In my own journey of surviving I have belonged to both of these categories. This past April marked five years since I was raped. For the first three years after the assault my body was breathing, but my heart felt like it had died in that room.
There was a secret I couldn't bring myself to say aloud - I wished he had killed me that day.
This is the first time I'm sharing that sentence outside of a therapy room. I do it for the purpose of creating the contrast between then and now. For those years I was the type of survivor who didn't die. In the past two years I have become the survivor who lived.
Earlier this year when I took a step back and looked around at my life I realized I was living my dreams.
In the past five years my main goals have been:
- Stay alive
- Graduate high school on time
- Stay out of the hospital
- Go to college
- Live on my own
- Get involved in mental health advocacy
- Serve a mission
Some of these look similar to what other 20 year olds might have on their list of goals, but they often weren't a given. My Freshman year of high school was the only one I attended full time and on campus. Graduating with my class wasn't always a guarantee.
I was once told that I should expect hospitalizations to be continuous part of my life. I was told college and living alone were things I might not be able to do, and definitely not at 18.
But this is my life. I will never be a person who has never been raped, but the defining choices of my life will be mine, not my perpetrators. We all have the power to decide who we want to be.
Coming to a place where I felt alive again took time and a lot of work. I had to accept that I was different now, but that different didn't mean worse. Coming to a place where I felt alive again wasn't something anyone could do for me. In large part going from "not dead" to "alive" was a choice.
A choice to fight. A choice to put one foot in front of the other. A choice to change the way I viewed my assault and myself. And it's a choice I continue to make every day.
The course of my life was changed in an instant. It has been five years and there are still things I have to work through, but I am so glad he did not kill me that day and I'm grateful that I never took my own life.
How glorious it is to feel alive.