When a Secret Makes You Sick

  1. In 2013, I was raped by my boyfriend.
  2. In my bed, in my own apartment.
  3. No one knew because I didn't want to admit it to myself. If I said it aloud, that would make it real.
  4. We existed in the relationship together for another week. I often wonder what it would've taken for me to have left him first. He had been verbally and emotionally abusive for a while, but the sexual abuse was a terrifying confirmation of a growing fear. I no longer knew what he was capable of.
  5. I stayed because I was afraid to go.
  6. A few mornings after, I thought it might happen again when he kept pushing for sex and I couldn't get him to hear me saying "no," repeatedly. Finally I pushed his body off of mine and left the room. "Jesus, we haven't had sex in like 3 days," he yelled. "I don't need to be with someone like you. I could go find someone who wants me all the time."
  7. I still didn't speak up after the breakup. I blocked his number and started throwing myself into the bottom of any bottle I could find. I found other beds to sleep in, other distractions. And it allowed me to stay in blissful denial for just a bit longer. To pretend like I had not been forever altered by that one night.
  8. The nights were the worst. Trying to sleep in that same room, the same bed. I had replaced the bedding, moved things around in small ways to make myself feel as though it had changed. But it hadn't, really. Most nights I stayed up trying to keep my mind busy, hoping to avoid the flashbacks.
  9. It wasn't just the rape. This was the man that I loved. Someone I spoke with about our future wedding plans and blending families on holidays and maybe even children someday. Me, the woman who doesn't even want kids. I wanted them with him.
  10. I chose him.
  11. That was the hardest pill for me to swallow down: that he had been my choice. How could I ever trust myself to choose the right man? How would I trust or love another man again?
  12. It took a physical illness to wake me up. 3 weeks of throwing up everything I consumed, every day. Originally diagnosed with acute pancreatitis, I was sent from doctor to specialist and back again, until one got me to open up to him. I told him everything. He just looked at me sympathetically and said, "Sounds like this is more PTSD-related."
  13. Over the weeks I had been sick, I had lost 13 pounds. I was wasting away, just as I had hoped. My mom recalls thinking that I was going to die. I saw how much it was breaking my mom's heart to see me so sick. Maybe that was what I needed - to know that I was valued. Loved. My absence would be noticed. Someone would miss me.
  14. I started seeing a therapist who saved my life, but he won't let me give him such credit. He says it was all me. That I'm stronger than I realize because I'm too busy listening to other people, the wrong people, tell me that I'm broken. They say that my experiences have whittled me down into nothing.
  15. When, in fact, I've bounced back so many times by now, resiliency is my greatest asset. And I'm still here. Alive.
  16. Too bad I can't put that on a resume.