There is a potential triggering warning for this post. I'm sharing it because I feel it is vital to discuss hidden stories to relate better and understand people. Also, I'm proud of the person who wrote it and yielded it to society. When I requested to share it, they said yes with some limitations.
If you empathize with the story below or find yourself in a similar situation, please reach out.
As a final reminder, these blog posts tie into my debut novel, The Human Zoo. It covers a wide variety of topics, and they all fall onto the large spectrum of humanity. This is my way to bridge fiction and reality.
A Reflection and Forgiveness of Myself
The pandemic has had an effect on all of us in one way or another. That’s a given. Some took the opportunity to start a new hobby, improve a skill, build healthy habits. Many people suffered at the hands of unemployment, illness, and eviction.
Personally, I found myself in a situation I had dreaded. A situation that I knew was inevitable, but nevertheless, struck fear into my bones.
I would listen to music at all times of the day. Cleaning, falling asleep, brushing my teeth, hanging out. Part of it was genuine love for music, the other was distraction from my thoughts. Lizzo found herself at the top of my playlists and often on repeat for days on end. It became a small obsession. At the time, I lived with my then-boyfriend. We didn’t share the same music tastes, to say the least, and when I showed him Lizzo’s music out of a genuine need to share my interests, his response was lasting. “That fat bitch?”
It wasn’t the first instance of fatphobia to come from him. It was one of many. A continual problem that, in hindsight, I don’t know why I tolerated. There were, and sometimes still are, many insecurities that tethered me to situations I felt I somehow deserved. I don’t need to justify my indecision at the time. I know that, at the root, my silence was born from fear.
Admittedly, my track record with men isn’t great. By age 12 I was wearing women’s clothing and a D cup. I had surpassed all of my peers in height, shoe size, and clothing size. To put it lightly, I felt like a freak. The grooming started early. Men outside of my family who had any semblance of power over me began to coax me in a direction that would have lasting consequences on my perception of myself and others. My musical theater director insisted on private dance rehearsals. The costume department suggested costumes to “compliment my figure” and at 13, a senior and legally adult classmate pulled me aside to grope me backstage.
This grooming planted a seed that made me crave approval from men, specifically, older men. At 15 I entered an online relationship with a 22 year old military man. This secret was kept from my loved ones as something I inherently knew as wrong, but I received the approval and affection I craved. On the downside, I would become the victim of a pedophile.
Pedophilia aside, and not lightly, this was also my first exposure to gaslighting, emotional and verbal neglect, and eventually, physical and sexual abuse. I’m thankful to be able to say there have been few times that I’ve feared for my life, but this man is responsible for most of them. The sound of breaking dishes or loud claps makes me panic. Later I would be diagnosed with PTSD, clinical depression and GAD.
When I finally felt brave enough and left the relationship, I had police stationed on lookout outside my apartment for weeks.
The next man to catch my attention was 12 years my senior.
He was sweet, quiet, creative. Doting in the first months. I didn’t see the anger until too late. He hid it well.
It started with little things. I’d find my ice cream containers in the trash on some mornings, melted and covered in fruit flies. I’d find my takeout with the same fate, too. Always the same excuse, “I thought they weren’t good anymore.” It would evolve into “you don’t need that.”
I stopped eating sweets.
Crawling into bed after a long day, clock striking sometimes midnight or 1 AM, I’d hear his voice from the pillows say “did you workout today?” To which I would timidly, and with shame, confess I had not. I became well trained. On nights when I answered no, I would receive the cold shoulder. A brief “hmm,” no goodnight, no kisses, nothing. On those nights I found myself doing burpees and squats in the living room by lamplight, crying, exhausted, only to come back to a warm and loving boyfriend who would praise my dedication to fitness with his affection.