Charly shares how she was able to transcend the emotional trauma that enveloped her after being raped in college.
You know what’s funny is people see me and I am always smiling and I know I have a lot of energy and I love life but the misconception is, “Oh well life must have been really easy for her,” and lots of times too they see I am fit and they think, “Oh you know, she can eat whatever she wants and it doesn’t matter,” but the truth is, when I was 18 years old I was raped and at that time college was my world, school was my world, everything was linked to my education and what resulted was such a sense of shame that I just didn’t want anyone to know.
You know I grew up as the only interracial family in the entire town. We had lots of prejudice so I already felt pretty uncomfortable. So to add being raped to that was just horrible for me; I just couldn’t do it. So my goal was, I am just not going to let it impact my life and what I learned was that sometimes when you want something, you want to have control over something so badly you give it all the power and control over you.
I ultimately left school. I repressed that trauma for seven years. I built an entirely different life. I gained 45 pounds that, you know, I used to help conceal my secret and then all of a sudden one day after, you know, many times I would hear little voices in there kind of trying to speak and say, “This isn’t the life I want. What are you doing? This isn’t what we were supposed to be doing.” And I took off all the weight and it was like about six months of feeling amazing in this new body and then the posttraumatic stress episode started.
The severe migraines and chills so bad and pain because my nervous system was ultimately breaking down, and I had a great family doctor who said, “You know, I’ve felt like you haven’t been yourself for years and I really need you to let whatever it is that’s trying to come up, come up,” and eventually that’s what happened is all of a sudden this memory hit and everything made sense.
It was, I looked at my entire life and I could connect every single dot and I knew what I was doing and on one hand I was absolutely elated to finally be free of this and at the same time I knew that I had to rebuild every single aspect of my life because everything – I was even married at the time and it was all a lie. None of it was true to me and in order to stay with any part of what I was doing for work, my marriage, any of it, meant that I was going to betray myself now consciously.
So I certainly know what it’s like and when, you know, one of the things about trauma is that so many of us, really everybody, has experienced trauma. We have certain things in society that we view as traditionally traumatic, but the truth is it is relative to all of us. Any of us that have experienced something that we didn’t understand and it felt traumatic to us – it’s very, very similar.
What I learned in my experience was to own it because you see, when that happened to me I gave it ownership over me. I decided I couldn’t have the life that I was planning on having because all of a sudden I had been raped, but the truth was I was still me, and when I decided to step out and say, “I’m going to own it; I am not going to hide it; I am not going to be afraid of it and even more so I am going to figure out how I can use it to make me stronger and to reach out to other people,” all of a sudden what was such a big part of me became a really powerful piece that yes I can use to help other people, but such a small and insignificant aspect of who I am as a woman because that’s not who I am; I am me, right?
And so that’s what I would say to anybody out there that has experienced a trauma. Don’t give it ownership over your life – own that trauma and say, “Yeah, that’s right and I am the one that’s in power and yeah it hurts, but we’ll figure it out and we will see what we learn,” and then use it because the more that you use it to actually give you added ways in the world of being you the more power you will have over it and the more insignificant it will become.