Looking Back, Looking up
I really, really try not to look back very often. Most of my posts are about living completely and totally in the present, appreciating the moment, etc. But on Sunday night, while introducing my best friend from Wofford on my Instagram account for an Insta-story take over, my mind slipped to a place that I rarely let myself travel to. This is my friend, Sarah Beth (Hughes) Thie. She helped me get beyond the darkest part of my life to date.
What you'll read below is part of my story, but it's not my whole story.
I am where I am today because of the shit that I've been through and the people who supported me in my revival.
I've never written about this and I'm not sharing this for shock factor. It's been eleven years, after all. But after allowing my mind to revisit my time at Wofford, especially as it pertains to my friend Sarah Beth...
I felt a voice inside me say this:
"our darkest secrets, our deepest pain is ultimately
what produces the greatest strength."
This message pouring from my heart is how and why I knew that it was time to share.
Here it is.
On the surface, I was the poster child for Wofford College. Extremely engaged in high school, great grades, hard courses, South Carolina resident, Wofford legacy (my great grandfather attended.) I was captain of my cheerleading team and an International Baccalaureate student. Caucasian, affluent, educated family. I checked all the "right" boxes.
Once at Wofford, I realized that beyond the I was quite different from my peers, socially. My progressive ideals, independent lifestyle (I can go to the grocery store and the bathroom at a party by myself, go figure...), outspoken nature and desire to work out over tailgate were just a few ways that I quickly realized that I was the odd girl out. Feeling like the "weird one" was tough, but I was tough enough to deal with it.
Having only had a few experiences with heavy drinking in high school, I was not, however, equipped for the partying scene. When the end to my first semester of college approached, I was proud to have made excellent grades and to have been recruited into "the best" sorority. Besides being a bit of an odd bird in a primarily Caucasian, ultra conservative private liberal arts school, I still thought that I was living the American college girl dream.
The self-confidence I had on December 6th would be changed forever on the night of December 7th. It was a Friday night and I was out with friends for an evening of college raging. My girlfriends and I went to a less-frequented fraternity. I later learned that many of the girls I'd gone out with that night felt that they, too, were slipped something dangerous that night. To this day, I am the only one that I know of who woke up on Saturday morning having experienced every woman's nightmare on Friday night.
The details are not important and they don't deserve any space on my blog or my website. I was an eighteen year old girl who bit off more than I could chew (or drink) in the party scene and I trusted a malicious, vengeful, aggressive, heavy drinking guy to walk with me back to our dorms that night. Even as I type this, I will not allow myself to cry over this experience.
This incident rocked my world,
wrecked my self-confidence (and my grades)
and pretty much everything else in my life.
For over a year I kept this from my parents and for over a year, my parents wondered how their once lively, bright, engaging daughter had turned into a frail, sobbing, angry as hell, paranoid person who couldn't maintain any sort of relationship, with friends or otherwise. I didn't sleep at night and when I did, nightmares crept into the only place where I was supposed to be at peace: in my sleep. My grades suffered, I dropped classes. Longing for an escape, I made cardio my outlet and withered away. I blew up at family and friends at the drop of a hat. If you've ever seen "Big Little Lies," my life experiences post-incident were similar to the character of Jane Chapman (sans kid.)
In the Spring of 2008, I dropped out of Wofford. Shortly thereafter I was diagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, ya know, the thing that people who have gone to war experience.
Nothing ever happened to the male student.
There are many heroes in this story and the road to total restoration, but Sarah Beth was the Wofford hero. She held me when I couldn't stand up, she left me notes when I couldn't think of a single positive thing to say about myself, she called my parents when I was torn apart and could barely speak through the tears. She, along with one or two others on my dorm hall, were the only ones who a. believed me and b. who did not completely reject me. The only tears that my eyes will offer up for this post are tears of gratitude for the people who saw me through to the other side.
I get it. I know what it's like to feel... all the fucking things. To be at the bottom. To be at the bottom and then feel like the bottom has dropped out. I know what it's like to have to start over, on many if not every front. If you are feeling low, alone, confused, used, discarded, misunderstood... I've felt those things, too. And so, fucking unfortunately, millions of women around the world have felt and are feeling these things for the same reason, too. I know what it's like to sob on the bathroom floor, reject every possible positive comment and feel completely unlovable. I have been in those moments -- those years, in fact -- of complete and total self-loathing. I have lived through the pain of not wanting to live another day and through the agony of not having a single positive thing to say about myself.
I've been listening to Wes Knight's Creating Space Movement podcast for a few weeks and it's taught me so much about business, which is why I tune in. But it's also taught me, or reminded me, rather, that it's okay to look back. Knight went through a deep darkness when his pro-soccer career ended in 2015. Different circumstances, but same level of low. Something he said in a podcast recently reminded me of this: it's okay to look back.
It's actually AWESOME to look back and appreciate your growth.
On July 10th, 2017, Sarah Beth will take over my insta-story and showcases her beautiful life for my followers. I tried to explain to my followers in a live video the night before her "take over" what a crucial role Sarah Beth played in my life. When I ended the recording, I wept. Not because I was sad. But because was and am in awe. I wept because I was reminded what a solstice Agnes Scott College offered me from 2008-2010. I wept because my family forgave me for all of the horrible things I did and said during my PTSD turmoil. I wept because God has a way of taking our complete and utter broken-openness and using it for the good of all involved.
Looking back reminded me to look up and show gratitude. Gratitude for growth, for exploration, for self-inquiry and for friendship.