*TRIGGER WARNING:  I talk about sexual assault.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Several weeks ago, I started writing the goodbye letter below but it didn’t feel right. At the time I wasn’t sure why, and then I realized that ED Ali was already gone. Saying goodbye to someone who was already gone felt redundant, so instead of focusing on the goodbye letter I wrote about how her absence affected me (Seeing the Forest for the Trees).

But I couldn’t stop thinking about the goodbye letter. So I came back to it and started to write. The letter started as a goodbye but shifted to “You’re gone and this is why I will never let you back.” What came up as I wrote was something I intimated but never directly addressed here on the blog. Rape. It is an event that I have processed but it is still difficult to share publicly. Which is why it has taken me a few weeks to hit “Publish.”

I know I did nothing wrong and have nothing to be ashamed of, but this feeling is still relatively new. And, one of the countless awful things about rape is that no matter how successful you are at working through and getting over the trauma, there is still fear of having an asterisk by your name. Like, Ali* has good advice (*but Ali was raped). Or Ali* is super nice and super fun (*but Ali was raped). Or Ali* is smart (*but Ali was raped).

Asterisk or not, I am not hiding anymore. Processing the horrible experience and knowing that it was not my fault and not my shame was pivotal to my recovery. Rape affects more women than any of us would like to admit. I refuse to be silent. For too long I shouldered a shame that never belonged to me.

Dear Eating Disorder Ali:

We already said our goodbye. You are no longer with me but I see you in my rearview mirror. Waiting. Waiting for me to slip up and need you. Waiting for me to stop the car so you can catch up and get back in.  Adjusting to your absence has thrown me for a loop but I am finding my new balance.  I need you to know that I will not stop. I need you to know that even if you don’t walk away, I will keep moving forward until I cannot see you anymore.

You have done a lot for me over the years but it has come at a steep price.  You saved my life on few occasions when I was so depressed and so low that I wanted to die. I am forever grateful that you kept me alive so I could get to where I am today.  You numbed the pain and got me through the worst moments in my life. The problem is that there is no such thing as selective numbing. So you also numbed the joy.

Consequently, for much of my young adult life, I felt disconnected from those around me. My only connection, my only constant, was you. However, the human need for connection is strong, so at times I would yearn for connection with another person. Despite being over my head with bulimia and self-hatred, I was able to form some wonderful friendships that I cherish to this day. But because I was still so lost and disconnected, I also made some poor choices that left me aching for you to take the pain away. Some of those poor choices involved men.

But I never chose to be raped. I do not and will not blame you for the malevolent actions of another. I do, however, hold you responsible for continuing to tell me it was my fault. For twenty years, you used that horrible experience to your advantage to make me hate myself and feel unworthy so I would turn to you to take the pain away. No more. It was not my fault. It is not my shame.

I forgive you but I will not forget and I will not let you back in my life. I know that I am enough now and I know how to deal with and process hurt and pain.  I know that by feeling my feelings I can grow.  I also know that numbing my feelings will only defer the pain. Whether you walk away or I keep driving until you’re out of sight. It. Is. Over.

Ali

 

4 Comments

  1. Ali, you are a brave girl. (No asterisks here! Just a period. Because it’s an undeniable fact.) xoxo

  2. Ali, thank you so much for sharing this. Raw honesty and courage – many people who are not there yet will read this and not feel alone anymore. Thank you for standing up and offering that gift.

    • roadtorecovered2015

      Thank you so much Mike! Releasing myself from the shame, and realizing that it was never my shame to begin with, played a large role in my recovery.

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