In my early twenties, my life was an unmitigated disaster. I formally dropped out of college at age 20 and while floating worked well short term it would no longer suffice when I was 21 and recently moved back home after the rape and kidnapping. I needed a sense of control.
Before the rape I was fully free spirited and ultimately trusting. I was happy, silly, fun and often nicknamed giggles. Sound annoying? But I was intelligent, too, and an excellent listener. I would certainly go for the buzz or get sociably drunk at a party but more often I would drink slowly for two or three beers then switch to water mingling all the way and lingering until the wee hours savoring the borderless talk among the sobered up somewhere between 2AM and dawn when everyone else had gone home.
The change within myself was coldly palpable. Pre-rape and post-rape; the entire escapade covered 16 or 17 hours and part of me was killed. The very hour of escape I recognized the death of the who I had been for so long. I didn't know it would take years for me to recognize the new me.
From the very thick of it I once wrote how strange it felt- there was a personality inside of me but I didn't know who it was and I missed terribly the girl I had been. The man who assaulted me, the people who knowing, roughly, what had happened stood and openly laughed at me when I finally got home; my trust was gone and it would be years too before any of it came back.
Being raped wasn't about sex or sexual acts. Except for the internal bruising, I wasn't afraid to be with my boyfriend again. (He was afraid to be with me though- afraid he would hurt me somehow and being treated differently made things harder. Our relationship was done within the month.) My body was the vehicle but my spirit was raped. His method was ultimate control and what stayed with me over and over again were the fear, anger, and grief.
Shortly after moving back home I cut off all my long hair and took two jobs. I got involved with men who were stronger personalities, men who dictated what I wanted. I needed structure. It would take until I was 24 to have a serious, mutual partnership with someone but when he showed up I was ready.
Within that same time period I took some community college courses, became an LPN, and moved back out on my own.
I swear I've lived dozens of different lives since then- the towns I've lived, the jobs I 've had the hours I've worked, the men whose girlfriend, partner, and lover I've been.
Even at my age it's hard to remember being a teenager- how the moment you are in is the only one, how 25 and 30 truly seem so old and far away; adulthood is so intangible it's impossible to believe your teenaged actions could have any consequence on the far off land of your grown-up years. At the same time, when things are going terribly as they often do in puberty, it is just as impossible to believe life will ever be any different.
In my own times of depression sometimes the only thing keeping me adrift is the knowledge that some day things will improve. I may not always feel like riding through the rough parts to get to the better days but I hang on. Sometimes it is easier to look backward and see all the life changes I've survived than to look forward when the slate is yawning blankly.