A letter to the friend I never should have trusted.

It has taken me a long time to be ready to write this letter. Maybe it should’ve taken me longer. Maybe I’m not ready.

But sometimes, you have to do things whether you are ready or not.

Isn’t that the game?

I’ve made a lot of choices in my lifetime. Some of them have been really great choices. Some of them have been really crappy choices. Some of them have just been average, and some of them haven’t been my choices to make. Not that long ago, I made the choice to stop trusting you. To stop letting you into the intimate details of my life. To stop letting your opinion affect my choices. It was a hard choice to make, let me tell you that. Whatever you may think, I did not decide to cut you out of my life on a whim. No, there was build up to that choice. A lot of build up.

It took me a long time to realize that you were toxic. That there was an underlying self-motivation in everything you did or said. That you had spent almost our entire friendship putting me down or making me feel bad for decisions I made or beliefs I had. That we had very different expectations of what our friendship should look like. It took me a long time to realize that I was better off without you.

Sometimes I don’t believe that, you know. Sometimes I think I made a huge mistake, and that you really do care about me. I think that I should just call you, and we’ll laugh this whole thing off, and everything will be back to normal again. It takes a lot of willpower to not pick up the phone and do just that. It takes a lot of remembering. Remembering what was real instead of the romanticized version of our friendship.

All that time of trusting you and then realizing that I was wrong all along really messed up my understanding of trust. I used say you should trust people until they prove they aren’t trustworthy. Now, I’m not so sure. There’s been too many times where my judgement was wrong. Where making excuses for you or giving you the benefit of the doubt or forgiving and forgetting instead of just forgiving has led only to deep pain and betrayal. Now, I think people should earn their trust. I’m suspicious of everyone. I’m paranoid about making new friends or meeting new people.

What if I’m wrong again? What if everyone turns out to be untrustworthy after I tell them my deepest fears and insecurities? What if every future friendship turns into the train wreck that was the dissolution of our friendship? These constant insecurities stem directly from the trust I gave you that you smashed to the ground.

But people can’t live like that. It’s not sustainable. So I’m working on it. I’m working on creating boundaries and identifying red flags. I’m working on learning what makes someone trustworthy and what doesn’t. I wish I had known two years ago the things I know now. I wish someone had told me what today would look like without you.

Maybe this isn’t really a letter to you after all. Maybe all the “friends” over the years that have lied to me, manipulated me, and made me feel worthless should no longer be my focus. Perhaps this letter was to myself all along. A letter to tell me that I’ll be OK. Perhaps this letter is to you, dear reader, who might need someone to tell you that you’ll be OK. Sometimes you just need to take that leap of faith and believe that there are better friends out there.

Ready or not.

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Because #MeToo is more than a hashtag

Sometimes it feels like everyone is against me and no one is doing anything about it.

Sometimes it feels like society cares more about protecting others’ reputations than protecting my safety.

Sometimes it feels like ugly and manipulative lies are believed and valued above fearful and vulnerable truths.

Sometimes it feels like people in authority care more about abusers than survivors.

Sometimes it feels like well-wishers are only willing to engage in visible slacktivism and not invisible activism and support.

Sometimes it feels like I am alone. Weak. Helpless. Exposed.

The recent accusations against Harvey Weinstein and the subsequent social media explosion of opinions surrounding that topic, in addition to the overwhelming response to the #MeToo campaign, have weighed heavier on my soul than I expected. These events have left me feeling these sometimes feelings constantly instead of once or twice a week. My triggers have been more prevalent this past week. My responses have been more intense. My coping mechanisms have been less effective.

When I get overwhelmed by these feelings, it is easy for me to resort to anger. I get angry when I read someone online talk about a “witch hunt” mentality developing in the workplace (if you haven’t heard of this, some people are legitimately more concerned about an epidemic of women falsely accusing a man of sexually harassing or abusing her, leading to the man having to hire a lawyer to “defend his honor,” than they are concerned about actual sexual harassment and violence in the workplace). I get angry when I read an article that tries to make a point about vulgarity by using the term “rape-adjacent sex” (which, according to the author, is “…sex with someone you don’t know well enough to tell whether they’re just tipsy, or too drunk to consent…”) when what they’re actually describing is rape. I get angry when I hear that yet another valuable human being has been taken advantage of in the form of sexual violence, has been brave enough to speak up and say “Me Too,” and is shut down by people who either don’t believe them or think that just because someone else has “had it worse,” anyone’s experiences are invalid. I get angry when I see my abusers in public because they were conniving enough to stay just under the threshold of breaking the law while choking the life out of me.

I don’t like being angry. It’s exhausting. I have enough to worry about with grad school, adulthood, and processing my own emotions and trauma to waste time being angry. My parents raised me to believe that if I don’t like something, I should do something to change it. I don’t like the society we live in. I don’t like the victim-blaming rape culture that surrounds me every day. I don’t like losing friends by outing myself as a survivor. Some of these things can’t be changed. Some friends are going to leave regardless, and some friends aren’t really friends, and it’s better to cut them out of your life with the sharpest kitchen shears you have. But some things can change. I can effect change in my environment. You can effect change in your social circle.

Change isn’t often loud and public. Advocacy isn’t often visible to outsiders. For me, change starts here, with this blog. Advocacy starts with telling my story and fighting against the stigma of being a survivor of relationship violence. For my friends, sometimes it looks like talking to me on the phone while I walk across campus because I forgot my headphones and can’t cross campus without them. For you, it might look like donating to Friends of the Family. For everyone, it should look like speaking up when you hear or see someone being taken advantage of. It should look like calling someone out when they tell a sexist joke. It must look like compassionate listening and believing your friend when they confide in you that they’ve experienced sexualized violence.

Together, we can effect change in our society. Together, we can be advocates for a better and safer tomorrow.

Things Change. People are Different. Get over it.

Hello, reader,

I used to tell people that my life motto was, “If you don’t like something, just change it.” I’ve prided myself on being someone adaptable. Go with the flow. Receptive to change. As an Army Brat, there really isn’t another way; if you don’t like change, you won’t like life in the military world. My childhood and adolescence were filled with changes. I lived in seven houses and four states before moving to Texas for school in 2014. Those moves brought changes in friends, living arrangements, churches, and co-op groups. Growing up, I welcomed these changes with open arms and an open mind. Even when my college to career path changed freshman year, I adapted, made a new plan, and moved on. Change is always good, I thought. Change is always easy, I thought.

Until it wasn’t. A lot changed this summer. Since the beginning of summer, when I wrote this post (CW), I have lost a lot. Friends who didn’t believe me. Communities that betrayed my trust. Routines that were disrupted. I lost things that, at the beginning of this summer – and probably for a while before then too – I thought defined me. Things that I thought I couldn’t live without.

Friendships and communities are so precious to me. Being an Army Brat, I learned to make friends fast and never take them for granted. I invest myself, my time, and my resources into good friends because I know they are few and far between. I don’t end friendships. I don’t leave communities. It’s a good quality, I think, but it must have limits. I’m not very good at limits, as you might have guessed. It takes me a long time, and usually someone else’s guidance, to realize that someone has pushed over the limit. There have been a lot of crossed limits in the past few years, but only this summer have I allowed myself to see them. It’s hard for me to burn bridges. It’s hard to leave toxic situations when they were good in the beginning. It’s especially hard when the people crossing the limit have been friends for a long time. When they feel like home. But people change. Long-time friends betray your trust. And suddenly, change isn’t so easy.

My therapist told me to embrace change this week. I told her she was delusional. That this change is too hard. That losing friends, changing churches, and starting graduate school was too much to embrace. I won’t do it, I told her. The thing about change, though, is that it happens without you sometimes. Embrace it or be mowed over by it are the only choices you have.

So here I am. Writing about change. Attempting to embrace because I’m tired of being mowed over. Working through hard change to move forward. Trying to look at the big picture. Learning to find gains in the midst of loss.

In the words of my dear friend, Jackie (said in the nicest way possible), “Things change. People are different. Get over it.”

I’m a little teapot

Dear reader,

Teapots are funny things, don’t you think? They can be made out of a lot of different things, but I think the most interesting material that teapots are made out of is clay. Many Chinese and Japanese teapots are made out of clay, and the tea made inside of them seasons, coats, and protects the teapot over time. In fact, the overflow of the tea onto the pot prevents the clay from drying out and cracking, thereby preventing it from becoming useless. In essence, the clay teapot must be used in order to survive. It must fulfill its purpose, or it will be unable to do anything at all.

This is a concept not unfamiliar to the typical Christian circles. We are made for a purpose: to serve the Lord and to serve others with the unique gifts we are given. If we ignore this purpose, we are good for nothing at all. The clay teapot analogy even fits nicely into the potter and clay metaphor present in Isaiah 64. Something that I think is often missing in the telling of this truth is the fact that this purpose, this service, comes out of an overflow of tea from inside the pot. Bear with me a moment…in order for the teapot to survive, the tea must be brewed inside and then poured over the outside of the pot. This covers the entire pot in tea, thus preventing it from drying out. Our service to the Lord and others must come from an overflow of His work within ourselves. If not, we will crumble. We will dry out. And we will be good for nothing at all.

It has taken me a long time to learn that I cannot preserve myself. I cannot force myself not to crack simply by serving others. I can’t pour everything out and expect to not dry up. In short, I have been making tea the wrong way for a year and a half. I want to share my story with you, dear reader. Not because I want you to feel bad for me. I want to share my story because I think it will be cathartic for me and because I hope that some part of it can resonate with you. Before I start, I want to warn you that this story is not a happy one. But, I am confident it will have a happy ending.

My story starts the way many do. I met a boy. Well, not quite a boy, but I refuse to call him a man. I started dating him in September of 2015. I was naive and believed everything he told me, even though I now know that the majority of it was lies. He was a master manipulator, a pathological liar, and my boyfriend. The first time he raped me was in January, 2016. By then, I was trapped in the cage of deceit he had been meticulously building around me for the past four months. I saw no way out, and I was in denial about the truth of what was happening to me. Until March of that year, this person continued to violate my trust and my body frequently. Convincing me that this was my fault, my sin, and my life indefinitely, he kept me under his thumb. In March, a few dear, trusted friends helped me see the truth of the situation and crushed the cage I was trapped in. I “dumped my boyfriend,” but I felt like I was escaping death. Good ending, right? Not quite yet. I still blamed myself completely for the events that happened over those seven months. I wholeheartedly believed that any sort of sex before marriage was sinful, and while God forgives with abandon, I had participated in something shameful. I didn’t yet use the term rape. I did not believe that it wasn’t my fault. My mind had built a picture of rape as an unconscious women behind dumpsters that went to the hospital, not the girl who stayed with the person who said he loved her. I started to see the actual truth over the summer of 2016, while in therapy, but I never gave myself the space I needed to believe the truth. I never let that truth pour over me.

Two weeks after I broke up with my abuser, my closest friend’s father passed away. There are no words to describe the pain and heartbreak this brought on her family. There are no words to describe the pain I felt for her as her world crashed down around her. I tried to do what I knew how to do: love. I poured myself into anything I could do for her. Make dinner, check. Clean up the house, check. Sit in quietness, check. Go out and do anything fun to think of anything else, check. Let me say this: I am so incredibly thankful for this friend, the way she loves me, and the ways God has allowed me to love her. I would not take back any of the things we did together over that time or the things we do together now. That said, I know that I was using this “pouring out” to avoid processing my own trauma.

I avoided processing my trauma in other ways as well. Work. School. Volunteering. Anything to get me out of my own head, I did. For a year and a half, I poured out without pouring over. For a year and a half, I made tea the wrong way. I poured out so much that I began cracking and crumbling. I blamed a lot of this on school. I was finishing my senior year. Making it to graduation. Getting into graduate school. Keeping my 4.0 GPA. Trying to be “good enough.” I blamed all my stress, all my cracks, on external sources. On May 4th, 2017, my teapot crumbled. I had my first panic attack. For three hours, I believed that I was still with my abuser. I believed he could find me and hurt me again. I believed I was in danger.

I think there’s a lot of minimization surrounding mental health and trauma. People use terms like “triggered” and “PTSD” as jokes. Because of the prevalence of this minimization, I think many victims of trauma begin to minimize their own experiences. I tried really hard to minimize the the trauma my abuser inflicted on me and the night of May 4th. Two (thankfully, less intense) panic attacks later, it has become impossible for me to believe anything other than the truth: what happened to me is not my fault; this cannot be minimized if I am to be healthy; I cannot preserve myself by only pouring out and ignoring my experiences; and I really need to learn how to make tea correctly.

I’m working on learning these truths now. I’m learning to pour out only after I have poured over. I am learning to ask for support.

And so, dear reader, would you make some tea with me?

ODP 2016 Day 31

My favorite comments about this costume:

9th grade boy: “does that really count as a costume if that’s already what you are?”

Barista: “I don’t really know what that means, but I can get you a chai tea”

Professor: “I’m not going to say anything about that. PC and all.” 

I, and all the others doing ODP, have made it through the month. This has been the hardest ODP so far for me. In my six years, I’ve done solid bright colors, long dresses, short dresses, stripes, floral, and now this chambray. It was such a strange dress to style. I thought it was going to be a piece of cake; what doesn’t match chambray? Well, technically speaking, nothing, but it just wasn’t doing it for me. I think it was a combination of three things: I don’t like the color blue, it was long sleeves, and it was high/low. It felt SO obvious, but the people who noticed were not judgemental, so I don’t know why I cared. Perceptions of yourself are so strange sometimes. Overall, I’m thankful that tomorrow is November 1st. I will be wearing pink.