Archive for the ‘rape’ Category

The Power of an Octave

Posted: November 11, 2011 in healing, rape
Tags: ,

This week, I took a little step toward building the foundation I need to take my (hopeful) singing career to the next level. After a few weeks of playing email tag and trying with limited success, I finally arranged a meeting with a voice teacher who came highly recommended. She was friendly, easy to talk to, and seemed very down to earth. I liked her, without reservations.

She had me standing by the piano in less than ten minutes, ready to test out my belief that my vocal range was limited to about an octave.

It turns out that my vocal range is not about an octave. It’s more.

Significantly more, as it turns out.

I hit notes I didn’t even know were in my range.

“I’d like to work with you, I think you have a very pretty voice,” she told me.

In order to take classes from her, I have to pass an audition, which will come up in a couple of weeks. I’m nervous. Getting up in front of people is easier than it would have been a few months ago–in some ways. I know I can do it. But I also know now how it feels to be rejected, and I’m terrified that I’m going to screw up. The problem with always looking for second chances is that if they don’t work out, you’re being set up for an even bigger disappointment.

So I’m trying not to look at it as a second chance.

It’s an opportunity. It isn’t the first one I’ve had, and it won’t be the last one I ever get.

It’s just what’s in front of me right now.

I truly believe that things happen for a reason. Sometimes, when things are happening, it’s hard to see or understand what the reasons are. But I’ve been through too many things that are coming full circle now to believe otherwise. All the things that have led me to this point have happened for reasons, have shaped me, have made me into someone not necessarily better or worse, but different than I would have been otherwise.

And different is okay.

I knew it when I was explaining to my (hopefully) new voice teacher how I ended up in her studio on a November afternoon, at the age of 27, looking to resume something I gave up on a long time ago.

“Singing was all I wanted to do when I was sixteen…then I was raped, and everything stopped. I’m healthy now, and I have my feet back under me. I need help finding my voice again,” I told her.

“Let’s do it,” she replied, and headed to the piano.

And it wasn’t perfect, but it was right where I needed to be, at that moment, at this point in my life.

My next challenge is deciding what song to sing for my audition. The voice teacher suggested a Christmas carol.

I’m leaning toward Silent Night.

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What 9/11 Means to Me

Posted: September 11, 2011 in anxiety, healing, rape, trauma
Tags: , , ,

This time of year is always emotional for me. September 11, 2001, impacted me in the same way it did many Americans – it shook my sense of security, made me nervous about my personal safety, and made me wonder if things would ever feel “normal” again. I wrote an article on patriotism for my high school newspaper and fully embraced my pride in my country. A few months after it happened, I watched the first images of the Iraq invasion on the news and knew the world had changed. Not too long after that, my only brother joined the Army National Guard and moved to Georgia for boot camp. I got to see him three more times before he shipped off to Iraq in 2004. He came home safe, but deeply troubled. It took a long time for us to start rebuilding that bridge.

But in the grand scheme of things, that isn’t what 9/11 means to me. It was more personal; a deeply painful and harshly transformative moment. It happened, I survived, and life went on, but nothing was ever the same.

In August of 2001, I met a boy. He was the singer in a band, and I was supposed to play bass on some demo tracks they were working on. Instead, he wrecked a car. Instead of playing the bass I ended up driving him into town to call a tow truck. Instead of starting my senior year excited about going to college, I started it wracked with anxiety about a relationship that everyone (including this boy) said was bad for me. But I was in love with a boy who knew exactly what to say to keep me coming back to him, even when I knew it would hurt.

This boy and I were total opposites. He drank; I didn’t. He did drugs; I refused to try them. He smoked cigarettes; I pretended to. He stole; I felt guilty and looked the other way. He went to jail; I accepted his collect calls and promised to do anything for him.

I bailed this boy out of jail. With $1’s and $5’s collected over the course of months working nights as a waitress. He disappeared. I waited through weeks of unanswered phone calls and rumors floating around school that he was seeing other girls.

Then one night I ran into him on my way home from work. We went back to his house. It was late. We kissed and he swore he loved me. He took my car keys and cell phone and gave them to a friend, and took me down the street to an old abandoned limousine that was a favored location for getting high, and where, I assumed, we’d make out some more before I went home. Which we did, for a while.

Then he pulled up my dress and he raped me.

I begged him to stop.

He didn’t.

He slammed my face into a window so hard it cracked my teeth.

He pinned me down, and raped me again. And again.

When I was too tired to cry anymore, he told me to put my clothes on and took me inside, to his room, reminded me that his friend would have my car until the next day, and went to sleep next to me like nothing had happened.

The next morning, I got up and wandered into the living room where his mom and her boyfriend were watching TV. The first plane had just hit the twin towers, and I stood and stared, numb.

I spent the day in San Francisco, waiting while this boy bought drugs. The streets were empty, like a ghost town. I felt on the inside the way they looked – dirty, and damaged. Late in the afternoon, he led me down inside a crypt in the middle of an old cemetery and I watched water dripping down the walls while he did meth with a friend. I wondered briefly if he planned on leaving me there. When we got back to his house later that night, my car was there – my purse and cell phone on the seat. He told me to go home like nothing had happened and watched me drive away. I remember the glow of his cigarette standing out against the charcoal gray of a foggy California sky.

I went home.

My parents barely looked up from the news when I came in; paid little attention when I spent two hours in the bathroom, washing away the blood caked between my legs with dirty, lukewarm water. A few days later I finally worked up the energy to take myself to the doctor, where I learned I had Chlamydia. The nurse handed me a prescription and a brown paper bag filled with an assortment of condoms in shiny red and orange wrappers and told me to be more careful next time. It didn’t really occur to me then that what had happened wasn’t my fault, so I nodded and left.

That’s what 9/11 means to me. The end of something – innocence; a belief that I deserved to be treated with respect.

When a teacher finally figured out something was wrong and convinced me to go to the police, almost two months had passed. In that two months, even though I had told my parents what had happened, I don’t remember a single word of comfort. I don’t remember being told it was going to be okay. Ever. I holed up in my room and focused on my homework. I cleaned the house. And I cried a lot, alone.

The police detective in charge of my case eventually called my mom and insisted that she come down to the police station after work one day. She did, but she wasn’t happy about it. At home that night, my dad insisted that going to court was a bad idea – it would be my word against a boy’s, and no one was going to believe me. That was the closest thing to comfort I ever got.

A few days later, I learned from a mutual acquaintance that just before he’d raped me, this boy had had sex with another girl, who had since tested positive for full blown AIDS. I vowed then that if I survived, I’d get the hell out of California. I signed up for the SAT’s a week before the final deadline, worked feverishly on college applications, and waited for the results of my blood work to come back.

In April, I turned 18. I learned I didn’t have HIV. I accepted an offer for an out of state school, enrolled in early admission with no idea how I was going to pay for it, packed up my car even though I was absolutely terrified to leave, and watched California disappear in my rear view mirror.

It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years.

Months of therapy finally helped me see that what happened then doesn’t have to define me now. I’ve survived, and I’ve grown.

In some ways, it still feels like yesterday.

Like a few months ago, when, during a particularly intense fight with my brother, he insisted I’d never been through anything “that difficult” in my life. I reminded him that at 17, I was raped. One of the ultimate violations.

“Yeah,” he responded after a second of consideration. “But you deserved that. You put yourself in that position.”

I cried all the way home.

A few months later, my brother finally started seeing a therapist. I doubt he’ll ever say he’s sorry.

Ten years.

I’m a few months away from earning a PhD. I owe $100,000 in student loans, but I have a life that’s worlds away from what I knew in California. No matter how things turn out, I don’t ever have to go back to that place where nothing feels safe. I’m still learning how to be happy with me, but at least I’m learning.

The boy who raped me still lives in California. I don’t wonder what he’s doing now very often. I don’t need to, because that doesn’t define me anymore. It helped me grow. It made me stronger. It pushed me to get out. But it isn’t who I am.

I mean more than that.

Bullies and Bibles

Posted: February 14, 2011 in childhood, rape

A couple of things have been on my mind this week. First off, bullies. Someone from high school that I didn’t really know very well added me on facebook a while back…I didn’t think much of it at the time, but it opened a Pandora’s box of add requests from people who I either haven’t spoken to in about a decade, or never really liked much in the first place. Some of the people who have been requesting to friend me I actually haven’t seen since elementary or middle school. Some of them I don’t feel much of anything about – I’m indifferent or ambivalent. Whichever comes first. Some of them I barely remember. Others were downright mean.

I don’t understand what would possess someone who absolutely hated me and spent the better part of their formative years making mine miserable to attempt to befriend me on facebook. I understand the curiosity of wanting to see what people are up to that you haven’t seen since they were eight…but it’s sort of the ultimate slap in the face to ask to friend someone you spent years tormenting. Most of the time I approve the requests just long enough to see what these people are doing, and then immediately delete them. I’m pretty comfortable with what I’ve accomplished in the last eight years. I don’t need the vindication of having these people, most of whom are still living in the same little town, working at the same dead end jobs, and spending time with the same closed-minded losers, see what I’ve managed to do with my life.

What bothers me more is that some of these people are friends with people who happen to be friends with the guy who raped me…hence his ability to find me. Easily. That was a good wake up call, and motivation to revisit the people I’m friends with on facebook. It took me a couple of days to mentally prepare myself for me…I guess because I wasn’t looking forward to having to go through and revisit those parts of my life. I finally did though, and it was very liberating. I deleted everyone I wasn’t really friends with; everyone I don’t really have any desire to ever talk to again; everyone who was friends with people who fall into the latter category. Or with the rapist. It sort of bothers me that he considers himself human enough to be on facebook…

On another note, I’ve been getting lots of ads from people that I used to go to church with. What’s funny to me is that when I was growing up, I was ostracized by these people for not being a “good girl.” Back then, because that was all I knew, it never really occurred to me that something was wrong with the big picture: I may have been a “bad girl” by some standards, but no one ever took into account the way my parents acted. No one ever seemed to question the way they responded to situations, or the impact that might have had on their kids.

When I was maybe five or six, I wanted desperately to be a “good girl.” I understood the concept of other kids helping with chores around the house and getting an allowance for it, so I made up a chart of chores I could do and how much I thought my parents should “pay” me for it. I don’t remember specifics, but I think most things were about a quarter. I remember working very hard for a five year old…doing dishes, folding towels, picking up my room, clearing the dinner table. I don’t think I ever received an allowance. And after a while, somewhere in my subconscious I became aware of the fact that no matter how much I did, the house was never going to get clean. It wasn’t even going to get any better. I didn’t understand the situation, but I know that even at such an early age, I already had the helpless feeling of knowing somehow that it wasn’t going to get any better. I always hoped that it would…but I also had the ingrained disappointment of knowing somehow that my parents wouldn’t change. They still haven’t.

Sometimes I wonder how much these people I went to middle school and high school with have changed. It’s a little incomprehensible to me on some level that they have normal lives…like karma never caught up with them. One girl used to pull my hair and push me around almost every day. Sometimes she hit me. Once she punched me in the face in the middle of class in the fifth grade. The teacher didn’t do anything to stop her. As far as I know, she never changed. It doesn’t seem fair.

Most of the people I went to church with were nicer to me, but they still didn’t like me. They didn’t want to spend time with me because I was a “bad girl” and they (or their parents) seemed to be afraid my badness would rub off. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t seem to manage to be good. I wanted to. I didn’t understand that I couldn’t change because I didn’t have control of the situation. My parents did. And it was too much responsibility to ever put on a child. They still don’t understand why.

Conundrum?

Posted: February 2, 2011 in rape

Today in the news: my rapist is on facebook. I can’t decide if the ability to look at his profile is empowering or degrading…

Remembering How to Dream

Posted: November 19, 2010 in anxiety, healing, rape
Tags: , ,

I came home from class tonight with every intention of getting some work done. That didn’t happen. I sat down with my laptop to answer some emails, and flicked the TV on for background noise. While I was flicking through channels looking for something to watch, I came across the Josie and the Pussycats movie, which I haven’t watched in years. It used to be one of my favorites when it first came out, which was right around the time I graduated from high school. I have distinct memories of cruising around in my first car blasting the soundtrack and singing along at the top of my lungs.

It’s a cheesy movie by any standard, but I still enjoy it. Back then, almost ten years ago, I loved that movie because it was a cheesy, funny, enjoyable story about three ordinary girls becoming rock stars. (I also used to love the Archie comics…I admit it). It was one of the movies I watched when I was playing my guitar and scribbling lyrics and dreaming about starting a band. The sky was the limit back then. I was going to be a rock star and nothing was going to stand in my way.

I started a band the minute I turned 16, and for the most part it was a great experience. We even made a demo that I still have. It’s bad, but I still love it. It felt like things were starting to fall into place: all I had to do was keep dreaming big enough to make it happen. I dyed my hair black and filled my wardrobe with thrift store clothes and Converse All-Stars in assorted colors.

Things change. That first summer after starting my band, I fell in love with the guitarist. We made out a few times, and then he broke my heart. The drummer (who was, to put it mildly, a nice guy, but more than a little unbalanced), flipped out. One terrifying high-speed car ride home and my first band was a thing of the past. I was devastated. I spent weeks literally curled up in a ball, shaking and thinking the world was going to end. I watched movies like The Crow repeatedly searching for some sense of comfort. It didn’t work. It was a long, miserable summer.

In August I started my senior year of high school. I started casting around for other musicians without really knowing what I was doing. A few weeks into the semester, some friends invited me to play bass on a demo they were doing and I said yes. The day we were supposed to rehearse for the first time, I was waiting at the coffee shop where I was scheduled to meet them, and I got a phone call saying there had been a car accident and I needed to come pick them up. When I got to the scene, a guy in his early twenties was waiting to meet me. He was cute and funny and charming. I fell in love instantly, and spent a couple of weeks believing everything was going to be perfect.

Then I started to learn things. First, it was how deeply he was addicted to drugs. I decided I could live with that, as long as I wasn’t pressured to do them. Then I learned he was cheating on me. I told him I could live with that, too, even though it broke me up inside.  Then he was arrested on old drug charges and tossed in jail. After a few hellish days of pleading phone calls and some additional peer pressure from his friends, I scraped together all the tip money I had from my waitressing job and bailed him out of jail.

Then he disappeared. Terrified of having my heart shattered again, I prayed and waited and called repeatedly. About a week after he got out of jail, I ran into him on the street and we went back to his house. At the end of the night, he raped me. Twice. Then he disappeared again. I finally reported him, (a whole different story). It was my word against his, and in the end, there was very little that could be done. I finally went off to college and prayed it was all behind me.

The past is never truly behind us until we learn to let it go. I wasn’t able to. I made bad decisions in a desperate attempt to compensate for how traumatized I was. I’ll break them down in other posts, because they’re worth talking about in more detail. In the midst of struggling to manage being away from home, having constant panic attacks, underdeveloped social and coping skills, and trying to balance being in college, I had very little energy left for a band. I talked to some people who were either creepy, more interested in making out, or totally unmotivated. I had lost all confidence and all faith in my dream. I turned all my energy on school instead – it was something I was good at and seemed to offer me a future.

So here I am, almost ten years, three degrees, and $100,000 worth of student loan debt later. This past summer, I went to a concert and suddenly it was like I’d been slapped in the face with something I’d convinced myself I didn’t care about anymore. I remembered how much I used to love singing and playing music. I remembered for a few hours how deeply I used to believe in my dream and how passionate I used to be about reaching it. Something snapped in me then. I realized I wasn’t old enough to give up on something I truly love.

I started retraining my voice and bought a PA system this summer, and casting around talking to other musicians. I pulled my bass out of its case for the first time in years. I started writing songs again. I realized that, in contrast to being 16 and writing about things I had no experience with, I now had something to say with my music, and it’s a message I think a lot of people will be able to relate to. It’s been a lot of false starts, and it’s been frustrating, but in the end, it will be worth it. I have an audition on Saturday for a new band. Watching Josie and the Pussycats was a nice reminder that those dreams from when I was 16 are still alive and I can make what I want out of them.  I have a lot more life experience behind me now, and I’ve done a lot of growing up and healing since I was a heartbroken, devastated teenager. I’m in a much better place to be able to handle the stresses of being in a band and being out in front of an audience. Before, any critique would have been devastating. Now, I’m ready to keep growing and learning how to dream again. Big.