In this week’s episode of #ConfidenceOnTheGo we’re chatting about:
Just a quick hello to all of my Keep the Faith listeners out there – thanks for being part of the community of contagious encouragement.
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I came to with a sharp stinging in my throat. Trying to open my eyes I blinked forcefully, trying to make sense of my disorientation and of the darkness around. The room was stuffy; a dim yellowish light lit the far back corner, giving the room an eerie, dirty feel. The air tasted stale and cold.
Screams had woken me up; they had actually been my own screams but it took me a prolonged breathed to know it. Drugged to unconsciousness the effects were wearing off and I reentered the world with a foggy brain. In my confusion I felt the pressure of a person on top of me. He had strong hands and they were wrapped around my throat, compressing it and causing internal lacerations. The stinging in my throat made sense now. I tried to move but felt paralyzed, my arms held down at the wrist and my body weighted by his. I had never felt so helpless or frozen – the immobility scared the hell out of me. From fear turned to shock and from shock to a fight for survival. Sobs punctuated my screams and I searched for safety. I had no idea where I was or how I got there and I had no idea who this man was who was hurting me. All I knew is I was powerless, voiceless and in pain. He was good-looking, fit and had a distinctive tattoo. That tattoo – those inked lines of barbed wire bled together in a blur branded into my memory. The sharp stabbing in the lower half of my body got worse and more intense. Gasping for breath I saw tiny stars and wondered with intense clarity if I was living out my last hour. I was living a nightmare, feeling it in full and fearful I would never wake up.
Rage fired up in me. It overtook my fear and it numbed the pain and with superhuman force, I forced my body into convulsions. Matched with the highest shrieks for help I could muster with my lungs, I committed to creating as much of a scene and as much sound as possible, not knowing if it would help or if anyone would hear, but in desperation that there had to be someone somewhere close by.
It turns out I was right. My attacker had taken me to a seedy motel and the chaos I was creating was about to create a problem for him because though questionable in location, there were still enough witnesses around. Trying to control me and silence me he became momentarily distracted, giving me a small window to pull all of my forces together to leap from the bed to run. Naked, I lunged myself towards the door, throwing all of my weight towards safety, but he caught me and threw me back on the bed into submission. I was still weak from the drugs he had given me and couldn’t fight well physically. In fear of my life, I dug into the depths of my core to scream as loud as humanly possible. It worked. I had become too much of a liability for him, and so he threw me down, pushed my shirt over my head and my jeans next to me and pushed me out the door. He walked me down a set of stairs and left me slumped over in a sand dune nearby. Mumbling to someone, I heard him tell them that he had found me and that someone needed to get me help. And then he disappeared.
The stranger handed me a phone, as my purse and phone were gone. I dialed the only digits my mind could process: my childhood phone number and my mom picked up. Daddy, please help me, Daddy, help me – it was all I could muster. Please have someone find me. And thus ensued a series of middle-of-the-night phone calls exchanged between extended family members to contact and locate my cousins with whom I had been with earlier in the evening. They found me and in such shock, the effects of the drugs still weighing heavily in my bloodstream, I had no ability to communicate what had happened. I was safe and alive and that was all that mattered.
We woke up the next morning and my mind was blank. I was bleeding but was able to hide it and I couldn’t swallow. My parents called me and verbally disciplined me for supposedly partying too much and for waking them up unnecessarily. They asked me what had really happened, but I didn’t know, and was experiencing such severe shock that I couldn’t put words out other than trite phrases like I’m sorry, I promise I wasn’t drunk, I don’t know what happened, I’m sorry, I will be more responsible, and I guess I just got lost. I showered the shame off myself and shook myself into believing that I must have imagined it all.
It wasn’t until my new white bathing suit got stained with blood that I started to worry that I hadn’t hallucinated. A few hours passed and I still felt unlike myself. Pounding caffeine I chalked it off to irresponsibility. But I kept bleeding. And then the internal lacerations in my throat became aggravated with every swallow of coffee, flapping painfully every time I spoke. Bruises started popping up on various parts of my body where I had been held down. Crap. It wasn’t a dream.
Over the next 72 hours the experience of that nightmare night started flickering in the filter of my mind. Intense, the flashbacks brought with them a dark, black cloud that surrounded me. I felt foggy and frantic. Insomnia became a new friend and I spent two weeks avoiding eye contact with other human beings and isolating myself from the unsafe world that had betrayed me. I made it to work every day but I was a zombie, fueled purely on caffeine in the morning to bring me up and alcohol in the evening to bring me down. I thought God had abandoned me and I found myself at a point unable to even pray. Eventually the exhaustion broke me. I melted down publically in a panic attack at the office in front of my boss. I was promptly sent home and a friend came with me. She held my hand that day and listened to my full story – the one I had been repressing in denial for two weeks. She didn’t scold me for missing my window to prosecute my perpetrator as I expected she would – instead she just sat with me and honored my shock. She took me to the free clinic and held my hand when I got tested for diseases – she didn’t pressure when we I was too anxious to take a pregnancy test and she taught me how to breathe when I felt like I was going insane.
The first night I said no to the insomnia was the first night in my battle to healing. Afraid to be alone at night I went to the only place I knew that was open in the wee hours of the night, my local gym. It was bright and they played happy pop music on a 24-7 loop. I needed to feel safe and that’s when I saw it: the treadmills with the arm rails on the side. I would be protected, in the light, on three of four potential sides and I could exhaust myself physically so that I would have to eventually fall asleep. And fall asleep I finally did. It was those first steps on the treadmill, those first gaits of a running gallop that changed everything for me. Those minutes define the moment I shifted – I shifted in a decision to be a victor instead of a victim. I realized that by avoiding life and buying into fear I was letting that man’s sickness spread over all areas of my life. He took one night from me, and it was up to me to keep it that way. I decided then to be an overcomer – and to keep the worst day of my life to just that – one day, not the rest of my life. I didn’t run to run away from life, I ran to have the strength to run towards life.
From paralysis to perseverance – the physical breakthrough of running gave to me a gift beyond what I could have known it would give me. Actually, it was the rape that gave me a gift. I needed to know what it felt like not to breathe – to not know if I would ever breathe again, to really learn to love the breath I am given each day of my life. I needed to know that terrifying feeling of being frozen, being overtaken, of being helpless and voiceless, to appreciate the gift it is to move my body and have the freedom to be in control of my own body. I needed to feel the darkness and hopelessness felt by so many millions around the world so that I could then know how to love them from a place of true understanding that I might be able to share that, in life, because of God, though there might be an overwhelming amount of darkness and evil, light and love will always win. Always.
I have told you what assault feels like, but let me tell you what forgiveness feels like. I forgave my attacker when I decided to take back my life. In order leave that night as just one night, I knew I couldn’t carry it around with me by harboring anger in my heart towards the man that made that night a reality for me. And so, through extensive prayer, meditation and journaling, I forgave him. In exchange, a blanket of bliss covered my heart, pushing away the anger I felt toward God, moving aside the distrust I felt towards men and clothing me in a layer of love towards the world. Forgiveness is freedom. It has given me the freedom to trust again, to live with unabashed joy and to walk free from the stagnating sting of fear. It is a fountain, this fount of forgiveness, ever flowing and ever renewing the love of life I have been given. Sometimes it takes almost losing your life to really gain it, and for that, I am externally grateful, for I am alive and I am passionately determined to celebrate every breath I am given.
I want my strength to become your strength > and we become strong when we speak up about things that convince us we are weak; we become strong by bringing light to the things of the darkness.
I know you have pain in your life and I wanted to share my deepest lesson about this terrible pain I endured … it was the day I decided to jump on the treadmill – about a week after this happened – and on that first run, made the decision that that evil experience would not take any more life from me. Then and there I decided to be a VICTOR instead of a VICTIM. I believe everyone has the power to decide to be a VICTOR, though people or circumstances may try to victimize us, no one can take away our power of how we think about and grow from anything that comes our way.
(2). Celebrate life.
(5). Reevaluate What Matters.
I look it right in the eyes and allow myself to go to that worst-case scenario.
I ask myself if I really trust God and His protection over me.
I remind myself that I have stared death down before and came out better for it.
I give thanks for the reminder of how precious life is and I find a way to savor it.
I put together my inner Eleanor Roosevelt for the day.
I need you in my life. Many thanks for the opportunity given to meet you and absorb your inner love for your neighbor. Your smile is very addictive just looking at you makes the burden on our shoulders so much lighter.
Thanks for being there for us. God bless you unconditionally.
I started this confidence coaching journey because originally I wanted to help people find freedom from body image issues – I wanted to share strategies on how to learn how to have body confidence; now, this has obviously morphed into more than that, but I have a heart for my core … body confidence.
For a limited time, until I reach 2000 copies given away of my book, I’ve pulled it from sales and am offering it to you, my tribe, because I love you and because I know that this book can change the way you feel about yourself and your body!
Get your copy at www.trishblackwell.com/freebook