Wednesday, September 14, 2016

XXXI


Every now and then I take a break from blogging. Sometimes all I need to do is take a few weeks, other times the blog remains inactive for months, as it has been. The reason for doing this is that as I've healed and matured, there's less of a need to talk about my past and while it still definitely empowers me to speak about how far I've progressed, taking a break from blogging helps me keep a check on whether I'm unburdening myself in a healthy, therapeutic way or just obsessing over my mistakes. The latter, obviously, is something I want to avoid as I move on with my life. I initially started this blog as a way to remember and recount all that happened to me. I haven't checked on it in quite some time because I've been busy with other things and I've been thinking of ways to transition it into my life now: with less talk about the past and more talk about the present. With the five year anniversary of the beginning of my past experiences approaching next week, I thought I'd write about just how far away it seems.

At the end of January, I did something I've wanted to do for a long time and got my learners' permit! I failed my driving test when I was 16 and never got around to re-taking the test, so at 24 years old, I'm on track to get my license within a couple months. With Matthew, driving became a priority once again: in the summer, I'm fairly active and walk pretty much everywhere I go, but during winter, I have to rely on my parents or Tanner to drive me anywhere I need to go. It's really hindered my independence and finally, this year, I decided enough was enough and took Matthew with me to get my permit. Tanner has been helping me learn how to drive, and for those of you that don't know, he drives a lifted Nissan Titan. This truck is enormous and being behind the wheel at first was pretty intimidating, but I finally got the hang of it. Driving the Titan has been so much fun!

Tanner and I get married later this year. I can't imagine life without him: he's really stepped up to take care of not only me, but Matthew. We had originally planned for June, but opted for August instead since our venue will be a picturesque golf course in Park City. At the higher elevation, it was still likely we would see spring rain in June and didn't want to take chances with the weather. I couldn't be happier with the way things unfolded, and with most of the planning done at the end of last year/beginning of this year, planning the wedding has been relatively low stress.

It's amazing how much Matthew has grown. He went from barely speaking at all to almost nonstop talking. I love coming home from work and seeing his smiling face: he always makes sure to let me know that he missed me at work and fills me in on his day with Grandma. I have the luxury of working only part-time: since my mom watches Matthew, I don't have to pay for daycare and I spend my afternoons and nights with him. While I'd obviously rather stay home with him, it's been nice to be able to bring in money for us and still be able to spend time with him. In April I will have worked as a legal assistant for a year. It's been amazing to finally put all my hard work in college to good use and see it pay off.

Moving on from my experiences in Washington has always been my end goal. Even though I still have anxiety and emotional issues that have stemmed from what happened, these episodes occur less and less frequently and it no longer affects me as deeply as it did before. I finally feel happy with life again and I'm glad I can focus on building a family instead of dwelling in negativity.

Friday, April 1, 2016

XXX

March marked the four-year anniversary of when I left home with Theo. In past years, the first week of March has been an extraordinarily painful one in which I've reflected on what a horrible mistake I made by going to Bellingham with that miserable excuse of a man. In fact, my whole life before Theo, I admit, I was a coward. I was a spineless, weak, spoiled brat. I ran from everything that I considered "too hard" or "too stressful". Even when I returned home, pregnant, I was still looking for an escape.

I don't indulge in fantasies of running away or leaving any more. I took inspiration from my boyfriend, Tanner. I've dated this man almost four years and every single day he gets up, he makes a choice to battle his own, very real demons. It's made him stronger, and I feel very lucky to have witnessed how much he's changed for the better. The most important lesson I take from his struggles is that I should not be afraid. He's there for me when I fall and tell myself I can't go on any further. He pushes me to be stronger through example. It's the kind of relationship I've always desired.

I feel no shame in admitting how weak I was. I could look back and hate the naïve girl I was, with my delusions of fame and my obsessive, desperate need for acceptance. Spring has always been a hard time for me because it reminds me of the girl I was. I placed so much faith in people and merely expected them to be good, but that isn't the way of the world. Bellingham took away that childlike innocence and ignorance and made me a stronger woman for it. I want to be a strong as possible. I know there are a lot of women out there who have faced trauma like I have, even worse, and I want to set an example, just like Tanner did with me, that you shouldn't be afraid.

I have come to the conclusion that I may never see him behind bars for what he did to me. Does that change the fact that I still struggle? Some people would answer yes, but while it's certainly less intense, the trauma is still there. Once I made the decision to stop running from what happened I felt more at peace. My main goal now is to focus on what's in front of me: not simply recovery but the will to strengthen myself both mentally and physically. I'll always battle demons, but I know the stronger I get, the easier it will be to face them.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

XXIX

I recently read through several of my older posts and realized how long it's been since I went through that horribly abusive relationship. For the most part, I think I'm slowly healing. Although I can recall things that happened years ago like they happened yesterday, I'm mystified sometimes at how I made it through: how I kept fighting and continue to keep fighting. Every time it rains, it calls to mind the Washington climate, adding another layer of gray to the already cloudy skies above. It's definitely harder the days it rains, but I can tell that it's not nearly as bad as when I first came home. My vulnerability is not something of which I'm proud. It's been hard to admit when I can't handle it, because I feel stronger when I can handle the anxiety attacks and stress on my own. I feel like I'm constantly learning how to approach different triggers and how to tell my current boyfriend, Tanner, about them, even when I don't want to do so. My son is growing up, his physical attributes more and more similar to mine than Theo Keyes. With Tanner as his father and my parents as my support system and his role models, I know he has a stable life and will continue to have one as I approach a time when I move out with him. I love him more than anything, and I can't imagine life without him. He will always be the single greatest blessing that came out of the tragedy.

People often ask me how I met Tanner, and I'm not sure if I've ever told the story. We've dated since June of 2012. He is the subject of many conversations I have with family, friends and coworkers, and it amazes people that he was willing to "take on" such a relationship. We met at school before I left, and despite his and my parents' protests, I left with Theo for Washington. I did think of him when I left. He had long, bleach blonde hair that almost reached his shoulders. The first time I saw him, in a public speaking class at college, he was wearing a Pink Floyd shirt and talked about his favorite band, Tool. We became fast friends after he heard my speech on Nine Inch Nails, but I think back then both of us weren't sure what we wanted. We tossed around the idea of starting a band, but after I left with Theo, I was sure he'd forget about me.

For whatever reason, the week I got back, I messaged him on Facebook almost immediately after I got back from Washington. We had pretty much an instant connection, but I was still so nervous and broken from Theo that I was scared to date anyone else. I remember one night, we sat in my backyard under the stars, and he leaned over and kissed me. I don't remember if it was a long kiss or a short one, but I remember telling him that I'd never had the guy make the first move. He replied and said something to the effect of "maybe you should start dating real men". Whatever it was, I fell in love and never stopped. Both new to the kind of depth this relationship held, it was hard at first. Communication was, ironically, one of our biggest problems (even though we'd met in a public speaking class), but we both wanted it to work so badly that we kept trying, and trying, and trying. I can't adequately explain the type of love and devotion I feel for Tanner, and the type of love and devotion he feels for me.

On Valentine's Day of this year, we had a romantic date-night-in, as is the case for most parents with a two-year-old, but after Matthew had been put to bed, I was sitting on the couch and he came to me with a little white box. It held a promise ring, the most delicate and beautiful thing I'd ever seen, and he told me that he wanted to marry me. Now, at the beginning of October, we face a new chapter in our life together. Tanner is my best friend, my soul mate, and I can't imagine how I ever deserved someone so amazing to come into my life, but he did. The greatest victory I've ever held over Theo is the establishment of my own family with a man who loves not only me but our son, Matthew. It's something sacred, untouchable, incorruptible and eternal.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

XXVIII

I had several people try to warn me away from Theo, warnings which I ignored because I thought I knew better. Theo had actually been in touch with one of these people before turning towards me, and oddly enough, she's the only person from Washington who I still contact. Theo had tried developing a relationship with this woman, Anastasia, and he ended up finding qualities about her that he didn't like, which is why he turned to me.

Although Theo had banned me from contacting Anastasia during the time I was with him, we quickly reconnected after I left him. I realized how strong she was during our countless conversations on Facebook, and she was one of the people I drew strength from during the long road of recovery. It was therapeutic for me to engage her in conversation because we'd both been down similar roads with the exact same person and both came to the same conclusion. Recently, when I was telling her about how I'd been contacted by the Bellingham police regarding Theo, she said she ran into him some months ago. Admittedly, I was initially startled. For three years I've tried to tell myself that I am not afraid of Theo and not haunted by demons of my past. It hadn't really been true until I read the message of her latest encounter with Theo Keyes.

Anastasia was at a concert in Washington with a friend. They were talking with members of the band when Theo quite literally almost ran into Anastasia. "[H]e looked like a ghost, his jaw was wide open," she told me. I spent a few minutes trying to imagine him in that state of shock, reading through the rest of the message to find that she had actually a group of friends near her, and how small he seemed to her. He left immediately and she hasn't seen him since.

I remember staring at the screen after reading that and thinking back on all the anxiety attacks, all the nightmares, all the reoccurring physical problems I'd had over these past few years.  It sounds cliché to say, but it was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. For a fleeting second I wished it had been me there, standing in front of him, just to see him fall: to see him turn and run like the coward he is.

For so long I'd been traumatized by this image of Theo in my head. I put a lot of weight in symbols: my blog itself takes inspiration from the phoenix. I burned for a long time, but this blog has always been here to prove that I can and will "rise from the ashes". It was really important for me to read Anastasia's story and to pass on the message. Rapists and psychopaths like Theo get their power from isolation because it's really the one thing they can use to victimize a person, to make them weak. They are the ones that are truly small, weak and insecure. Without that isolation, they are nothing. I write this blog so that others that have been victimized don't have to feel alone: ever. It doesn't matter if you've been shunned by your family, if you've lost your friends, if you didn't have anybody to begin with: you'll never be alone.

I'm lucky to have a strong support system, but I also know that I can be a source of support for someone else. You might feel like a victim, but you're a survivor. We all are. If you can go through something like that and walk away, even with countless scars, you survived. It might not feel like it some days, but that's why we all need people to lean on and to reaffirm your strength. Don't hesitate to reach out and comment on the blog if you need it: before I started blogging, I was in a very dark place and didn't think I could really find anyone else who would want to listen to my experience or had been through what I'd been through. 28 posts and almost 2200 views later, I've been proven wrong. As survivors of abuse, we truly have strength in numbers.  I'm so grateful to everyone who's supported me through the bad times and the good, and I'm happy I finally found my voice and my passion.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

XXVII

Yesterday I pulled up my Facebook page to see something unexpected: a friend request from one of Theo's friends, Brian Thomas. I was startled at first, but I knew it couldn't be a coincidence. I'd given Brian's name to the police and provided them with his profile, which I'd blocked some years ago, on Facebook. Brian's new profile had no pictures whatsoever, so I couldn't necessarily confirm that it was Brian himself and not potentially Theo trying to get in touch with me, even after all these years.

Brian Thomas has tried to contact me in the past: to relay Theo's messages to me, and after I told him that Theo had raped and abused me. He found me on Twitter, months later, and reached out to see if I wanted to talk, assuring me that he wasn't friends with Theo, but I've grown up: I know better than to trust anyone connected with Theo. I blocked him on Twitter, and then ultimately ended up closing my account all together. I don't know what he wanted, and I don't really care.

The profile picture that's displayed on my profile includes me, my son Matthew, and my boyfriend of three years, Tanner Harris. It reflects how I'm currently living my life. I am happier than I've been in a while, and I've successfully completed not one, but two Associate's degrees. I graduate May 7th with a degree in Paralegal Studies and I'm just that much closer to pursuing my dream career as a paralegal in the District Attorney's office: or any criminal prosecutor's office, for that matter. Tanner is close to completing his degree in General Studies and we're discussing the near possibility of getting married. Matthew is almost two-and-a-half years old. I may not ever fully heal from what Theo did to me, but I intend on using my experiences to positively impact other people's lives. I think the biggest change that's happened this year is that I'm no longer afraid of the "what-if's". Theo is, and always will be a colossal loser, a scumbag and criminal, and if I've learned anything this past month, the law will catch up with him. And while he runs from the inevitable, I'm moving on from my past. I'm not afraid of him, and on a daily basis, the thought of Theo doesn't cross my mind. I'm focusing on better things, and even if I do cross reminders of what happened, I know that not only my family is ready to hear what's going on, this blog is always open, always ready to hear the next installment in the journey I've made so far.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

XXVI

On a beach in Florida during spring break, a 19-year-old girl was not only attacked and assaulted, she was gang-raped in public. The worst thing to me is that no one did anything: that they were totally indifferent and wrapped up in their own selves that they did not even think to help this girl who was being brutally victimized. It physically hurt and made me sick to think about what she went through and how someone could have helped but didn't. This isn't even half of the worst part, however: the attack was filmed. "Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen called the video "probably one of the most disgusting, repulsive, sickening things that I have seen this year on Panama City Beach, and I have seen a lot of them,"" says the article, which you can read in full here.

The video that was found was not even one of the first of its kind. It was found during an unrelated investigation, miles away, in Alabama and had to be sent to Florida from there. I can't imagine being the victim of such a brutal assault in such a public place and feeling the crushing desolation and abandonment, that no one came to her aid in a time she needed it. It disgusts me that it was filmed, and that no one even thought to call the police or jump in and help. It goes against basic human decency, that we would abandon someone who is clearly in trouble and need of aid. You wouldn't ignore someone who is drowning or having a heart attack, so why did no one come to the aid of this girl? The assault happened over a month ago, and while the disgusting human beings that did this were charged, the deep psychological and physical injuries inflicted upon the victim will probably affect her for the rest of her life. 

In one of my favorite movies, there is a scene in which a priest is giving a homily at a Catholic Sunday Mass. He relayed a story, similar to this one, about a girl that was attacked in broad daylight, while people looked on, heard and saw the attack, and still did nothing. The priest went onto say that while there are several evils in the world, the one that we should fear most is the indifference of good men. This is a statement with which I strongly agree: one that was echoed in the article I read today online.

I couldn't believe this story when I first read through it. I've often been told by quite a few people that I am sensitive and wear my emotions clearly for all to see. For a long time I've felt that sensitivity was a bad thing, that it made me weak and vulnerable. But reading about this unspeakable attack on a young girl, who was about the same age I was when Theo abused me really got to me. When I read the comment feed below the article I was shocked to see so many people validating the indifference of the people on the beach, watching this girl be victimized, standing by because they were afraid of being arrested. Several comments echoed the fear of being arrested: like it was not worth it to help someone so clearly defenseless, so clearly abused. I hate hearing about the level of sexual violence that runs rampant in our society, the number of men that think it's okay to take advantage of women, but it's these articles that only make me more passionate about fighting for the voiceless, the victims of sexual abuse and violence.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

XXV

On Wednesday, during a debate in Ohio, a representative of the state became angry during a debate over a bill that would ban most abortions, not including cases where the mother's life is in danger. She revealed that she was a rape victim, became pregnant, and subsequently had an abortion. For anyone that has been following my blog, you know that I have a son, Matthew, because Theo Keyes chose to rape me. He chose to abuse me countless times and one of those times, I ended up impregnated. So, in a way, I am similar to the Ohio representative.

However, she took the stance that victims like her should have the right and choice to abort their unborn baby at will. But let's not mince words here: abortion is the choice to take a life--and when it is not done to save the life of a mother, which is a deeply hard choice I know some mothers have to make, it is a selfish, thoughtless, conscious action to end an innocent life. The bill in Ohio suggested charging doctors with a fifth-degree felony for performing abortions when a fetal heartbeat is present: approximately at 8 weeks of pregnancy. Week 5, however, is when the heart of the fetus starts pumping blood and arms and legs begin to grow. Although I believe that life begins at conception, which is a statement that draws a lot of debate, I think most people can agree the fetus at week 5 of pregnancy sounds like it's very much alive.

Courts throughout the U.S. have generally allowed abortions up until 24 weeks. I have a close friend, Sami, that was born at 23 weeks. She was so tiny that her dad could literally slide his wedding ring all the way up her leg. Her twin died shortly after birth, but my friend survived. She is one of the most amazing women I know. When we were young she participated and excelled in dance, writing and in school, and is going on to continue her education through college. Sami and Matthew are both living testaments to the argument against abortion.

When I was pregnant with Matthew, I admit I was beyond scared. I remember the moment I definitively found out I was pregnant: it was in a hotel room in Oregon. I was with my parents and we had booked the room to rest for the night, but we all wanted to know if I was really pregnant. I cried when the test came up positive. I was upset and scared, but abortion simply was not an option. I was carrying a life, a baby, inside me. I made the decision to adopt, which later became giving my parents legal guardianship of Matthew so I could remain "Mom" and receive support from my family in several aspects of raising my son. I could not have imagined anything that would bring me more joy than that little boy has, and I can't imagine life without him. When my parents take him on vacations, I wonder what I did before I had a son. He is the most beautiful thing ever created and I have absolutely no regret for keeping him, no matter the trials I've been through during the course of both the pregnancy and the continuing learning experience of raising my first child.

I wish women considering abortion could be around mothers like me--girls who have been through similar or exact situations of horrible abuse. I felt tainted for a very long time, and I felt that nothing would ever change that feeling. Even though I felt tainted, though, I knew Matthew was so innocent and sheltered from everything that had happened to me. He was the best thing to ever come from such tragedy, and I wish the representative from Ohio could hear this. Defending "women's rights" when regarding abortion is selfish and weak. I've never loved anyone the way I love my son, and that love would never have been known if I chose to terminate my pregnancy and end his life.