“You are so brave and quiet I forget you are suffering.”Ernest Hemingway
If you’re here for the first time, please check out the post before this one titled “Beginnings” and it will catch you up to my story up until this point. I will go ahead and say that this is not going to go into all of the details of the issues contained here. There are a lot of them. I will go into a lot of this after my story has been caught up to this moment and talk about the individual issues/incidents/stories. I just feel like it is important to tell my story as it happened chronologically. I’ll pick this post up where the last left off.
When things seemed to be spiraling out of control, I had one adult that reached out to me. She was my English teacher and she noticed that I had been falling asleep in class. She had known me for a few years by now and knew my usual demeanor had changed. My mom must have told her that I was having night terrors too. She took me aside and allowed me to just open up about the stress of school and how anxious I was. I never did mention that the assaults never stopped or that I was self-harming. But, this conversation set up a safety line for me. I trusted her with a small part of my life and she helped me regain a little control over my life. I felt safer when she was around. She noticed me and she noticed my change of behavior. This meant that not all adults were against me.
The following summer was the best two weeks ever. Yes, my summer vacation started and ended very fast when I became very ill. It took about three weeks of me being sick to finally put together that I was bitten by a tick. I had Lymes disease. The disease was so far advanced that it permanently damaged some of my body and made it so I spent the rest of the summer inside. My mom brought me to the school because she had to work. I spent a lot of time running the halls and sitting in closets reading Harry Potter so I could catch up before the next book was released.
Even though my summer was spent in confinement, I was excited for school to start. I was going to be a high schooler. Since I was the only one in my grade, I moved up into the sophomore/junior classes. I had some separation from the boy that tormented me. I no longer had the latin teacher (he was fired). I was in class with my best friend. My favorite teacher was my teacher for most of my classes. I began to relax and enjoy school more. Slowly, I stopped using self-harm as a way to cope with life. It wasn’t an intentional choice to stop. I just needed that coping mechanism less.
This fragile sense of safety was shattered one day when Tyler decided to repeat the slide-incident except this time, it was in front of a lot of people. He choked me with a jump rope. I was mortified. Everyone saw. Surely, I did something to cause him to act like that because he did it again. And he did it in the middle of a school event. Teachers reported his behavior. Then, he and I were shut into a room with the school administrator. He read me the worst apology note ever. Then the administrator told us to “hug it out”. (There is a lot wrong with this, but for now, I’ll just tell it how it happened.) His mom just said “Boys will be boys.” and that is when I learned how dangerous that statement is.
The following year was set up much the same, but Tyler was now sharing classes with me again. I stuck very close to the adults in my life. Even though the previous situation was far from resolved, at least there were some repercussions. I was so tired of being my own security. I was exhausted from being hyper-vigilant. I began to act out in class and I was disinterested in school. Life was spiraling. I was constantly teased for one reason or another. Then, the teasing became hazing.
I was hyper-vigilant so scaring me was easy and I had severe anxiety so I overreacted to everything. This entertained my classmates. They’d throw things or come up behind me and yell. I’d jump or start crying which was an overreaction to be sure. All that was happening beyond what they could see was eating away at me. The other students would steal things and hide them and watch as I would frantically try to find the missing item. Sometimes it was something important, like my Bible, (who steals a Bible?!?) or something small like my favorite pencil. Either way, this on top of the psychological warfare going on in my head added to the lack of safety I felt in my school every day. I will talk about this later, but in case you aren’t around for that, I’ll say this now: Be careful how you treat someone, you don’t know what is going on under the surface. An overreaction to a small infraction or joke could be a sign that the person is not in a good place. So, try to be aware of this.
I felt like I wanted to scream my thoughts to anyone who would listen. But even the thought of someone asking if I was alright, I’d fade into a puddle of tears. I was afraid someone would ask me how I was because I didn’t know how long I could keep up the lies. I had to lie because I felt that all that was going on was just me being sensitive or I was overreacting. Often, this pent up anxiety presented itself as a moody teenager who would swing from high to low emotions. More often than not, I felt absolutely numb. I reverted back to my self harm and it was worse than ever.
If I thought my life was burning then, it became an absolute forest fire in just a matter of a day. It was a cold February Friday. I was sent to go set the gym up for basketball practice. Our gym was in a separate building from the rest of the school. I walked outside and noticed Tyler was behind me. I thought he would turn right and go to the classrooms. I checked behind me. He didn’t turn. I had never felt fear quite like that before. I felt like I was going to pass out. My hearing was muffled and I was nauseous. I started running towards the gym. If I could reach the door before him, I could lock him out. But, of course, I fell on the ice right in front of the door. I fell hard enough to leave a gash that is still evident by the scar on my left knee. This fall is the reason he caught up to me, but I think it also played another part.
Tyler pushed me inside and pinned me up against the wall. I tried to fight him and I remember saying “Do not touch me!” over and over. He choked me. I think the assault would have gone farther than just him putting his hand up my skirt and him pulling down his zipper. I can’t say why it didn’t. He finished. My knee was bleeding by now and the blood was everywhere. He ran off, presumably to try to get the blood off of his pants. If someone had found us together, there’d have been no way he could deny it. I crumpled on the floor. I remembered that basketball practice was starting soon and I didn’t want anyone to see me. I got up and walked off.
I can’t imagine what my coach thought when she walked into the gym and did not find me or my tasks done. But she did find a smear of blood on the concrete floor. I had walked to my classroom. My teeth chattered out of pure shock. And I felt so ashamed for what happened. It was an instant reaction, shame. I felt I had done something to cause what had happened. I didn’t fight hard enough or something. I didn’t turn and run back to the school. I blamed myself.
I thought that just maybe a teacher would find me and know what happened without me having to say. A teacher did find me sitting on the floor. I am not sure how this teacher didn’t realize that my “I fell while running” excuse was a lie. This teacher was nice. But she was not an observant person. I had blood on my socks from my knee. I was missing buttons on my shirt. My skirt was twisted and I had a handmark on my throat. She did not notice that I, clearly, did not cause most of my injuries. I just kept saying,“I fell “ over and over. I got cleaned up by the nurse and went home. I swore I wouldn’t tell anyone. I didn’t know how to tell anyone. I thought I was overreacting because it wasn’t “actual” rape. I had no understanding that sexual assault in any form is wrong or that there are different degrees of sexual assault.
I felt shameful and fearful. I did not trust the adults to handle the assault. I told no one until I was twenty two. I did become so depressed that I somehow came down with strep throat and the flu in one weekend. I did not return to school for a month. During the month, there was some suggestion that I had become depressed. I was found out in the snow in below freezing weather one day. I don’t know how long I had been out there. All I remembered was feeling feverish and wandering out to the yard in my shorts. I didn’t want to die. But I also wasn’t opposed to the idea. This was the first attempt at suicide. The next attempt, I woke up on the bathroom floor with the worst headache I’ve ever had.
At this point, my parents noticed that their once bright, kind, and loyal daughter was not any of those things anymore. I lied about small things and hid most of my life from them. They had found me outside that day and truly thought I had hallucinated and walked myself out there. I am so thankful now that I was unsuccessful and that no one found me after those attempts. Just a year later, I would learn that my suicide attempts failed for a reason.
I’ll pick up again in the next post. This post has been a difficult one to write so it’s taken a bit to post and it might take a bit to refocus and continue the story. As always, I appreciate you reading my story.