The Unmarked Road.
I am walking an unmarked road. There are no signs, there are no lights. I can only just see my hand in front of my face. I've been on this road for a very long time, years in fact. The first night I set foot on it, was the night that I was raped. If this were reality, there would be flashing danger signs and roadblocks so that I never would have had to been pushed into that hostel bed that night. Three men deciding my path for me that evening, holding me against my will, forcing tar and gravel deep into my knees. If there is a god, where was he then?
The road I walked from that evening on changed my life. For the longest time I was running as fast as I could and the road was easy with just a few slight hills and turns. Palm trees lined either side and the warmth of the sun held me, comforting me with her soft rays. This was my denial period. I couldn't accept what had happened to me and I couldn't begin to heal. Although it felt like great terrain, it was really a disguised limbo. My body knew what happened, but my head insisted on erasing it. My defensive armour was my zest for living the fullest life I could. What this manifested at was filling my consciousness with drink, men and work. If only someone were there to hold my hand and tell me that my trauma was not my fault, but that someone never existed because I was too afraid to tell anyone.
And so began a fast life.
I ran, I swam, I flew, I dived.
I laughed, I drank, I danced, I worked.
I ignored, I buried, I denied.
I never grieved and I never healed.
Fast-forward to present day and you'd be forgiven for thinking that I have my life perfectly together. You see the filtered Instagram stories and the wide smiles. You'd hear me speak fondly of my adventures around the world, I'm an open book of stories. When I started this process I promised the raw, real version of it. There's already enough censored content in the world alienating those who are going through the same struggles. We see the end result but no-one is showing us the process of how to get there. Over the past few weeks, all of the trauma that I denied has shown itself tenfold. The word "haunts" sums up my experience accurately. Like a demon or a ghost, hiding behind nightmares, flashbacks and anxieties. I have experienced more of these in the last few weeks than I had in the last few years. Some days it's crippling and I don't see how to make it to the next turn. Last week I came across a group of young guys when I was walking the dog. My first overwhelming thought was how easy it would be for them to attack me. I had to get out of there immediately before I choked on the anxiety rising from my belly. I came home and soaked my shirt with tears. I wasn't crying for the fact that I was scared, but for the devastating feeling of not recognising who I was anymore. Today for the very first time, I begin speaking to a therapist, almost three and half years after I was raped. I can now say this with no shame whatsoever. I've always been very independent so asking for help doesn't come naturally to me. My pride and ego has been set aside through and whilst I'm nervous, I'm ready for the next section of road.
As I've said before, I don’t want to be known as a victim or a survivor. If I had to label myself as anything, it would be a “riser”. You see, every day no matter how many terrible things happened overnight, the sun will rise again. Something terrible was done to me, yet I refuse to simply just survive. I refuse to live life worried and anxious and barely keeping it together. I deserve more than that. I marvel at my body. Not because it’s in perfect shape but because it’s so fucking incredible. My skin, still soft even through the rough handling it’s endured. My eyes still sparkle after rivers of tears have escaped them. I laugh deeply from the same belly that was pinned down to a bed. My mind is creative and resilient. I choose to trust others and I choose to love hard. My nightmares and flashbacks still haunt me but without them, this movement wouldn’t have begun. I am never defined by my bad experiences, but strong enough to rise above them. One of the ways I can move forward is by turning this negative experience into a positive. I need to turn my pain into something worthwhile, something that makes an impact and something that helps others. This movement won't take one or two people, it will take an entire society moving as one in the same direction. I'm still mapping out what the exact road to this looks like, but I believe it begins with these honest conversations.
You can call me a dreamer, but I don’t think I am asking too much. We’re not talking about solving climate change or how to end world hunger (we’ll save those for my next books). We’re talking about a ten-second exchange of communication before sex. A deep respect and understanding that just because you can, it doesn’t mean that you should. This is what I dream of.
The new normal is not feeling awkward or embarrassed if you’re outside of your comfort zone and don’t want to go any further. The new normal is having healthy discussions with your partner and your friends about what consent looks, sounds and feels like. The new normal is having resources freely and readily available to those who have been raped so they don’t ever feel like their trauma is a burden. The new normal is equality, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. The new normal is teaching kids before they hit puberty how to say and hear ‘no’. The new normal is but a dream, but one I believe in deeply.
I am paving a new road and the more people I have on my side, the more powerful this will be. Please hit the 'subscribe' button below and I will keep you up to date with how you can help too.
An unmarked road doesn't make it hopeless. An unmarked road means there is endless possibility.
With love and gratitude,