TW // sexual assault
We Are Not What Happens to Us
"The difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do."- Bill Phillips.
Growing up, I was always a tomboy, which led me to play outdoors in neighborhood sports versus inside with dolls like most girls. I would also play sports with the boys at school, which was how I stumbled upon soccer. I joined recess games and fell in love with the sport. I told my parents that I wanted to play, and before long, I became a part of the soccer team. Little did I know my love for sports was what would save me from myself later in life.
My favorite position was forward because I lit up with excitement at the chance of scoring and winning. Even with asthma, I had endurance, but my endurance wasn't enough to keep me in the forward position. My coach put me mid-field, which I didn't care for, but it prepared me for a lesson I wasn't expecting.
In 7th grade, I decided to try cross country. At tryouts, we were to run a mile which I did. Soccer had helped increase my endurance, and I made the team. Unfortunately, I wasn't the fastest, but I did fall in love with running and the challenge of pushing myself. I learned what I had to do to achieve the goals set out for us in training sessions and meets.
At 15, my would all change, and it would take my love of sports to help bring it all into balance.
It was April 8th, after my sister married and moved out of our family apartment. I had finished practice and was walking home with a friend. When we were about to separate, she suggested we go to her place to hang out. I knew I would have my apartment to myself, and to an introvert having some alone time for the first time in years sounded great. So we parted ways, and I walked home alone.
I didn't see him jump out at me until it was too late. When I did, I realized he was pointing a gun at me. I was in shock. But I knew I had to do everything he wanted. I only thought was "this was it" and "this is how I die." He ran away, leaving me to pick up my pieces.
I made it home and immediately called my parents. I couldn't reach my mom, but my Dad answered. When my father arrived, he called the police. And this was the day when my struggle with depression, anxiety, and PTSD began.
A male doctor did a rape kit as they had no females available. I made a statement to the police and met with a sketch artist. Once the procedures were through, my parents tried to get me into counseling, but I shut down and wouldn't talk to anyone. Once the drawing by the sketch artist was out, the adults posted it on every window at my school. So I had to see it every day, staring at me.
I stopped talking to friends and doing anything that I enjoyed. All I did was sleep. I did what most survivors do, and I blamed myself. I felt I must have deserved this or asked for it somehow. Maybe I was only meant to be garbage and trash to be used and thrown out as that is what happened, right? I grew such a hatred for myself, and I began to respond to that hatred with self-harm behavior.
Medications weren't helping me, and I wasn't ready to talk, so it left me to go back to the things I loved. I to find myself in them again.
I found myself picking up running and getting out there to be active again. In 2009 I ran my first marathon! I felt such joy, and I hadn't felt that emotion in a long time. I felt unstoppable, unbreakable. And if I felt that great after a marathon imagine the feeling of doing an Ironman.
What is an Ironman? It's a 140.6-mile triathlon (2.6 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking, and 26.2 miles of running, yes, all in one day). In 2014 decided to train for and attempt my first Ironman. Unfortunately, I failed, and it crushed me overloading me with those feelings of unworthiness once again.
But, if there is one thing I have plenty of, it is perseverance. I have learned this from myself time and time again. So, that's what I did. I tried again in 2017. This time after months of relentless training, I crossed the finish line of Ironman Arizona. I didn't cross alone; I crossed that finish line supported by my incredible coach, teammates, family, and friends. It was the best day of my life.
As an effective way to keep my mental health balanced, I train and push myself to accomplish things I never thought possible. But, just like when my coach put me in mid-field, I had to do what was uncomfortable to reach my potential and be led to other things that made me happy. And though I still have the instinct to prove I am not trash.
I find myself attempting to do great things because I know I can, and it's a reminder that yes, I am worthy. I am not perfect in my journey but setting goals and pushing through the toughest of days has been what has saved my self-worth and my lifetime and time again. What I learned training for Ironman had been the very thing to help me in a breakdown. When I wanted to quit in the Ironman, I told myself that this feeling wouldn't last and keep going. That has been a game-changer.
I try to be open but my struggles with mental health and my journey because I know others have been through something similar, and I know how lonely it feels. I use my training to keep myself positive and keep my mind busy getting to my goal so that it doesn't keep me stuck in a downward spiral that ends in destruction. That it feels like it will never get better. Training for events has taught me to show up every day in my struggle. No matter what to get dressed and keep moving forward. It has taught me that my struggles are temporary, and I am much stronger than I sometimes am willing to accept.
Sometimes in life, we are put in positions we don't care for, similar to my coach putting me in the center, not forward as I had hoped. But we don't need to sit back and fall short of our potential just because someone else has decided for us or ourselves trying to convince us we are no good.
That is why, for me, training and being active isn't about just being healthy. It's about surviving and fighting for the life I deserve when all the odds stack up against me. So, please, take one more step when it feels like you can't go any further, like you have reached your limit. Soon, you won't be taking one step at a time; at some point, you find yourself simply moving forward, and for me, forging ahead is the only way to go!
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