I feel like I have told this story a thousand times in my head and also seemingly haven't told it at all. There are days I still can't come to grips with my reality; that this could all possibly be my life. For years the trauma I had suffered simply went unacknowledged. The phrases "he was my boyfriend, doesn't that mean I automatically wanted it?", "You're just being dramatic" and "You'll never be good enough" were regular streams of thoughts going through my head day after day, minute after minute... I learned to bury my trauma and "get my shit straight" quickly. Just shut up and move on with it... but three years ago my body had other ideas.
I started to notice that I was becoming increasingly claustrophobic. I was having difficulty making it into work every day because I had to travel under a tunnel to get there. I was missing meetings if the room was too small and I even had to physically leave a movie theatre because there were too many people and I was not near an aisle/exit seat. I started to notice other strange behaviours like needing to be seated a certain way at a restaurant. I had to sit with my back facing the wall, with a view of the entire restaurant or I simply could not be there and again had to leave. It was becoming increasingly more disruptive to my life. Shortly after is when my panic attacks started. I was having flashbacks that manifested by loud shouting in my ears. This would be followed by a sensation of me leaving my body/ floating above my body. It was absolutely terrifying because I had no control whatsoever over my surroundings. I later learned this was a classic presentation of disassociation syndrome, which is a natural response/ defensive mechanism to trauma. But even this was not enough to get me to admit to my abuse.
Shortly after the panic attacks started, I found myself with my girlfriends in a crowded beach-side bar towards the end of the summer season. It was late and the bar was hot, sticky and packed with dim lights illuminating the seating area. Within minutes I felt the room start to close in on me and I soon realised my ex-boyfriend was in the bar with me. It had been 10 years since I'd seen him at this point but I could hear him clear as day saying "Huh...I pretty much just raped you. It kind of makes me feel like less of a man *shrugs shoulders*". Every memory came flooding back as I started to have an intense flashback and had to go home. That night, after six years of marriage, I told my husband that I had been raped. He was the first person I had ever spoken to about it.
I was raped when I was 16 years old by my high-school boyfriend. What started off as a very casual and fun relationship quickly turned dark and abusive. I was mentally and emotionally tortured by him for three, agonising years. It turned physical quickly as he would grab me and shove me in his attempts to intimidate me. The last six months of our relationship were some of the darkest days I've ever experienced. One day after school I went to his house and he raped me on his parents bed. I cried and said no, but it became clear he didn't care what I thought. I quickly put my clothes on and hurried down his staircase crying. I fumbled for my car keys and when I looked up there he was at the top of the stairs looking down at me and he said, "Huh...I pretty much just raped you. It kind of makes me feel like less of a man *shrugs shoulders*". In that moment, I felt like my soul was collapsing. I tried committing suicide by drowning myself in the bathtub and overdosing on my parents' pain medication but both attempts failed and went unnoticed by anyone. When I ended our relationship six months later I started to tell my friends some of the abuse I had been going through but they did not believe me. I was called a "drama queen" and was harassed by many of his friends online, calling me a "pathetic liar". I turned immediately to drugs and alcohol and for six more months I started to spiral out of control, missing school and I was in danger of failing my junior year of high-school. I felt like I was doomed at this point to live a life of misery and hopelessness. I don't necessarily believe in a God, but I'd like to think it was some kind of divine intervention that stepped in and immediately got me to turn my life around. Or maybe it was just me and my wanting to survive.
I have been incredibly successful in my life and have managed to maintain a healthy and happy relationship with my husband of nine years, but it has not been easy. Before starting my intensive psychotherapy I did not understand the immense toll trauma takes on your body. How it seeps into virtually all aspects of your life. I'm still in this journey and have to constantly work on healthy connections with others, setting boundaries and celebrating my truth/ authentic self. I often think about what would happen if I never told anyone at all? What if he does something terrible to another girl and I did not speak up and possibly help prevent it? I am now focused on trauma awareness so others know they are not in this journey, this fight, alone. Currently, I work as a Nurse Practitioner to cancer patients and consider myself a healer to many. I don't consider myself brave or strong but I am hopeful now, more than ever, that I can someday find inner peace.
Love to everyone xoxo
We are so proud to share Jackie's story with you today. Thank you for being so amazing and helping so many other women out there but speaking out and joining our community ✨