My life truly began to change when I started to be completely honest. I started to write about and confront the things that I ignored for years. Publicly I published articles about dealing with sexual assault and healing on the web. The first time my article appeared on online, I felt naked. I started to cry and wondered if I had made a huge mistake. With each consecutive article, I felt equally exposed. This went on for about six months. Each time an article came out, I would cry. My boyfriend at the time asked me why I even bother to do it. He said that maybe I should just stop writing if it was this difficult for me to handle. Though it was difficult, I never considered stopping or quitting. Too many people wrote back to me saying that they felt very alone in their experience before reading my articles. Truth is before reading their comments, I felt very alone in the experience of surviving sexual assault as well.
For years I hid the truth about my life from everyone. I dodged reality and instead hid behind poor relationships, drinking, and substance abuse. No one understood why I was so messed up and always involved in something reckless. The addictions numbed the pain of rape. They also came to the forefront and caused immediate drama and issues that couldn’t be ignored. Perhaps they were the armor I hid the truth behind. With so much negativity going on because of my behavior, I had enough to worry about without delving into and exploring my past. Eventually I found out that you cannot hide the truth from others without also hiding it from yourself.
Denial can kill people. Until I spoke my truth and seeked professional help, the road I went down only got progressively worse. Addictions will kill you eventually. Suppressing trauma can cause unhappiness, depression, and serious illnesses.
Haven’t you heard stories about terminally ill patients who during their final days take up their life’s passion, the passion they spent their life ignoring, only to astoundingly make a full recovery and survive? You cannot be satisfied if you hide behind facades. You cannot be happy if you don’t express your true thoughts and feelings.
I had a pretty rough last month or so. A bad break-up that was a blessing in disguise. It wasn’t a good relationship. Without realizing it, the person I was involved with diluted the vibrancy of my spirit and personality. Anything I wore or did that deviated from what he considered normal offended him. This didn’t make me conform to his standards, but it certainly made me feel bad. How could he expect me to be this boring ideal that I was not? I had never hid the fact of who I was.
About a week ago, I got it in my head that I wanted to get my hair braided. Since I had been having such a rough month emotionally, I was afraid my family and friends would think I really lost it when I showed up with a head full of braids. I thought about it for a week and still wanted to do it. Between my personality and small traces of Native American roots, I knew I could pull it off. What made it even more appealing was how the idea of braids made me feel: happy.
Last night I sat in an African Braiding salon for over four hours while two West African women beautified my hair. During this session many things went through my head. I was happy and excited. I was also amused thinking of how my ex wouldn’t have wanted to go out in public with me had I braided my hair when I was still with him. What a jerk, I thought.
I was most of all pleased with the braids because it is what Hayley, the Hayley at the very center of my core wanted. Don’t ask me why she wanted this, I don’t even know, but it was something that resonated in my soul for the past week. The braids became an expression of the woman who’s been suppressed for so long, most recently because of a poor relationship.
When i got home last night my article “Confronting My Rapist” had blown up. People really responded to it in both negative and positive ways. It amazed me how speaking my truth, while bringing back the real Hayley who had been missing for over a decade, produced this kind of result. The article exemplified the culmination of my strength. I have never pretended to be stronger than I was. People called me courageous when I first started speaking out, but I was scared, it was difficult. Now when I speak about what happened, I speak with assurance and confidence. I know that I will never let anyone keep me from speaking my truth again whether it be my rapist or someone who claims to be a friend.
I went out this morning to get some hair supplies and received all kinds of reactions. Some good, some bad, some indifferent. I didn’t really care about the reactions anyway. I looked in the mirror this morning and realized that I had broken out of the prison I’ve been living in for years. I was unleashed and anyone who knows me will tell you that once my feet are off the ground, there is no getting me back down to Earth. I have broken free and I am never ever coming back. I have flown away.