Resiliency: The art of bouncing back
I can’t really put a beginning on when my mental health story started. You could say it started when I was born because my whole life is one big story but if I had to choose a time in my life where I began to tailspin into myself, it would be Grade 10 at Maple Ridge Secondary School. I had been bullied since the age of 7 about my individuality, uniqueness, and essential being but none of that ever affected me because I knew who I was and I loved myself.
When I began to fall out of love with myself, was when I began to develop body dysmorphia. (Writing this my hands are shaking). I developed this form of eating disorder because of my fellow dancers and dance teachers I was surrounding myself with at the time. Instead of the beautiful girl who didn’t care what other people thought, I became the girl who would enter a dance class room when it was empty in my tights and leotard and start at my 115 pound body.
I was once told I was too fat to ever reach my full potential as a dancer. Another time I was told I had to wear a certain costume because the others were reserved for “the skinny girls.” The final straw was when I was told I would have to go on stage in a second skin (a nude body suit) in my jazz costume because my body would “jiggle around on stage and cause the judges to be distracted.” And yes, I was still 115 pounds, a size 4.
This was the year I began to develop bulimia – a disease which has plagued me for nearly 7 years. I was disgusted with myself and my body. How could I ever succeed as a dancer? How could I ever be judged fairly if I was fat? So I would eat and eat and eat and then throw it all up. I would do this at dance, at school in the bathroom stalls, and at home in the shower so no one could hear me. The worse was being at school and having the bullying continued among my peers because I continued to blame myself and my body for it. So I switched high schools and dance schools. And it was fine for a while. The bullying stopped but the eating disorder continued.
And then I lived in Costa Rica and fell back in love with myself and my body. I learned to love once again and everything was beautiful. But stories don’t stop in the middle… They keep going past the inciting incident and to the climax.
Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I booked myself a trip across the states in 2014. I got a whiff of the travel bug and I couldn’t go back. So in June 2014, I left my home and set off across the USA by train. And the trip was wonderful. I fell in love with New York, Boston, Chicago, and Denver. I’m almost too shy to say this but I also lost my virginity to a man I trust with my whole heart. But the day after it happened my world crumbled because of a stranger with whom I have no trust in. I became a victim of an act 1 in 5 women across the country experience. I was drugged. I was sexually assaulted. And my brain blocked everything out to protect me.
I didn’t even realize what happened to me until the following summer but my brain continued to suppress it. I didn’t even tell my mom until a year and a half after it happened. I watched her cry while I couldn’t myself. I didn’t accept what happened to me until this last summer and that is when my story began.
In September, I was diagnosed with PTSD which stands for post-traumatic stress disorder. After my acceptance of what happened, I began to have horrifying night terrors. I remember toward the end of the summer, I began to develop an essential tremor which forms due to stress. My left hand won’t stop shaking making it near impossible to do anything. Along with my diagnosis came therapy. The first few weeks were hell. I began to remember all the things my brain purposefully blocked out. I somehow always thought I had made up what happened to me in my head. People fill your mind with doubts when something like this happens. But when I started to remember everything, I knew there was no way I wasn’t raped. With therapy, I realized the feeling of anxiety and depression I had felt since my assault wasn’t just “womanhood” or “school stress.” I was depressed because I knew deep down what happened to me, I just couldn’t accept it. And so I let myself blame my body and myself for what happened to me because that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 7 years.
I think one of the worst things that happened last year was when an immature boy named Kyle spread around a rumor that I sexually assaulted him knowing fully well about what happened to me. But with therapy, I bounced back and I developed a protective barrier outside myself that let in the good and blocked out the hate. I began to repair the scars I let myself create and I was doing it by myself and beautifully.
So now I’m sitting in front of my computer typing this. I’m crying, my left hand is shaking but I’m so, so proud of myself. The most important lesson I was taught in high school was the act of resiliency. Resiliency is standing strong and tall in the middle of chaos. It is letting things hit you but not letting them hurt you. I have had a challenging life. I’ve experienced more than any 22 year old should ever endure. But I bounce back. And with the end of this blog post I’m going to leave you with a quote from one of my favorite poems.
“Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.”