The past…the experiences that we have had…things that have happened to us and actions that we have done… all are a part of who we are and what makes us the people we are.
I firmly believe that life should be lived like how you drive a car; eyes ahead at where you’re going with glances back every now and then and keeping a lookout for what’s edging up beside you too ;). You can’t go forward very well if all you’re doing is looking at where you came from. I am not defined by what I see of my life in my rear view mirror. Yet I am influenced by what’s back there.
Everything that I have come through – the good, the bad, the horrible and the amazing – it all has helped shape who I am today. The moments that felt impossible to live through have helped me to better be present in the moments that bring a smile to my Self.
Today marks the day, 24 years ago, that I lived through an experience that brought me to a moment that I thought would be the last one I would ever have. Attacked while walking to work and sexually assaulted at knifepoint. Thinking in my mind that I was so incredulous that this was how my end would be. Coming out of that event in shock that I made it. I went back home right after (it was less than a block from home), calmly took a shower, changed and , after assuring my husband that I was ok and just wanted to not think about, went to work. Repression and avoidance – you bet. That’s how I dealt with things. I did report it that night and followed through with legal necessities such as they were.
For many of the first few years after, I was barely able to get through the date. The rest of the year I would be oblivious to it but I would start to get anxious weeks before. Nightmares, panic attacks…the fears gripped me horribly as the date would come around. Then something happened. I decided that it wasn’t going to affect me anymore; and I pushed it down and told myself that it had no impact on me. And I did a really good job of that for a number of years.
Then two and a half years ago, a death in my life blew that ability to ignore all apart. I did my best even with that. My “best” being trying to push even that down and just move forward. That only lasted a few months before it all fell apart and I had a breakdown… a breakdown that I have spent almost two years trying to come back from. I had spent my life perfecting the art of being “fine” and “strong” and crafting the ability to take anything that came my way and keep going. The truth is though that, when you take emotions and lock them away, eventually, the dam breaks and it all has to be dealt with.
So I’ve worked at facing what I have tried to not feel for so long. Not just the assault but so many things in my life. The truth I have come to see is that for me, my strength comes not from being able to suppress and power through… my strength comes from being able to acknowledge and feel, fully feel, the pain and the hurt and the fears, and still keep going. With it all there, not driven away. To live with it, because there isn’t another option. Feeling the pain, the hurt, the loss, the fears… Feeling joy, abandon, bliss, serenity… Letting go of labelling bad or good… Feeling means I’m alive, and after living with the apathy of depression, I’ll take a rollercoaster of emotions over feeling nothing at all, thank you very much. Yes, life hurts sometimes – but it also has moments of feeling more happiness than you think you can ever experience. You can’t have one side of the coin without the other.
So today, instead of pretending it’s just another day and that it has no significance…I acknowledge it for what it is; a day that has helped bring me to where, and who, I am now. And that person is strong – strong enough to admit that sometimes I’m not. And that’s what gives me the strength to go on and be ok.