The Day I Became Normal

Photo by: @Jackbolga
New York, New York

I hate the word normal.

Because normal is relative.
Because it’s not a consistent scale to base our judgments on.

What I really mean is healed, free from poor mental health.

I went to therapy for a long time after I was raped 3 years ago. I took a break for a while and then decided to go back about a week before I got into my accident because I was starting to feel depressed again. I kept wondering what was wrong with me. Something didn’t feel “normal”, and then when I had my accident, I ended up laying in bed for a solid week even though I had no physical ailment aside from the light burn on my left arm.  I felt like my reaction wasn’t normal.

But an abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is in fact, natural and normal. 

What is the “proper” reaction to feeling like your stuck in a place you don’t belong, living out your life for other people, and then witnessing your car get totaled by a drunk driver from the inside? 

Answer: There is none.
Becuase everyone processes situations differently in their brain based on their life experiences and about 10000 other things.

Anyway, fast forward a few months and about 4 therapy sesssions. I’m feeling better, & probably a little too excited to get this last semester of college over with and freakin graduate already.

I went to therapy last week, told her about my winter break and then started to tell her about my therapeutic goals for the semester when she interrupted me – “Before you tell me your goals, can I give you some feedback?”
“Yes of course!” I said enthusiastically. (I love feedback.)
“Well from what I see, you don’t have much to work on here. There’s no sign of mental health issues at all.”
“What?” Tears welled up in my eyes immediately.
“You don’t need to come to therapy anymore Annabelle. I even have a hard time writing my notes sometimes.”
“Are you serious?”
 ” Yeah! You have struggles, just like anyone else, but you are more than capable of handling them! I see no reason to keep you here!”

I laugh-cried.
She was surprised to see me cry & I told her it was because I was relieved, and felt so grateful that she told me. I didn’t realize how much weight I had been carrying from feeling “abnormal”. It was like someone finally checked under my bed and in the closet and found no evidence of any kind of monster lurking in the shadows. 

But I was also kind of scared.
Now, I don’t have something to blame my feelings on. I can’t use my ‘depression’ as a crutch or an excuse for the negativity I feel anymore. I can’t blame the monsters in my closet for my temper tantrums or making my room a mess. 
This is real life now, and real life is full of unpleasant feelings, and I am responsible for taking care of myself and cleaning my room.  

But with the fear came freedom too; and validation, and reassurance that not everyone feels things the same way, and that what I need to do to take care of myself and deal with those feelings, is okay, even if it looks different from everyone else. 

My struggle through healing from being raped and feeling unworthy has taught me how to take care of myself and not to judge those strange “abnormal” feelings when they arise. 
Suffering is just a part of life, even a happy and healthy one. This is it.

I’m not a victim of rape.
I’m not a lost girl.
I’m not unworthy.
I’m not fighting.
I’m not suffering.
I am alive.
I am living.
I am growing.
I am a survivor but,
I am also more than that.
I am 100% me.

Nothing is looming in the dark to pull me back under. 
There are no monsters in my closet, and that’s a pretty big deal.

Later I asked her about her opinion on the purpose of suffering.
She said “I think it’s growth. Pain always leaves an opportunity for growth – without it, we would never change. We only change when something is uncomfortable or hurts.”

Health is not the absence of disease or suffering, it’s more. It’s taking a changing circumstance and turning it into an opportunity for growth.

I found this online, and I think it’s pretty great. It’s what this guy, Dr. Ratson believes is a true meaning/definition/path to health.

“A person must recognize the inherent PURPOSE of his or her own life. The constant awareness of why you are here and whether you are working towards that purpose can help you to wade through the conflicting and confusing mass of expert advice. This is important because there is a lot of confusing and conflicting expert advice available and it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

When you feel unconditional LOVE for yourself and others, you cannot help hut feel that the entire universe supports you. There won’t be room for a cynical or hostile view of the world or its people. Many negative emotions arise from a cynical, paranoid and hostile view of the world. Believe it or not, but our view of the world affects our health. 


When you take total RESPONSIBILITY for your own well-being, you can trust and rely on your innate biological, psychological and spiritual healing power. Also, when you assume total responsibility, you can never abuse your personal power.

With inner FREEDOM, you can no longer be a slave to external pressures or other handicapping conditions. Inner freedom gives you hope for the possible and faith in the probable. You are then able to experience genuine joy. When you characteristically experience genuine joy, something interesting happens. Others cease to irritate you or give you any more grief, even though their behavior might not have significantly changed.”

– Dr. Ratson

I didn’t Choose

Warning: The following is really personal. It’s more for me than for you this time. And if you are a younger reader, it might be a little bit uncomfortable for you, and that’s okay. Don’t feel like you have to read it. I talk about sex.
If you are a survivor, know that this post is a lot darker than my usual ones and doesn’t have a happy ending, but that doesn’t mean your stroy can’t be different.
Background Info Part 1:
A few weeks ago, I was listening to a podcast sent to me by my mentor/friend, Katie, and it made me think about successful women. I cleaned my room, listened to the podcast, and thought about the women I wanted to be like, and what it was about them that made them different. It’s something I like to think about every now and then. It’s something that sort of helps me to see if I’m on the right track.
I realized that what made them different was also something they all had in common. I noticed that each of them had an unwavering, deep-rooted faith & relationship with God.  They had a deep understanding of what it means to really love people (including themselves) and moved through the world with freedom and strength because they know their identity is in Christ.
I decided what I needed to do. I needed to strengthen my relationship with God and commit to getting to know him better. I knew that if I had God on my side, nothing could take me down. I’d have resilience and love and the ability to really make a difference. I knew that if I want to live my life in chasing big dreams, I needed God on my side…..or rather I needed to follow him
I remember the questions someone asked me once…”If the path isn’t blessed by God, then do you really want to go there?”
No.
I really don’t.
Because I know whatever he has planned for me is more than I could ever dream of planning for myself. 
Background Info Part 2:
I’ve always wanted to get married. In fact, it caused a little bit of anxiety for an embarrassingly long chunk of time in my life… worrying I’d never have a husband or find love or whatever (clearly I needed a hobby).  
One of the talking points for Christians is sex. Or more like not having it before marriage. So a lot of the same women I look up to in business, are also virgins or made a choice to abstain until marriage.

The Point:
Right now, I’m a few thousand feet in the air, on a plane headed to my friend’s wedding in Atlanta, GA.

This morning while I brushed my teeth, my mind wandered around & I thought about the women I’d be reunited with at the wedding. It’s been about a year since I’ve seen any of them. Out of nowhere, something hit me and tears started streaming. I spit out my toothpaste and tried to cover my face in a hand towel to make it stop but it didn’t.

All of the women I’m going to see are Christian. 
And All of the women I’m going to see are waiting.
It’s not until Today that I realized that I didn’t get to choose. 
I didn’t get to choose to save myself for my husband.
I didn’t get to choose to share that connection with someone I truly loved.
If I had not been raped I don’t know if I would have waited, but I do know it’s something that I wanted.  
Before the rape, I was waiting.
But I didn’t get a choice.
And I never realized how dirty I felt until today.
People told me after it happened that I was still a virgin in Christ. THAT made ZERO sense to me but I clung to it. I needed something to make me feel clean.
But I never believed it. 
And it shows. I ended up choosing to have sex with a different person almost immediately after because I couldn’t keep living in the state of uncertainty. The “am I a virgin or am I not” thing was not something I liked or could fix. So I solidified it. I wanted to choose something even though I never really had a choice to begin with. And then I chose again with another person. And again. Because well, why not? 
Today, 4 years, 1 month and 1 week later, I faced myself. I realized that each time I have chosen to have sex with someone it was because I already felt ruined. 
You can’t take that back. No matter how much you want, you can’t make time pass faster or slower, and you can’t take your actions (or anyone else’s) back.
I have never felt anger like the anger I felt this morning.

My relationship with God develops with knowing that I am whole in him.  I know I need to take this to him but I’m having a seriously hard time doing that. 

It’s like my brain is split into two parts. 

The surface part of my brain knows that the sex I’m choosing to have is just hurting me. The part knows the reality and consequence of my actions. This is the part of my brain that has tried to come up with a plan of action to help me make better choices and goes to my friends for advice.

Then there’s the deeper part. The part that isn’t communicating with the planning part of my brain. The part of me that doesn’t care, and doesn’t see anything better. And that part of my brain prays that my future husband won’t wait for me. Because I don’t deserve it.

P.S. I am setting up a counseling appointment on Monday. 

I Watched Him Watch Me

I watched him watch me
As I walked I could see his reflection in glass
I could see him as he stared.
Beauty, they said.
Beauty is a curse.
Vanity they said.
Attention Whore
Tease
They hate me for it.
I hate myself too
Paranoid they call me.
Paranoid I call myself
But I watched him watch me
Through the glass
As I walked.

 This poem was inspired by the older man that watched me walk about of a Walmart late one Sunday night, and then developed by the many lies I’ve been told through out my life. Things I’ve heard, that convinced me I was just crazy, over-reacting, or “being a girl” when I complained of disrespect and objectification from men on the street. For some reason I was blamed for their inappropriateness, and chastised for my feelings because of THEIR actions. I’ve been called these names because of my outgoing personality, and petite features. Things made by God that I grew to hate because others grabbed hold of my young mind and told me I should- because the attention I received was not what I wanted and it seemed to come to me even when I wasn’t asking for it. I blamed myself for the way I was created but this is a lie.

This is a call to all people, men and women, to support each other… to believe a victim, and offer support for them.  And this is a reminder to me, I know what I see, I know what I feel, I know what is right and wrong, what is inappropriate and what is disrespect. I know that it’s not my fault.