14 months ago, I wanted to take my life. I know that doesn’t sound rational, I know that people think of it as the easy way out. But on January 7th, 2017, I wrote an article about how Sweet/Vicious was helping me heal after my rape.
I didn’t expect what I got in return.
Let me start by saying, I have never wanted or needed anyone’s pity. That’s not why I am telling my story. That’s not why I am giving an update on my life.
I have long been fine knowing that life is a series of ups and downs and whatever happens – well, you live and you move forward. Because you have a choice: let it destroy you or let it let it propel you.
But 14 months ago, I didn’t let it propel me.
I let it destroy me.
14 months ago I was severely overweight and the first message I got from a reader was, “No one would touch you, you’re fat and nasty.”
That reader is someone who constantly harasses us because our opinion on a television show is different than theirs.
It was followed by messages that called me ugly, vile, disgusting, and hard to look at. It was followed by messages that told me that I was trash.
Now, don’t get me wrong – there were supportive messages also. People reached out to me and told me that they were inspired, that they felt for me, that they understood me, and that they hoped I healed.
There were messages from others who had experienced the same thing and they told me about how they felt less alone, how my words helped them see that you could get through it. They talked to me about their fears, their strengths, and the overall sense that there was a chance that they too, would get stronger.
But the messages of cruelty rang louder. The messages of disgust and hatred rang louder. I cried myself to sleep every night, wondering if I had made a mistake. I wondered if I had trusted in things that I shouldn’t have: people that we regularly exchanged conversations with about the things that we loved.
I wondered if I would ever truly heal.
I started to have nightmares, quickly. Reliving the night that my soul was ripped out from me felt like a noose around my neck. I couldn’t function.
You like this, don’t you.
You want to feel me, don’t you.
That’s right, you asked for this.
The words he’d said to me rang in my ears, like a church bell that wouldn’t stop. I was choking on the memories.
I’d wake up paralyzed from fear, unable to move. I couldn’t ride the subway at times, because I was afraid of what was going to happen to me.
Every dark corner, every sound, every moment of my life was defined by what ifs.
What if I had been too nice?
What if I had been too cruel?
What if I had asked for it, and didn’t understand?
I was struggling. I didn’t know how to get that night out from my head.
And the kicker was, my name wasn’t on the article, but the people writing cruel things were writing to Fangirlish generally, and since my email was the only one visible – they were coming to me.
Two weeks after the article came out, I was on a train when a man started screaming at me and I lost it. Why was he screaming? Because he was screaming at everyone. That shit happens on NYC subways. I had a panic attack and ran out at the next stop, hoping that I could find a way to breathe.
I got home and crawled into bed and cried. I cried until there were no tears left to cry and even my mouth was dry. I was screaming inside, but I just laid there. After awhile, I picked up my phone, and I saw messages from Twitter.
And I’d had enough.
I was at my lowest in a long time and people’s cruelty was making it worse. I wanted to tell everyone off, and honestly – I was annoyed that people behind a computer screen were judging me without knowing me. And they were judging me over the worst thing that ever happened to me in my life.
And I couldn’t take it.
Being open and honest about a sexual assault is difficult. Telling anyone that your life was taken from you, that you are forced to live as a shell of a person, because of someone else’s issues… because of someone else’s sense of control… because of reasons I don’t understand.
I hadn’t asked for what was happening to me.
And so I sat up and stared around my room.
What did I have to live for?
What was ever going to change?
How was I going to survive?
There is a stigma attached to rape that I don’t understand. The thought that people ask for it, the thought that people dress a certain way, the thought that they didn’t say no, the thought that they wanted it – I don’t get it. Because I’ve lived it.
And it’s that stigma, the ease in which people use it against the women and men who are victims, that perplexes and disgusts me.
I am not my rape.
But that night, the night that I poured out 37 pain pills and thought about how they would kill me and get rid of the pain – that night, I was a victim of the stigma surrounding rape.
I was a victim of people’s selfish attitudes and stupidity. And yes, I will say stupidity. Why? Because it’s stupid to attack someone over shit that is inconsequential. It’s stupid to be cruel to people that you don’t know. It’s stupid to make people think that they are less than, so you can feel more than.
I was a victim of people not understanding what sexual assault is.
And even more stupid to pick that fight with them because you don’t agree with how they feel over a fucking fandom.
But that stupidity made me consider taking my life.
And it took me less than an hour to realize that as far as I had come in my healing, I had even further to go. It took me 12 hours before I had booked multiple therapy sessions, found support groups, and decided I needed to take a step back from reading social media.
It took me 6 months before I found the strength to smile.
It took me 6 months before the nightmares stopped.
It took me 8 months before I stopped listening to the cruelty of Twitter.
It took me 8 months before I stopped believing the mean things people said about me.
It took me 9 months before I stopped just existing and finding little ways to live again.
It took me 1 day of therapy before I learned that surviving doesn’t only mean surviving the night you are raped, it means surviving the moments after.
It means finding a new normal. A new way to breathe.
A new way to be able to deal with people.
A new way to love.
A new way to laugh.
A new way to be.
It means finding a way to deal with the hate and the misconceptions.
It means finding a way for those misconceptions to not define you.
I attended my survivors group and talked to them about how social media was making things worse for me. It wasn’t the pressure to be perfect. It wasn’t the pressure to be something that I wasn’t. It was the pressure of judgement.
It was the pressure of knowing that no matter what I did, someone would always hate me, use it against me.
And it was the pressure of knowing that I would never be able to just be me. It was the pressure of knowing that people thought it was okay to be cruel.
Kindness is free. Give it out that way.
As you type what you think is okay, because you are defending someone that you love, remember that there is someone else on the other side of the screen. There is a human being behind everything.
You don’t know them.
No one owes you their sanity. No one owes you their life.
Respect yourself enough to know that being mean to others is not okay.
You can say what you want about me – I have found strength in who I am. I have found strength in the beauty of people expressing their opinions and allowing themselves to disagree. I’ve found strength in a community of fangirls who know it’s a fandom, but we’re bigger than that.
I’m not hiding anymore.
I am living.
My name is Erin and I am a survivor. You can’t take that away from me, no matter what your tweet reads.