The biggest gift I gave myself in my healing journey was leaving Texas and promising myself I never had to go back. When I got to Portland I felt such a sense of relief knowing he could never find me here. Next, I decided to stop blaming myself and practice boundary setting. Which is NOT an easy thing to do and I’m still working on it. Everytime I catch myself, self-blaming for what happened I close my eyes and imagine fifteen year old me standing front me. Face to face, I would never blame that child for what happened. I hug her and tell her everything will be okay and that you are so much stronger than you know.
Self love and self care has been the biggest healing tool for me. My mom taught me about it. I don’t mean buying a bathbomb #selfcare, that’s companies trying to make money off of my healing journey. I mean doing something harder than a quick trip to the store. When I get overwhelmed or someone asks something of me that I’m not excited to give, I pause and ask myself: “would you ask this of someone?”, “are you taking care of yourself?”, “is this relationship a one way, or two way street?” and most importantly “what do you need right now?”. By doing this it helps me surround myself only with people who support, love me and respect my boundaries.
I read a lot of books about dissecting gender, class and white supremacy. These were all factors weaved into my experience. My abuser was white, male, older than me and incredibly wealthy. Power dynamics are always present and I try to be aware of them at all times. It’s easy to be blind to how people use different types of power to control others.
I also created an ongoing interactive art experiment shortly after realizing the abuse that I had experienced. I screen printed tee shirts that said “Not Sorry”, wore them and gave them to friends of mine. The goal was to keep myself from saying sorry so much. Abusers make us feel like we shouldn’t exist, that we should be sorry.
As a queer, survivor and woman of color I found it uncomfortable to take up space, physically, emotionally or even allow my words or ideas to take space. While the men around me found it easy to take up space. It all boils down to us all respecting one another, having patience with ourselves and other and us all taking up an equal amount of space. That being said it was an interesting experience to apologize for taking up space in a grocery store while wearing a shirt that said “Not Sorry”. It definitely broke my habit of apologizing all the time.
Finally, I’ve accepted that this experience has shaped me, motivated me to try and help others, it has strengthened me and by healing from it I’ve learned so much about myself. The best advice someone gave me was “It doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger”. It’s so true. I have a close relationship with myself and it’s not always smooth sailing but I know I’ll always have my back. I know now how to surround myself with kind and loving people. Now, I have an amazing, loving and balanced relationship with my partner whom I live with.