What’s it been? Over a decade? (20 years today)

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April 12, 1996

The day my whole life changed.  It was exactly 20 years ago this evening that I went on my first date with X.  We went to the same high school, were the same age, played the same instrument.  I was 15 years old and I was happy, popular, involved in school, healthy and enjoying my life.

Within a few short months of being in a relationship with X I was depressed, socially isolated and on a dangerous path to developing anorexia nervosa.

X and I dated for 11 months.  During that time I was sexually and emotionally abused on an almost daily basis.  Nobody knew.  The social isolation was a particularly harmful aspect of the emotional abuse.  X was jealous of just about anything I did other than spend time with him.  He used to write me lengthy notes and typed letters whenever we were apart.  At times it felt caring, loving and at other times slightly disturbing.

I began to numb myself in various ways.  I developed my own methods of coping with the ongoing abuse.  At one point during that year I caught the stomach flu.  I was mildly ill for a few days and not eating very much.   My body felt empty, floaty, my mind felt quiet…and I loved it.  I had stumbled upon a new coping technique, restricting eating.   It was never about calories, losing weight, or fitting into a societal ideal for me.  It was all about control, about numbing out about the quiet feelings in my mind (I later learned that this was a form of disassociation).

Sometimes people who have been abused write letters to their younger selves as a part of their healing.  If I could tell my 15 year old self something it would be this:

Dear Ana,

It’s not your fault.  You are not dirty.  Do not be ashamed of your body.  What is happening to you is abuse.  If you feel uncomfortable it is not right for you.

Tell someone.  People care about you, so many people care about you.  Ask for help.  Someone will believe you.   You don’t have to go through this alone.

Talking about this is scary, but believe me…20 years from now, when your body is covered in scars and you have long term side effects of self starvation, you will realize that speaking out is simpler than the alternative.

This doesn’t have to be a secret.  You are not alone.  Forgive yourself and surround yourself with people who treat you with respect.

I’m so sorry that nobody can see what you are going through.  I’m sorry none of the adults in your life have figured out what is going on.  I’m sorry, but you are going to have to be the brave one and explain it to them.

You didn’t deserve this.  Don’t turn your back on yourself.

You are loved.

x

Adult me

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