Trigger warnings/ my darkest shadows, and my path to healing

                                       Photo of me taken by a friend of mine.

The words of the song Quiet by MILCK have been playing in my head as I post this: “But no one knows me no one ever will /if I don’t say something, if I just lie still /Would I be that monster, scare them all away /If I let the-em hear what I have to say /I can’t keep quiet, /I can’t keep quiet,  /A one woman riot,  /I can’t keep quiet /For anyone /Anymore”

Three years ago I started this blog after a relationship had ended with a big love of mine. Did you know that you can cry so much that you get dehydrated and need an IV? Having my heart broken actually caused me to be sick, and I started this blog as a way to empower myself while it was snowing outside and I was sick in bed. Almost three months ago after another relationship ended I found out that heart break activates the same part of your brain as stubbing your toe. Losing a loved one and having your heart break can cause physical pain. Two months ago I decided to put a coast between me and my heart aches to finally start to heal. My last break up opened my heart to every hurt and trauma I’ve ever experienced, and I decided that this is it, it’s my time to take back my power. I’ve thought of starting a new blog, but for now I just need to get this out there.

Friends, family, whoever is listening- I need to stop holding this inside and let go, as it’s been eating away at me and preventing me from fully healing. I’ve been told that writing will help open my throat chakra, and trust me, it’s been closed tightly for a long time now. They say that souls choose what they are going to experience before they are placed inside a body. There’s a part of me that hasn’t wanted to believe this because I wouldn’t wish what I’ve been through on anyone and hoped my soul wouldn’t have chosen this, but I’ve also known that my experiences help me relate to other people and be gentle with them and I’m learning to be gentle with myself. I’m here to tell others that you aren’t alone, and I know that I am not either. Give me strength to share this now, because I’ve started writing things like this many times, and haven’t gotten myself to share it. Before I do, I want to say to people who may recognize their words, that while I have been deeply hurting I do not blame you. I truly love you deeply and know that you were doing your best, have meant well, and did not mean to hurt me.

I’ve experienced so much trauma that even I find it hard to believe sometimes. Because of society and some things that people closest to me have said, even I have felt like I’m crying wolf. For those who don’t know, I’m a survivor of multiple kinds of sexual trauma, starti when I was sexually abused when I was 11. I was sexually assaulted by my boyfriend at the the when I was 16, have Some other moments I can’t quite categorize over the years, and in the past year to two years I’ve been raped and sexually assaulted four times. The first thought that comes to a lot of people’s minds when they think of rape or sexual assault is people who come out of allies, happen from date rape, and strangers in bars. In my experience and from what I’ve heard this is not usually the case. These kinds of traumas happen most often with people that you know, including family members, teachers, people who you work with or you meet at dances and other social gatherings. I’ve had to ask friends, school nurses, and obgyns what they considered rape and sexual assault as I’ve struggled to come to terms with what has happened to me, because I was in shock and in denial, and while I felt like some of the people who I hold closest to my heart were not there for me. I’ve felt like my trauma has put great strain on my relationships with my family, and I’ve been deeply hurt feeling like blame has been placed on me for speaking about my trauma and defending myself, as well as learning when it is necessary to have boundaries and be independent.

Sometimes our best intentions do not come out the way that we meant them. While everyone does and means their best people have not been taught what to say to people who have survived trauma. I’ve had my trauma thrown in my face when I was in shock and not ready to come to terms with it yet. The world has put blame on survivors instead of blaming perpetrators, asking what the survivor wore, and if they were drinking. Our expectations of gender and how dating and relationships should be are highly unrealistic, and it takes a lot of work to realize that life is not how it is shown in the movies. Our society has defined gender roles in such a skewed way, saying that men should be dominant and take what they want, while women should be submissive. Sometimes it’s easier to look away and put blame on those who challenge our expectations or make us feel uncomfortable.

I’ve been victim blamed and gaslighted, told that boys will be boys, that my clothes were too short and were attracting attention, that I couldn’t cuddle with grown men without them taking advantage of me. That you have to teach boys and school them when they are doing something wrong. That its in their culture, and what did I expect? I’ve had my trauma be called drama. It’s time to challenge and change the dialogue that surrounds survivors, trauma and gender roles. It’s time to start speaking out, to say that the way I and so many other people have been treated is not okay. It’s time for me to let go, and to forgive myself and others. The world is filled with so much hate and twisted illusions of reality, it’s time to counteract those ways of thinking while filling the word with love.

I know firsthand how trauma can affect the mind and body, I’ve had pain that started as physical injuries turn chronic and hard to heal because of my trauma. I know how it can affect relationships, and how hard it can be to heal from these traumas. It haunts my dreams, gives me panic attacks, makes it hard to breathe, to eat, it has caused me a lot of discomfort in my own skin and made me question who I am. I’ve had the majority of my sexual experiences with other people leave me feeling depressed, withdrawn, in shock sometimes for weeks. And I’ve felt like this was normal, like sex just made me feel that way. Sex shouldn’t be normalized as making people feel that way. I’ve had my nos taken as yes and my maybes taken as yes so many times I’ve been afraid of saying no, and I have a hard time saying yes when I want something. I feel scared a lot of the time and constantly on guard, at times finding it hard to trust others. I’ve been on guard every time I’ve visited my family’s home because of people in the neighborhood, and I spent a year in my dance community terrified of and having panic attacks every time I saw one of the people who assaulted me, before I stepped forward and said something. I’ve learned that anxiety and depression can be symptoms of trauma. That childhood sexual abuse has a large affect on who you are and how you think. It’s taken me a lot to be around men, I constantly have to tell myself I’m not going to be hurt and to try and calm that flight or fight instinct. To hide how scared I might be feeling. It’s taken me a lot to date, have certain friendships, to even dance in close embrace, to even be able to be in a room filled with lots of people, many of which who are strangers. I’ve changed my hair and pierced my face in hopes of scaring people away, since I have attracted so much unwanted attention and had so many people ignore my nos. It’s taken a lot of work to rewire my brain, and there is still a long journey to come. I’ve gotten involved with and made myself vulnerable to people I shouldn’t have, because I feel like people should be able to respect and not take advantage of each other. I’ve blamed myself for people inflicting trauma on me, while defending and trying to find the good in them because I try hard to believe that people do not mean to cause suffering. I am still learning that it is okay to say no or I don’t know, and it is okay to want something.

My last relationship ended abruptly in part because I was haunted by everything I’ve been through and it was too much for the relationship. The traumatized part of my brain has thought, “if I only I had slept with him more, if only I could have gotten past my trauma, maybe I would still be with him.” Logically I know that this wasn’t possible, and would have caused problems if it had been true. I honor him and myself too much to have even tried that. I wasn’t ready for a relationship and the only committed one I feel I should be in right now is one with myself.  It’s time for me to fully learn how to love and be alone with myself. Because as they say in Rent, “you’ll never share real love until you love yourself”.

I’ve been blessed to have experienced such big loves and to know that I am capable of being loved and giving love in return. There was a point in my life where I felt that I could not be loved if people knew the kinds of traumas that I have been through. I felt like I was broken, used goods, and that I would not be wanted. I now have faith that somewhere down the road I will experience romantic love again. I also know that I don’t need someone to complete me, and there’s something wrong with the idea of another half. I do not want to be a half, I want to be so full and whole and filled with love that I will attract a person in kind, since we attract what we put out into the world. I want a love so bright and pure it lights up a room and makes me giddy. I want someone who not only can be with me on my brightest days, but who can be there on my darkest days, but first I’m working on loving myself and being able to be alone. I’m grateful for those in my life and those who I am meeting or have not met yet who are there for me on this journey. Putting something like this out there has taken me many, many years and I am still worried how it might affect some of my relationships. But I know for my sake that it is a necessary part of me healing. I know that I am meant to help others, and part of my healing work will probably be with helping other survivors.

I hope that there will be more resources for how to categorize things as rape and sexual assault, and to learn how to differentiate between that and consensional, mutually agreed upon sexual encounters. That people learn to ask when touch is okay instead of grabbing someone, because it is not okay to invade someone’s boundaries and assume they will be okay with being touched. For us to challenge how society depicts gender stereotypes and dating, that people learn how important it is to get consent. That people are encouraged and learn how to say no, and that people respect their no. I hope that people learn that their worth is not in how much sex they have or attention they get, but instead in how good of a person they are and how they treat others. 

That we learn to talk to and comfort survivors better. For us tolearn how to listen compassionately instead of actively, instead of only paying partial attention because we are already thinking of how we are going to respond, choosing to fully listen. That we do not place blame on survivors, but instead learn how to sympathize. Even if you do not fully understand, it’s best to listen without judgement. To say, I am so sorry for what has happened to you, it is not your fault. Sometimes our instinct is to try and cheer someone up  when the best thing that you can do is sit with a person, and tell them: I am here for you, you are loved, I support you. Things may seem hard now, but you will grow and heal and get stronger. You have survived every one of your hardest moments and you will get through this too. My hope is that we are more conscious to try and ease each other’s suffering instead of adding to it. That we are more aware of our words and the affect that they might have. May my words bring awareness and challenge people’s ways of thinking. May they be a source of comfort and strength, you are not alone. I see you warriors, I hope that you learn how to be vulnerable as well as how to recognize how amazing and strong you are. I am with you, as so many other are. Thank you for being here on part of my journey. The light in my loves the light in you. Nameste.

Until next time,

-Hannah

A hole in the fabric

“Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
-Dylan Thomas

My mom got a call that her dad -my grandpa- wouldn’t wake up. The next thing I knew we were packing and in a car to the airport headed to Florida. It took us two flights and was midnight by the time we got there. That night my mom and grandpa’s caregiver sat with him as he went in and out of sleep.

The next day I woke to voices outside my room. My aunt and two cousins that I hadn’t seen in over half my life were there. I braced myself, not knowing how I was going to be received, and if they knew why we had stopped talking years ago. I was greeted with open arms.

I’ve always been jealous of people who are close to their cousins, and extended family while I hadn’t seen some of mine since I was nine. It’s been my immediate family for most of my life.

That afternoon my cousins, aunt and I went on a walk. My aunt had picked flowers to bring back to grandpa. When we got back I had sat down while most of them filed into his room. I remember thinking that I wasn’t needed since so many of them were in there when a cousin came to get me. I walked in to see everyone hugging and crying around his lifeless body. “You got your wish, Barry” his caregiver sobbed. He passed with his daughters, and most of his nieces and nephews together.

His wish was to be buried in NJ. Later that week my mom and I sat at home as it poured. My brother and his boyfriend were flying home for the funeral. I remember feeling like our soldiers were coming home as flights were delayed and they circled above our heads. People came from all over attend the funeral. It wasn’t until my brother got up to speak with mascara stained tears streaming down his face that the floodgates opened. We sat, our arms around each other and I felt hands of other family members from the row behind us. I was passed through loving arms as I cried, at times unsure who was holding me.

In the graveyard lyrics were handed out and we sang “We Shall Overcome”. Glitter, rose petals and crystals were shattered among the dirt on the coffin. As I got into a car I saw my dad crying and ran to hold him. We sobbed in each other’s arms.

A hole has been torn in the fabric and pulled us together to celebrate the life of Barry S. Cohen. Since then I’ve been spending time with family, which is why I’ve fallen behind on the Writing 101 assignments and haven’t been blogging.

Here’s to you gramps for bringing us all together.  April 27th, 1927 – June 9, 2014. 87 years old. May you rest in peace.

RIP Barry S. Cohen

Gaping holes. Loss, Writing 101 day 4

Loss. I feel it in my life, thoughts tumbled together. Of innocence,friendships, relationships, family. To fights, break-ups, illnesses, death, misunderstandings, change.

It’s weird, being reduced to the sidelines. No longer your girlfriend or family, watching your life through photographs. Reminding myself that I’m a friend, and should give you space to enjoy your life. Space. I’ve used that word before, and remember not being left alone. Now I’m trying to be respectful and to know when to step aside. To patiently wait because I’m your friend and someone who cares about you.

How long must someone wait, giving another space? I was asked for it months ago and am still waiting… You act like you’re the one that was hurt while I was the one to go home looking forward to seeing you, to be greeted by open closet doors and a gaping hole where your clothes had been. A light left on and a note, with the words “it’s for the best”.  All these months later I’ve stopped hoping for answers, and found them within. I have learned to overcome the soundtrack that went through my mind of “I miss you, I miss you”, and that you did me a favor. I’m stronger, and a lot more independent now.

So many questions,  all starting with why. Why do I do the things that I do? Putting myself out there, going on dates with people I don’t care about. Flipping through profiles of people, and getting in conversations that I don’t enjoy.  Using my body and looks to be seductive. Lowering my standards and going against things I said I’d never do. Putting myself in danger when I know I shouldn’t. Kissing people I don’t like, yet not stopping.

Bringing virgins back to my quiet nest. Taking showers with people I don’t like, while it is something sacred to me, meant to be shared with someone I love. Happily attaching myself to someone, throwing myself into a fling with them when I want a warm body. Thinking of your lips, and your arms while in the arms of another.

Wanting old lovers, and getting excited when someone shows interest in me. Wanting someone who isn’t mine, either friend or lover. The person who I keep constant contact with belongs to another. Yet they understand me more than any other relationship, and surprise me by knowing when something is wrong, even from a distance. They say the right things and remind me that I deserve the best.

Wondering what it would be like if we got together. Like lightning, electricity, a tornado. Chemistry and pent up energy, a long time coming. It’s hard not to want the person who shows the most kindness and understanding when I feel alone.

I miss being able to talk to you. Hanging out with your mom, being at your house. The music we danced to, and the stars we stood under. The moments we shared. I want to talk to you, while I know you don’t want me to. Wishing I could be there for birthdays, graduations, surgeries. That I could be with your family. Could be in your life, your friend. Could be yours.

The thing is I don’t know. What is best for me, what I want. If that person is always there or has yet to come along. If it would work to get together again. What is going on. I can remind myself how much you hurt me, how badly you treated me. Our fights, my tears, your anger. I can also tell myself that you changed.

_____________________________________________________

Today’s assignment– Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.

Fault lines (amethyst geode)

This is the story of the amethyst geode, which lived in a corner for most of my life. Until it got dropped one day and cracked on its fault lines. Since then pieces have been given to people who are really close to my family and I. Image

3/6/14

Fault lines (amethyst geode):

You were always whole.
(Or rather, part of a whole)
I wonder who had the other half.
Was it discovered complete?
Or with fractured parts,
Never to have a twin.

Years passed by,
With the sunlight glittering on facets,
Making rainbows on the wall
A constant presence,
You sat in the corner defying gravity
Never budging,
Requiring at least four strong men
To move you,
Bending their backs under your weight.

A careless drop along fault lines
Broken under pressure
Scattering points across the sidewalk
Landing on either side of the doorway.
Left there for protection
Mother grieved at its loss.

It was a birth
Of daughters and sons,
Made mobile through a shedding of weight
To travel all over the world
In careful hands and bundled in suitcases
To share with only those who really matter.