Belle Jar

Putting Ourselves Back Together After Trauma

My brother once told me that we break to put ourselves back together again.

In the first few hours of this year, 2016, I was not broken but fragile. I longed to be wrapped up all warm and snug in a nest of moss, tucked up amongst the strong roots of a tree. Instead of meeting my needs, I fell back on old habits, coping mechanisms I learnt as a teenager when I couldn’t face my own vulnerability. I got very drunk and ended up being sick numerous times for an hour before passing out at a party. This time I wasn’t on self-destruct mode like I used to be, but after months of cutting out alcohol, the strong punch hit me harder than expected.

There was a sober guy I’d met that night who’d seen the state I was in and reassured my friends that he’d make sure I got home safe. The rest is a confusing mess that sometimes keeps me up late at night. He had a different idea of “safe”. It took me a while to process what had happened. When I finally got the courage to confront him about it, in a second language through text message two months later, he was angry and defensive. His response filled me with self-doubt, heavy in my stomach, weighing down my whole body so that I felt nothing but weakness.

I’ve gone over every intricate detail of what happened that night so many times. I’ve read countless legal documents, blogs and articles on consent. Most of the night is blurry memories or complete black outs but going over the bits I do remember and trying to figure out how to define it, only gets me lost in a confused mess of differing theories. So I realised that all that really matters is how it made me feel and how I’ve been putting myself back together ever since.  I know my own truth.

There was a lot of self-doubt, anger, sadness, grief and confusion in the first few months of this year. But there was also a lot of happiness, joy, creativity, determination and deepening connections, both with myself and others. That felt like a real triumph. At some points I thought that I might fall apart completely, I live on the other side of the world to my family and childhood friends and sometimes it all seemed too much.

Through all the sadness and down days, I spoke to myself kindly like I would talk to a child and I held myself in a safe space, offering all the love and support that my family would have given me had they been here. When I felt too low to leave the house or to do the things I love most, some other force coming from deep within, would sometimes overpower the voice telling me “you can’t” and push me out of the front door with an assertive “you absolutely can and you will.”

Until one day, something truly beautiful happened. I woke up and felt an overwhelming strength. It rose up within me like it was pouring both in and out of the tip of my head, connecting me with the sky above and in and out of my feet, rooting me into the soil beneath. It hit me so clearly, how strong we really are. How strong women are, how strong anyone of any or no gender really is, anyone who finds a way to live their own truth no matter what hardships they face.

We’re strong for finding our way through this messed up culture of patriarchal power systems which marches in time to a distorted model of masculinity, hurting everyone along the way.

For so many centuries, across the world, women and girls have been treated as lesser than men, as objects to be used, as property to be traded and owned. The list of injustices we have collectively faced, throughout history and across borders, is heartbreakingly long. Yet still we have found ways to take back our power and to empower each other.

That one day, it hit me clearer than ever. No one can EVER take away our power and the strength that lies within us. Many have tried their hardest to disempower us but oh, how ignorant they have all been of the deep well of strength that lies within each and every one of us! With the burdens that are laid on our shoulders, we may break once, twice or several times but we will find a way to put ourselves back together again.

I write this with joy in my heart and a smile on my face. There is nothing we can’t face and we are never truly alone.

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