“Take a deep breath. Now exhale. Don’t forget to breathe,” I am telling myself.
My heartrate, as of late, has been too fast, and so I am trying to use some of my calming tools.
One of my kids is painting pottery at the kitchen table.
The other is eating cold pizza and watching Peppa Pig.
My husband is dozing on the loveseat in the corner of the livingroom.
“Breathe in. Breathe Out.”
I am coaching myself, like a mantra.
You guys. I write about hard things. That’s kind of my thing. But, for some reason, this is so much harder.
I have been holding in a lot lately, very deliberately, but in doing so I have been very quiet on here. I have teased some big blog posts, a new podcast epi (now over a month old) and have a really exciting new partnership. But I have yet to write about any of these things. I am so sorry for that; it is just that I have been paralyzed.
I am not exactly sure why;
by fear; by doubt; by shame; by unbridled emotion.
It is a lazy Saturday and I was not planning to write today, but an announcement just flashed across the TV screen: Netflix to cut all ties with Kevin Spacey.
I immediately put his name into Google to see the latest updates, of which I was not aware. I had read (and re-read) Anthony Rapp’s painful story and Kevin Spacey’s subsequent (and oh-so-odd) faux-pology/coming out Tweet. But, until now, I did not know that other men had come forward with allegations of harassment and assault. I read their stories, and then I read how Netflix responded and finally, I stopped holding on so tightly. I let go. I let myself feel and I let it come out and I am now doing the thing that I know how to do when the feelings get to be so big and so confusing and so intense. I am writing.
I think that this country is going through an amazing revolution right now. Despite many terrible things, one bit of a silver-lining is that we are beginning to open up the dialogue about harassment (sexual and otherwise), assault (sexual and otherwise) and the myriad feelings that victims have to process when holding their stories in or, so bravely, sharing them. They are now labeled. Some will call these people “brave”. Others will refer to them as “the victims”. And, sadly, others will say, “she asked for it” or “he is just looking for his fifteen minutes of fame.”
When the #metoo movement was going viral on my social media feeds, I posted my own vague statement of solidarity (shown above). I wrote:
It was almost exactly one year ago; the worst night of my life. I’m leaving THAT at that. But, one week later, just 2 days before the election, I wrote this. I wrote this when I still had so much hope for our country. I wrote this before my bad situation, somehow, got worse.
But, today, I stand with the women who write “me too”, with loud voices or with shaking hands.
Perhaps you will judge me for sharing. But, if my story helps even one other person to feel less alone then this is worth it.
Perhaps someday I will have the courage to share the rest. But, for now, here is my Me Too.
It was a little bit scary, but I think that a lot of people, even if they read the Daily Kos piece and my Hannah Baker post, thought that I was referring to last year’s presidential election as the worst night of my life.
I was not.
Since that day I have spoken to my husband, my parents and members of my treatment team, as the anniversary of this dark day approached, looming over my head. “Should I share my story?” I asked. I received support, as I always do, but also a lot of hesitance; some resistance. They did not want me to exacerbate my pain, keep it alive or, yet again, be stigmatized.
But, in deciding to whether or not to write, I used the same barometer that I used nearly four years ago when I came out with my postpartum. I said to myself, “If this helps one other person to feel less alone, then it is worth it.”
Just like I did in my Daily Kos piece I am going to keep this post intentionally opaque. Back then, I wrote,
“Because…once you come out with a story, the gloves are off, and you, even as the victim, lose control of the narrative. Though I knew the truth, I could have been slandered and defamed, and even if I could prove my “innocence”, I would still, somehow, be attached to someone whom I just wanted to forget.
And so, I grieved in silence, once again.
Something happened to me recently. It is too fresh to talk about, but it is the same story, in many ways, just with different characters and circumstances.
I share this, though, because I am overwhelmed by the injustice of it all. I was hurt, in every way that one can be hurt, and yet I cannot seek justice. I cannot make a report or write about the specifics, or tell other parties who would be interested.
And why is this?
Because my reputation would be on the line, and it was threatened. And as a mother and woman who works with children, I cannot risk any possible damage to my name or the impression of my character.
And I want to scream. I want to scream bloody murder. I want to kick and scream and yell and cry and go door to door and tell people the truth about what happened because it feels so incredibly unfair that I have to sit here, fragile & fractured, in silence. But if I scream, there is a chance that someone else could scream louder. And it does not matter that I am telling the truth about the story; if I am involved in a nasty story, I become the nasty woman… In what I have shared in this deeply emotional and personal post I was excruciatingly careful with my diction. I did not give names, identifying details or specifics about people, places or events. I did not defame, invade privacy or commit libel. No connections can be made. I had to protect the guilty in order to protect myself.”
I stand by everything that I wrote on that day. Including the fact that I have continued to be exceedingly careful with my language in this post and I am not invading anyone’s privacy or violating any other rights as I tell my own true story about characters who shall remain completely anonymous. I write without revealing any identifying details. I
I wrote the Kos piece one year ago, almost to the day (it was Saturday, but November 5). A week after my worst night. My husband and I went out for a fancy dinner, hoping that champagne and oysters would help us to take our mind off of things. But, before leaving for dinner, I hit “publish” on the Kos piece and throughout the entire dinner my phone buzzed incessantly (beautifully?), notifying me of the hundreds, and then thousands, of people who commented on or shared my piece. Every comment was one of support. People thanked me for my bravery; I was supported by a community of strangers; I had published it under a different name.
If you want to know about my more distant past, I implore you to read that piece. If you want to know more about my more recent past, read this. But today, I am going to say the words that have been very hard for me to say:
I am a survivor.
My #metoo story is far more extensive than I will share, but just trust me on this one. Me. Too. This past year was the hardest of my life. But, it was also the most meaningful.
I have written and deleted this next part several times. On the worst night of my life, I was hurt in ways I never thought possible. I was hurt, so deeply, by a person whom I had trusted. I was hurt, physically, in ways that left bruises on my body and my soul. That night changed my life forever.
Two weeks later, still so shaken, I got into a terrible car accident in which all of the airbags deployed, I got trapped in the car and my small sedan was totaled. I walked away with just a burn from the airbag on my left thumb. My accident was a stone’s throw from “the scene of the crime”, and I was still so traumatized that I got spooked and, though I don’t remember it entirely, was hit.
There is so much more to that story, of course, but I did not write this for you to pity me or to judge me or to look at me differently. I did not write this as a cathartic exercise or for its therapeutic value. But, I did write this deliberately.
First, if this past year has taught me anything, it is about people’s true character. I thought that my postpartum distress was a great way to gauge the quality of my friendships, but this allowed me to evaluate the relationships in my life and focus on those people who were (and are) really there. Who allowed me to ugly-cry to them. Who stood up for what they believed was right. Who had to make changes in their own lives because of what had happened to me.
It also showed me who was not there. For those people, I am sorry. There aren’t many of you, but I am sorry for you. I now know your true character, which is a blessing to me and those closest to me. I am so glad to know who you really are.
They say that it is better to have four quarters than 100 pennies and I believe this so wholeheartedly. Speaking of cents, if you want two of mine, I would give you this advice: you do not have to be friends with everyone or anyone. Be polite and be cordial to people, but if you have a friendship that is adding stress to your life, try your best to back off. If they show you a dark side, do not take that…lightly. Everyone has flaws, but darkness…darkness is different. Try to step away from that and into the light. It is not easy, but it is worth it.
Second, I am writing this to share that this past year had changed my marriage dramatically. My husband and I may have been through hell and back, but when I wrote that piece last year I did not know that you can, indeed, stop smelling like you’ve walked through fire. You aren’t always going to smell like hell if you do not want to. You just have to find a really good dry cleaner. I love my husband today more than I ever thought possible.
Next, I wanted to explain to you why, during the past year, I may have seemed different. If you have perceived me as cold or distracted or frail. I am sorry if I forgot about our plans, or if I did not make those plans in the first place. We all have so much going on, but if I have said to you, “I am so sorry I have not called you back, it has been so crazy!” I really meant it.
Finally, I am writing this piece for you. When the #metoo movement was in full swing, I could not believe how many women shared those two words. I did not know how prevalent this type of harassment/hurt is in our world, and I did not know that I was surrounded by a tribe of true warriors. If you shared your story that day, I thank you. You gave me strength and a sense of solidarity. If you did not, then this is really for you. You are not alone. If you have remained quiet, please do not think that you are weak or cowardly or shameful. It is not your fault. I get why you are staying quiet. Until today, I was pretty quiet, as well.
Right now, my breathing has regulated a bit.
One of my kids is slurping spaghetti at the kitchen table.
The other is building a Bat Cave with Legos.
My husband is still dozing on the loveseat in the corner of the living room.
We are safe.
I am not sure if it was a “good idea” to share this post, or if it will help anyone at all. Frankly, I am not even sure if it makes sense, because it is written with such unrestrained emotion. I chose to keep it real over keeping it really well-written. I, like you, am just a person doing my best.
Over the past year my diagnoses have shifted. My depression has actually abated quite a bit. I find joy in life, again. I do things, like being class mom, helping my daughter to fight through her fears in order to get contacts, learning all of the characters from Star Wars and obsessing over shades of gray paint; planning date nights and parties and casual day dates with my best friends. My anxiety level is still high, my PTSD is something that I deal with every day and I will never be the mom who is dressed in a cute outfit at morning car line (if you can even consider sweatpants and Adidas sandals “dressed” at all).
I am learning to trust in new ways, after my feelings of stability and safety were stripped from me, ever-so-violently. I love more fiercely than ever. I dance hard.
I am a survivor.
I will keep on fighting the good fight.
I am here for you.
You are not alone.