Where do you begin? What do you say and what do you leave out?
I decided that I am not just going to talk about what I studied and what degrees, knowledge and skills I have. I have all those.
The real questions are: Who am I? What is my story? How did I get to where I am today?
I believe in being open and honest and not staying quiet about what happens in life. I am sharing my story below to encourage people to seek professional help when life gets out of control and you don’t know how to handle a situation.
When I was 18 I was raped by someone I thought I could trust, someone I called a friend.
Even though I knew that being raped didn’t define who I was and at some level I understood that it wasn’t my fault, I didn’t realise (or maybe didn’t want to accept) how that one night’s trauma could influence my life.
It influenced my choices with who I had relationships with, it started a cycle of bad and abusive relationships (friendships and romantic), it became my “comfort zone” because I didn’t believe I deserved better.
It influenced my dreams, my thinking about life, my emotions. I would find myself crying for hours, not knowing why, being mad at everyone around me and at life in general. I would smile when I was around people, pretending that I was fine, even though sometimes I could feel myself breaking on the inside.
For years I felt confused and not certain that what I remember really happened, I felt ashamed, guilty to the point where I was starving myself, punishing my body by spending hours in the gym.
I know what it feels like to have those flashbacks and bad memories fill your day at the most unexpected times. I know what it feels like to be scared of the dreams you might have when eventually you fall asleep at night.
I felt that it was my fault and that something was wrong with me.
I started studying psychology when I was 27, maybe as a way to understand myself and what I was going through or maybe to find answers about why people hurt each other in so many ways.
Even with the knowledge I was gaining through my studies I still kept quiet and tried everything I could think of to justify my choices, actions and emotions. Like many people do.
I tried to be strong and told myself over and over again that I could handle my life and that it had nothing to do with what happened in my past and that after so many years I should be “over it”. I believed I could control everything happening in my life. I mean I understand psychology, how could I not be in control? I was wrong…
Combine all the above while struggling with depression and you get the “old” me.
I know what it feels like to hit that “rock bottom”, because I did. HARD. I found myself at a place where I had only two choices. Get help from professionals or continue walking in the wrong direction. I chose to get help.
I saw professionals to work through the things I couldn’t work through on my own.
Was it easy? NO
Was it painfull? YES
Was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY
I had to go through my own journey to find the “new” me.
I realised that I wanted to be a survivor; not a victim anymore. I realised that although my body was hurt; my heart, my soul, my dreams and the aspirations I had before the rape and dark depressed days was still mine (maybe a bit bent out of shape, but still mine) and it can only be taken away from me if I allowed it.
It is my past, my choices, life experiences, the fact that I took those first steps to study what I always knew in my heart I was meant to study and asking for help that led me to where I am now.
Through counselling I learned that I am not perfect, that there is no such thing as perfect, but that I can strive to be the best me every day. I learned that I am also human and that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, that it is ok to be happy! I learned that I am real, true and honest and that inspite of the challenges I’ve been through I have a lot to be grateful for and a lot of reasons to be proud of who I am.
I learned that I am strong, which doesn’t mean I don’t have “down-days”. I do and on those days I know I need to fight a bit harder to stay positive. I also know that I have experience, skills and knowledge to handle the “down-days”.
This is what I have to give. Knowledge, skills and a passion for life.
Nobody can change what happened in the past; BUT having a professional at your side in the present to guide and teach you coping skills to handle whatever it is you are struggling with (past or present) is the first step to take back control of your life and circumstances.
There are three important things to always remember:
- Needing support and asking for help does not make you weak
- It takes a strong person to admit that life is difficult at times
- Your life always matters and is worth fighting for
xx Monica xx