I Am A Snake, Shedding Her Skin.
I am a snake, shedding her skin.
I am the moon, at the end of her cycle.
I am me, yet I barely recognise my reflection.
Over the past few weeks, I have lived through the beginning of a transformation. A messy, complicated, anxiety-ridden phase of growth. Throughout my adult life I have been so focused on the growth of my career, my social circle, my travel bucket list and my bank account. My most recent lesson has been one that has stopped me in my tracks; I have neglected the growth of my mind.
I nostalgically look back on my years of being the light of the room, the life of the party and a leader. I reminisce on my fearless attitude. The girl never seen without an ear to ear smile, dancing on bars and sailing on boats across the Adriatic. I remember all of this on the floor of the shower, where my tears effortlessly blend with the disappearing water. Vanishing down the plughole, along with any hope of ever being the same again.
I dug the deepest hole that I could, and buried the trauma from my sexual assault within the darkness. I covered it so well that I had everyone fooled, including myself. I thought I had found a shortcut, a jackpot, a byway to being whole and healed. I thought that by denying my reality I wouldn't need to ever face it. I thought that I was tough enough to do this on my own. I thought that I was okay. I now can see, I was wrong.
My new reality is one that I could have never dreamed would be me. The new me is someone that has a panic attack before her therapy session. The new me is unable to breathe through the anxiety of seeing a group of friends on the weekend. The new me is someone who cries, alot. The new me is triggered by everyday things that seemed previously insignificant; like the man in front of me in the queue who has strong, rough hands. The new me is living in a state of fear. The new me needs escape plans in social situations. The new me has taken over and I feel like I am a shell of my former self.
Trauma has no sense of time. Now that I am unpacking her, she feels blistering hot and too bright to look at. Every part of my being wants to run in the other direction and go back to a life where she was buried and dormant. Growing pains are real and instead of resisting them, I'm now making a conscious choice to surrender to them. I remind myself that everything is temporary and that nothing good comes easy. I tell myself that I will be okay and one day I will look back on this period with a sense of pride and accomplishment. I have days where I feel utterly embarrassed that my confidence has been so knocked that I can't go to the shops alone. I find myself saying "sorry" way more than I should and feeling like a burden. It's rare for my mind to not be running at a million miles an hour, cloudy yet chaotic. It's harder to get out of bed in the mornings and it's harder to be around people. But I am slowly learning to have grace with myself because there is no denying this process is hard.
The completion of the first draft of my book coincided with my descent into this growth period. The irony is that the creative outlet that started my healing journey, is now ready for the world, but I am not. It would feel inauthentic of me to release an overly-positive view of what my journey has looked like. When I came out to the world with my story, so many girls came forward, united with me in a shared painful experience. I am committed to telling my story in its entirety, even if it's uncomfortable. When I breathe in the scent of my book for the first time, freshly printed and ready to be soaked in by the eyes of curious readers, I want to feel complete. I want to leave no page unturned. Whether people love it or hate it doesn't actually matter, because it is my own work of art. It is my legacy and gift to the world and if it helps just one person, it will be worth it.
My trauma has become my 'why'; I became a statistic. Countless others will become a statistic too and I almost can't bear the thought of it. It's unbearable because it requires such a simple change; respecting a women's decision to say 'no'. In my last therapy session, I had a breakthrough of sorts. I stopped crying and for the first time ever I said "I'm pissed off. I'm angry!!! I'm so angry that I have to even do this". Prior to this, anger hadn't been an identifiable emotion I'd felt when unpacking the assault. I'd been drowning in guilt, sorrow, shame, regret and sadness, and this feeling of being absolutely fucking furious was new to me. I am angry and that is just where I am on my journey at the moment.
I share this with you not for attention, sympathy or pity. I share this with you to put a voice and a face to a journey that so many others are going through in solidarity and in silence. There is a massive stigma associated with going to therapy. It's not cool to openly show emotion or cry or take a mental health day. It's taboo to speak about one in five girls getting sexual assaulted. It's not normal to teach our kids about boundaries and what consent looks and feels like. Self-love and body positivity are great buzzwords but how many of us actually believe that we are enough? Uncomfortable conversations are avoided like the plague because we've become so obsessed with maintaining a perfect image so that we don't rock the boat. We paint layers of make up, botox, drink, drugs, sex and fake relationships over our skeleton so that others can't see that at our core, we're a struggling human being. It keeps me up at night imagining the world our children will grow up in. As a society, we already live our life through a 5" screen, moving further and further away from living in the present. We consider connection a red notification saying that someone liked your post. We think community is how many followers we have on Instagram. Whilst on one hand I'm excited for the future, a big part of me feels anxiety over not doing enough to make it a better, safer, healthier place. What would be the point of being here if not to leave the world in a better condition than how we found it? We don't get a say in what we inherit it but we can control what we pass down. I choose action. I'm choosing to face the uphill battle that is my trauma so that girls who come after me won't need to be in my position. I'm choosing to have a voice and be loud in this fight, even though it's scary and I feel out of my depth. I'm choosing to normalise the admission of vulnerability. I'm choosing to accept that whilst I don't have the answers to everything, ignorant bliss is not an excuse for turning a blind eye to what is happening underneath our noses.
I feel in it in my bones; this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing. I have an idea of what the finished jigsaw of my journey looks but I'm still figuring out how all the pieces fit. The release of Dance Barefoot Again will be an unbelievably exciting and proud moment when I do publish it, but I need to make sure my head space is strong enough to cope with the can of worms that I will open. As a good friend told me, you must always put on your own oxygen mask before you can save others.
Until then, I am focusing on the smaller pieces of the puzzle. Starting with simple, actionable and accessible education that I can implement immediately. Dance Barefoot Again Designs is one of these small puzzle pieces. These downloadable digital prints for kids that spark conversations around equality, respect, consent and body positivity. Not only do they look great on your wall, they serve as gentle yet constant reminders to those who need to see these crucial messages everyday, our children.
My hope is that this post awakens something inside you and you feel compelled to learn, speak and do more. Decorate your walls with positive messaging that will remind you and our young ones of how worthy they are. All designs are fully customisable to suit age, gender, favourite animals and colour schemes of rooms. Many of us making small changes, even if they're not perfect is so much more powerful than all of us doing nothing and just crossing our fingers. By doing nothing, we're rolling the dice on the future of our girls and boys.
You can find the link to my digital downloads here https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/dancebarefootagain?section_id=29382299
Your support so far is appreciated beyond words.
With love and gratitude, Milly.