say that’s where it ended, but he had been my “first love” (no, I don’t consider him that now) and I was such a sucker for his pleas and apologies.

After we got back together, he routinely took me to his house, where we inevitably ended up alone somehow or other every time. I would all but beg them not to go. They weren’t bothering us or in the way, I’d say. I enjoy their company. But they’d always leave.

Vader would always take me to his room after that. He’d strip us down though I tried to fight him off. He would literally use all his body weight to hold me down and force me to do things I didn’t want to. I sobbed and begged him to stop. I tried kicking him off of me. He’d tell me to stop crying and that he would let me up if I’d just do what he wanted.

Why did I stay with him? I can hear you asking that question. The simplest answer I have is this: I was frightened. If he hurt me this way all the while saying he loved me, what would he do to me if he hated me?

I became a robot after this. I would just give him what he asked for because it was terrifyingly less traumatic. I didn’t know I was suffering from depression at this point. All I knew was that I preferred the path of less pain. “No pain” was not an option with Vader.

After three months of suffering, I ended it with him for good. Manipulator that he is, however, he wouldn’t let me go. We broke up, yes, but he called me all the time for the next year telling me how much he missed me, though he had a new girlfriend.

(Here is where I apologize to any girl or woman he might have hurt after me. I prayed every day that my silence didn’t make him think he was right or somehow justified in abusing anyone else. I hope his rape and assault ended with me, but the realist in me won’t let me disregard any other outcomes.)

I, meanwhile, had lost interest in everything. My friends, my family, schoolwork, dances, parties. None of it meant anything to me. I didn’t have words or labels for how I felt. I just knew nothing would ever be the same. I wasn’t sure happiness would or could ever find me again.

Toddler rules

At some point in parenting comes the inevitable moment when your child is old enough to notice when you give away their toys. Their reaction is usually the same: “Nooo!”

As parents, we learn to be stealthy and hide the soon-to-be departed items, sometimes under blankets or in closets, to keep prying eyes from finding their “beloveds” (that they hadn’t played with in forever) and returning them to toy boxes or beds.

I once made the mistake of explaining to Choo-choo that his long deserted toys would be going to other kids who will love them, play with them, and cherish them. Of course, this only made things worse.

His reaction was exactly what I should have expected. Worry filled his eyes. His face froze in panic. I could hear his thoughts: “What? Another child will be touching MY toys?? I don’t think so!”

Be stealthy, my friends 🙂

As I am

To some, it’s silly. Everyone has fears, they say. It’s all an excuse to avoid people or to avoid doing anything. They use the dreaded “c” word. As Diesel has said several times, “Just get over it!”

If only it were that simple. Trust me, I’d love to just get over it. Now, for some people, the “get over it” attitude works. They face their fears and live their lives. If this is how you survive, then good for you. I’m genuinely happy for you.

For me and others like me, however, this is not the case. Being pushed or pressured only makes things worse. When I am pushed into stepping outside my comfort zone, I become paralyzed with fear. The unknown is so terrifying to me that I am unable to make any kind of decision or progress. Sometimes, I end up having panic attacks. (More on those another day.)

Not everyone understands this. They are entitled to their opinions, of course. But I am not crazy and I am not weak. I’m scared. I have trusted and been hurt. I learned not to trust at all. While I am slowly progressing toward less fear, pushing me before I’m ready only sets me back.

I will not be ashamed of my anxiety. I will not be shamed into thinking there is something deeply wrong with me or I’m not trying hard enough. “Oh, you just aren’t fixing the right things about yourself!” Except I’m doing all I can. I try to eat healthier. I try exercise. I have a dozen books on improving mood, turning depression around, being mindful and thankful and calm. I am also in therapy and take needed medication. I battle every day.

I intend on winning the war someday. But until then, I will go about things in my own time. I hope everyone else finds their own way to wellness. Just know you are not alone.

I am (not) okay

Recently, I sat by myself at the only table in a bakery, eating a cupcake and crying. Not just a few tears here and there. I was actively suppressing sobs as a river of tears ran down my face, keeping pace with the rain outside.

Customers entered and exited the bakery, picking up cakes, placing orders, buying yummy-looking pastries. The two clerks kept busy helping them as they came in and out. When I was the only one who remained, they seemed to find other work to do.

At least ten other people had been in the same small space with me, and not a single one asked me if I was okay. I tried to smile through it when I bought the first cupcake, then the second, and even once I’d finished those and moved on to a package of chocolate caramel turtle cookies.

Now, I realize I could have been crying for any number of reasons, but it makes me wonder how my day might have changed if someone would have cared enough to ask. I at least had ways of coping with my disappointment and also loved ones to help brighten my mood.

Those other people did not know this, however. It begs the question: would someone else’s day–or even life–change for the better if only a person stopped to ask if they were okay?

A friend in need

I’m a terrible friend. I really am. Not in that I don’t love or don’t care because I do both fiercely. Just sometimes, I can be a bit flighty. More than that, I get scared.

Fear has been a driving force in my life for a very long time. My anxiety is to the point that I can’t hardly bring myself to pick up the phone to call a friend or go hang out with them somewhere. My breath quickens. My insides hurt. I start clenching my fingers together without noticing.

It is only after I have managed to calm down a bit that I can relax my hands and maybe–possibly–pick up the telephone. Sometimes not. Sometimes if I do call, I actually hope to get voice mail so they can call me back as opposed to them saging hello and catching me off guard. Even with calls to friends and family, I rehearse what I want to say when they answer, but my nerves get the best of me and I tend to forget. I might even stall to remember or even to work up more courage.

I do honestly prefer being home most of the time, anyway, only because there is no pressure at home. I find having conversations with Choo-choo to often be less anxiety-producing than with others.

So if you ever get a nervous message from me or if I cancel plans or hesitate to make them in the first place, you now know why. And yes, I am sorry for this. I understand it does not make things any easier, and I am working on that. I just want to say a big thank you to those who have stuck it out through it all with me. Thank you for your kindness, patience, and understanding! ❤️

“Just eat your food!”

…is a phrase I find myself saying to Choo-choo all the time. All. The. Time. He prefers to play during his meals, and while I’m sure that’s normal for a two year old, it irks me to no end.

I have learned to step away, deep breathe, then return to the table. I even tell him why I’m doing it so he doesn’t wonder or worry why Mommy leaves the room.

So, the other day, Choo-choo was playing more than eating during lunch. I knew he was hungry. I was annoyed. Then came the dreaded “Eat your food!” line again.

To my surprise, Choo-choo turns to me and says, “Walk away and breathe, Mommy.”

I did, and as I did, I couldn’t help but feel conflicted. My son knew what I needed to calm myself and yet I was sad he had that knowledge in the first place. I returned to him with a smile.

I wish I could say he finished his lunch right away or that I didn’t have to step away to deep breathe. What I can tell you is all my deep breathing to reach a place of calm has influenced Choo-choo to the point that when he is angry, he takes a deep breath and feels better.

I have taught my son how to work through his emotions, and right now, nothing could make me prouder.

Sleepy time

Choo-choo’s naps are my time to breathe, my time to enjoy being by myself, my time to work, and my time for renewal.

But what happens if he doesn’t sleep? Yesterday, for example, my child decided he did not want to nap. Why, I have no idea. Given the chance, I would love to sleep. I do nap when he’s in bed if I feel I need to.

The problem is, I can’t sleep or even relax when he won’t rest. With every clink and clatter of his toys as he played through naptime, I grew more weary and frustrated. Diesel told me not to worry about it. He said Choo-choo will give up his naps at some point anyway. While I knew this was true, it didn’t help in the moment.

Of course, Choo-choo was just as perky and happy to see me when I went to get him as he is every other day after nap or bed. And I reminded myself of the one plus that comes with Choo-choo skipping naptime: he is so tired by bed that he goes to sleep at night with no problems.

As for me, I still love my break during the day, but it’s nice to remember that if Choo-choo doesn’t take a nap, it doesn’t have to ruin my day.