I Survive
Liza Estrada, Division 3, College sophomore #ws17e-s1d3

I could tell you that I have been in the hospital for a suicide attempt. I could tell you that I have watched my mother, my father, my siblings, and my friends cry, wondering how someone so “smart” could want to hurt themselves. I could tell you that I have cut myself, that I have suffered from eating disorders, or that I have to go to therapy every two weeks. I could tell you that when I was thirteen, my entire childhood was changed; that I kept my rape hidden for seven years until I finally broke. But instead, I will tell you how I have healed—how I am still healing. I will tell you how my past and my pain have motivated me to live a life uncensored and unapologetic.

Most people have gone through traumas, whether it be a death of a loved one or a disease or financial crisis. Honestly, no one is safe from the horrors or pain that happens in life. My own trauma was watching myself die. I saw, or rather let, the young and optimistic girl die when my cousin raped me. And for too long, I mourned her death alone, hiding her corpse from everyone around me. For seven years, I never let her rest in peace, not until last October when I overdosed on my anti-depressant pills. It was not until then that I confessed her murder to my parents—my parents who never understood mental illness or depression until I revealed my demons.

You see, I was scared. I blamed myself for my rape. I thought my parents would be just as angry with me as I was with myself. But I was wrong. The only thing my parents felt was guilt: guilt for never understanding why I wanted to kill myself my sophomore year of highschool; guilt for never realizing that the days I spent crying in my room were not over relationship problems with boys; guilt for constantly telling me to stop being dramatic and selfish. But of course, their guilt was unreasonable. My suffering was not their fault, and neither was it mine. My suffering was due to my rapist, who preyed on my youth and my innocence.

Thus, when I say I now live my life uncensored and unapologetically, I mean to say that I no longer keep my past a secret. In fact, I write poetry about what happened to me in the hopes to help other victims. Before my suicide attempt, I was scared. I lived my life blaming myself and feeling worthless. I never reached out for help or bothered to explain my mental health issues with my family. I let myself carry the pain alone, thinking that I could just forget what happened or at least save my parents from having to feel my suffering. And that was wrong. I should not have to be ashamed of my rape, or the depression that followed after. For so long, even now, I still call myself crazy for how I dealt with my pain. In reality, however, I am not crazy. My emotions then and now have always been valid.

Therefore, I no longer apologize when I tell people about my past. I have stopped saying “sorry” when I have breakdowns. These periods of depression, flashbacks, and insecurities are something that I deal with. They are effects from a trauma that I will never be able to forget. But they do not control me, nor do they take away my voice. Rather, my depression has pushed me to speak up for every other rape victim. My depression has encouraged me to help others understand mental health, such as my parents who never believed in therapy until I was in a hospital bed. Most of all, my depression has helped me become a better version of myself.

I hit rock bottom. I was ready to just end my life because I could no longer deal with everything. Now, I am motivated to continue pushing myself to success and happiness. I am determined to continue on my journey of self-love and happiness. I will not allow my rapist to exercise the same control he had over me. He might have hurt me, but he did not destroy my soul. And the girl who died that night in July 2010 can rest assured that there is strong woman avenging her death every day simply by continuing to survive.

So, as I am writing this and telling you my story, I am showing you that I am surviving. That is how I live my life: knowing that being here today is proof enough of my perseverance to be a better me.
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