Editor’s Note: Patience is key in connecting with your body again

By Kendall Polidori, Co-editor-in-chief

Sometimes when I close my eyes I am right back in the bedroom of my old apartment, sitting on my bed in pitch-black darkness with my legs mushed up against my ribcage, my head aching as it rests on the top of my knees.

I can still feel the anxiety creeping up in my chest as I frantically pack all of my belongings in the middle of the night and rush back home to my mom—the hurt radiating off of her entire body as she wraps her arms around me.

Almost two years ago, I was sexually assaulted by someone I lived with, someone I trusted. There is no way to sugarcoat it. For more than a year, the mere thought of it crossing my mind shuddered through each limb, every inch of my body.

Someone accidentally rubbing up next to me on the train triggered me. Being in a dark room alone triggered me. Simply trying to fall asleep triggered me. Today, I still lock my bedroom door every night, because even though this should not define who I am, in many ways it does.

My relationship with my body became one of turmoil—I could not look in the mirror for too long and began wearing clothes that would cover up as much of me as possible. There is no greater disconnect than between you and your own being. I felt as though I was walking around in someone else’s body, one that I was more than determined to protect this time.

I pushed away those who were too close to me, including friends and potential relationships. It took me a year to fully allow myself to form a relationship with someone in a way that made me vulnerable. And although it is healthy and supportive, it is still a constant inner battle to fight the fear that comes with letting another person into my world—into the bubble that I created to prevent further damage.

In the U.S., one in every six women, one in every 33 men and more than 20% of trans people are victims to sexual assault, according to RAINN, a national anti-sexual violence organization. Yet, I felt as though I could not talk about my experience with anyone around me, until recently.

There is still stigma surrounding sexual abuse, and more specifically sexual abuse allegations, which causes victims to blame themselves for their assault or be grouped by society, because there is a general lack of understanding around the issue.

Everyone’s experience with sexual assault is different, as well as the ways in which they handle it or try to move forward. For me, the isolation of the pandemic has forced me to look at myself in a way I had not allowed in months. It was agonizing at first—being stuck in my own mind, with nowhere else to go. But this also pushed me to face the unrest I felt within myself.

I consoled myself with stacks of books that lay scattered all around my room; hours of lying on my hardwood floor as I let one vinyl record spin to the next; and by etching stories and thoughts onto random scraps of paper, my hand aching.

I will never be able to say I am over it. You never completely get over something like that. But I can say I will strive to understand myself better, to be patient with my body and to not put up a wall between myself and those who genuinely care.

I believe when people are ready to do so, it is vital to shout these stories into the world—to comfort and support so many others who have had similar experiences. But before then, allow your body and mind to heal in the way that works best for you, and welcome those who support you and are willing to guide you through healing.

Our individual bodies are sacred. Our stories are sacred. Our trauma is not something to simply gloss over.

For help with and resources about sexual assault, visit RAINN’s 24/7 online hotline, or call anytime at (800) 656-4673.