This guest blogger story comes from Jenna Linch, founder of the Little Words of Kindness campaign. Jenna is a sexual assault & domestic violence survivor and helps other survivors heal & unite through letters of encouragement.
As you’ll see when you read her story, she shows that throughout her struggles and challenges, she is proud to say that “I’m still me”.
I sat in the waiting room, looking down at the paperwork in front of me, wondering how I was going to get through some of the questions on the form. Before now, I had never thought I needed counseling because I had always managed to be the type of person who fought my own battles, hid my emotions, and locked that part away so no one could see the fragile side of me.
I could smile and make everyone around me believe nothing was wrong, that I was fine for if it was one lesson I had learned in life, it was to bury away secrets of my past and remain silent about the scars I bore from the aftermath of the battles I had fought and somehow survived. Sitting here at the rape crisis center, going through the questions to answer for the forms I had to fill out, I suddenly found myself feeling all those emotions I thought I had managed to ignore and push away for good.
If I thought filling out the forms was hard, my whole interview at my intake session proved to be even tougher. I was asked questions about my past and things such as the domestic violence I went through in my previous marriage, my battle with self-infliction, my suicide attempt at 23, along with the night I was sexually assaulted by my ex-boyfriend 6 years ago, came up.
I found myself being forced to confront emotions I had not dared to express out loud; how I felt about what had happened and the war I had been fighting against my own self for the past 6 years. That war being the one with the girl in the mirror, the one I always looked at and despised, hated, wished I could change or hide out of my sight for good because every time I looked at her she reminded me of the pain I felt from what happened that night 6 years ago.
I had always been viewed as this incredibly strong person by everyone around me and as a result of always being told “You got this, you’re strong, stay strong, be strong,” etc., I tried to continue to maintain that whole strong, invincible persona. My thoughts were if I let my guard down for one moment, then people would see right through me and see how fragile the girl on the inside really was.
To me, if I exposed that side of me by sharing my true emotions and feelings, then I was exposing not just my fragility but also my vulnerability. Then people would think less of me and suddenly this very strong person they thought I was would be seen as a fraud, as someone weak, or at least that is what my mind told me.
My report had been ignored by the Escambia County Sherriff’s Office 3 years ago when I had finally broken my silence and reported what happened to me upon finding out my ex-boyfriend had been arrested for sexually assaulting an 8-year-old child. Because they never bothered to take it seriously or get back with me, I thought that I might as well just forget about it altogether; That what happened to me didn’t matter after all and I should just get over it.
Thus I did my best to pretend that nothing was wrong, that it was no big deal when in fact it was a big deal and it did matter because beneath those scars I was left with, were screams that the silence was covering up and wounds that ran so much deeper.
For so long I had lived in my own emotional prison because of the pain I was holding onto and living in from that night in 2011. I had pushed away loved ones, friends, family, and I had been punishing and judging myself all these years, believing that if people knew the real me, if they could see beyond those scars, then they would see and think of me as someone completely different, viewing me in a different way.
The last thing I wanted was people to look at me with pity or see me as someone broken and damaged and think that I wasn’t the person I’ve always been or the one they had always known.
I didn’t want to feel differently about who I was due to what I had survived. But the pain I felt inside did anything except numb those feelings and emotions that were still there within me. If anything, the more I kept quiet, the more I tried to fight battles on my own, the more the pain intensified those feelings, bringing them to the surface, challenging me in its own way to confront them rather than ignore what I felt.
My heart had been locked away along with all those untold secrets and unspoken words because I thought that no one could love me for me, the girl who had been used and thrown away in life, and when I looked in the mirror at the girl staring back at me, I wondered sometimes if she could ever know love and happiness again in her own life or if she was just too far gone.
As I sat in the room during my intake interview, talking to a counselor and going over the forms, I think something inside me began to break. Those walls started to come down a little bit. They didn’t fall down right away but a dent had been made in those walls.
A couple of weeks after finding out I had been accepted as a client to receive counseling services at the rape crisis center, I went to see the movie The Shack. It was then, during this movie about forgiveness, love, and letting go, that the walls finally came down. I went away from watching The Shack feeling completely different on the inside because after watching it, I realized that God does not see a scarred, broken, damaged person when He looks at me but He sees the beautiful person He created.
My past didn’t leave the chance of a better future in complete destruction but instead, my life is under construction from the pieces being put back together again to build a more beautiful life that will give me a better future.
What I went through doesn’t mean I don’t deserve to know love or happiness again.
Yes, everything I survived changed me in some way, but it didn’t change the person I am or always have been. The people who hurt me could never take away who I was and they’ll never be able to take from me who I am. I may have my scars, but at the end of the day, after all I have been through, I am still me. Part of being me are the challenges I face, the battles I fight, and the struggles I go through but that doesn’t make me any less of who I am and have been.
It doesn’t mean I struggle with who I am; it only means sometimes I have to fight harder to overcome obstacles in order to rise above them.
- I’m not broken
- I’m not damaged
- I’m not too far gone
- I’m not ruined or destroyed
Rather I am that girl in the mirror, the girl who is inside me, the one who is worthy of love and the one who will know what love is because I love her and I am happy to be her, proud of her and not ashamed to say that she is me and I am her.
Images courtesy of Pixabay. Social Media images created by Matt Pappas.
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