Monday, October 16, 2017

Perpetuating Sexual Assault in Hollywood

Over the years, this blog has transformed into many different things. First it was a log of my workouts, with the occasional ramble. Then it was the diary of my journey through some tough life events. Then it was a diary about surviving nursing school. But it’s always been a place where I felt like my voice would be heard, no matter who the audience.

About 9 months ago I vowed never to be truly vocal about the negative things in my life ever again. Because, where you place your attention is where you place your energy! (if you don’t believe that, check out Dr Joe’s website). So, I stopped putting my energy on all that shit because I was tired of it consuming me. And it helped tremendously.

There’s been a lot of talk in the news lately about rape culture, especially that of Hollywood. With Harvey Weinstein in the news lately, and celebrities such as Rose McGowan being (extremely) vocal, I’ve been antsy lately. Agitated. Feeling like there’s something inside of me that wants to come out.

The truth is, no one is ever comfortable talking about sexual assault. No matter how much education, whether that be in the form of a documentary, or the dreaded sexual assault awareness month (dreaded due to the fact that awareness is only brought to sexual assault during a month, and then everyone forgets about it … but that’s a side note). It’s the elephant in the room, the uncomfortable look someone gives you if you are open about it.

Being a survivor of sexual assault doesn’t come with the same heroic feel as that of other diseases. “I had cancer, and I BEAT IT!” Or, “I had at this accident and I overcame it” are comfortable statements for people to deal with. People who hear those statements can easily offer a, “wow, that’s an amazing feat,” or “it’s amazing what your body has overcome.” Yet, if a sexual assault survivor emphasized their heroic battles with that kind of honesty, it would be met with discomfort. If it’s shared, it can be met with, “Why would you share that with someone?”  “Why are you being so open?” “Why talk about something so personal for you?” Or, the most dreaded statement of all (and those related to it): “What did you do that lead to it?”

These insidious victim blaming statements keep survivors of rape and sexual assault in the dark. It further clouds those who have gone through it with a cloak of shame that is not theirs to hold. Yet, why does society react to sexual assault in this? Why, instead of the uncomfortable knee jerk reaction, can’t we award survivors who are honest with the same heroism that other cancer/heart disease/physical injury survivors are awarded?

(NOTE: this is not to belittle ANY person who has overcome a medical condition or cancer or a physical injury; they are heroic.)

And yet, people wonder why victims of sexual assault don’t speak up. Don’t go public. Don’t report.

With Harvey Weinstein everywhere on social media, and some very brave women who are publicly taking a stand against them, I’m reminded of my own story that I have worked so hard to overcome.

You see, I get the Hollywood creepiness that lurks behind closed doors. I get that powerful, misogynistic men that sit behind desks and make decisions in the name of ART and MOVIES and TV. I didn’t live in it. But I get it. And now more than ever, that makes me angry.

Because, I was a victim of someone who had a good deal of power, money and fame in the biz. A well respected man in the TV industry, more money than I could ever imagine, someone who lived the life. And the Hollywood misogynistic life.

And, you see, what happened to me is just like all of these women. But I’m the low life, the outsider, the “unstable girl who just wanted attention.” Because, you know, it’s so much easier to label someone any of those things, than to look at the cold hard truth.

I’ve wondered for so long why I’ve still had this desire to scream at the top of my lungs what happened to me (and this is completely discounting the NYPD ordeal, which is public record). I told people. There was a failed investigation. So what was eating inside of me?

And i realized this week — that It was the fact that the people I wanted to listen did nothing.

Read that: they did nothing.

They supported him. They blocked me on facebook. Mariska Hargitay’s organization banned me from speaking to her “because I made them uncomfortable.” Bullshit. They were uncomfortable because someone they knew victimized me and they didn’t want the bad press.

What probably hurt the most was seeing the people I knew that knew him, and me, slowly disappear from my life. I didn’t know these people well, but had interacted with them on numerous occasions. Slowly, steadily, deliberately, they all disappeared. Blocked me on facebook, blocked my number, stopped associating with me. But they all still remained friends with him.

And that’s what makes it so easy.  It’s so easy to discount a woman who has been abused as being crazy, unstable. “Oh she just regretted it.” “Oh, she was overreacting.” “Oh that’s just who he is.”

This is rape culture in Hollywood, with men in power (and, arguable, most parts of society). This is the culture that permeates a field where women are placed on a pedestal with men (in TV and film) yet are subservient to them in the most brutal ways. Where women are glamorized for their perfect portrayal of XYZ character in this film/tv show, yet are torn to shreds when they accuse someone of sexual assault or harassment. (this doesn’t just happen in Hollywood; I’m just speaking from my own experience).

The details of what actually happened to me aren’t important to me anymore; it’s the reaction that ensued that still angers me, that makes my heart race, that makes me want to respond to Amber Tamblyn, or Rose McGowan and scream at them “I GET IT, IT HAPPENED TO ME TOO.” 

It’s not that people don’t believe me, or you, or Rose. It’s the fact that there is a systemic problem in pop culture today that perpetuates this problem, that protects the rapist far more than the victim. A culture where even a well known celebrity is questioned for every action she took or didn’t take when accusing someone who sexually assaulted her.

I’m angry. It makes me mad that the people I wanted to listen, didn’t. For me, I have a certain inner peace now because I’ve come to understand that closure and peace don’t come from the outside; they come from within. And that is a blessing, because I don’t let it rule my life anymore.

But I still get angry. Because it’s still a problem. Things haven’t changed.
People are talking. Women are coming forward about their abuse in Hollywood and the culture that protects and perpetuates the harassment and abuse in the industry. And I’’m so glad that people are talking.

But there’s still this feeling deep down, that is aching to be heard, aching to scream at the top of my lungs -

Listen to me. I get it. It happened to me too. And I matter too.

Maybe some day the right people will listen.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

What becoming a nurse means to me: Healing myself from Chronic Pain (my journey)

--> Two and a half weeks ago, I passed my NCLEX, and am officially a registered nurse. A week ago, I got hired as a nurse at a large hospital in the NYC area, and my first day is tomorrow. WAHOO! If any of you have become nurses, you know the process it takes to get there and how much of a RELIEF it is!
But becoming a nurse means so much more to me than most of you may know, and I wanted to share a little of my story, in the hopes that maybe it could inspire someone some day. Or, at least give you hope that no matter what is going on, you CAN change your life and yourself for the better.
My story starts in 2009. I was an elite Olympic-style weightlifter, and was one of the top in the nation in my weightclass. I was a junior level weightlifter, but at one meet in 2009, I qualified for every single national meet, as a junior AND a senior level lifter. I was good, and on my way to competing in the World Championships.
At that particular meet (it was only my 2nd meet ever) I did great. I hit a clean and jerk PR of 76kg (I was a 58kg weightlifter), and a PR total. Afterwards, I got a squat in and hit a PR backsquat of 100kg. I was on a roll.
The next day I woke up with horrible spasms in my right shoulder. Something was SERIOUSLY wrong and I was in a lot of pain. I was really afraid that I hurt it, and sought out a massage therapist to help me get the knots out. I went to the massage therapist, and they worked on it – but it got worse after the massage.
I was completely defined by my weightlifting and I wa fearing that this was going to put me out of the process for qualifying for Worlds. I was horribly angry and mad and depressed. So I kept training.
1 week of chronic pain and tightness in my shoulder blade turned into one month. Then 2 months. Then 3 months.
In September of 2009 I transferred universities and started at Seattle University. One night, I had trouble sleeping – and it was like a switch was flipped in my body. As one friend puts it, as she had something similar happen to her, “it was like my nervous system broke.” I completely stopped sleeping and my health just deteriorated. I had to withdraw from school that semester. I had horrible insomnia every night for apparently no reason, and the pain in my shoulder and upper back was still there, and not getting any better.
So, naturally, I found other ways to abuse my body through exercise.
In 2010, at the start of the year, I found a sleep doctor and was able to start sleeping again with the help of medications. But nothing was healing my chronic shoulder pain. At the time, I was lying to myself each and every day by living a life in an eating disorder. I had lived in that reality since high school, always maintaining my health, but not really – my thoughts were sick, my approach to exercise and food was completely unhealthy, and, worst of all, the things I told myself no person should ever hear. But that was my reality, and I was “comfortable” in it. My shoulder pain became the new normal, and I found ways to train hard around it, but still prayed it would get better.
Then, in June, I was backsquatting 90kg for reps one day, and I felt something pop in my low back. I knew immediately it was bad, and I stopped lifting.
After that, my right low back, psoas, and upper quad were in excruciating tightness. Shoulder + lower back pain. Luckily, there was no disc involvement, but now I had a new problem that turned chronic. And through the summer, the back and hip pain continued to stay. So what had started out as only shoulder pain had now become two separate issues – two chronic pain issues that were not getting better, and no one could tell me what was wrong.
SIDE NOTE: the summer of 2010 was when the “SVU Saga” began – something that plays into the story, but is meant for another time.
In the fall of 2010, my eating disorder AND my chronic pain got progressively (extremely) worse. My life and my health really deteriorated in 2010, and at the tail end of 2010, my serious boyfriend at the time broke up with me which pushed me over the edge; I received treatment for my eating disorder at the start of 2011 for 90 days.
What I didn't know was how that break up was going to affect my state of being. I thought of myself as a horrible person, unloveable, day in and day out. I thought that having my food and exercise strictly controlled by someone outside of me was going to help heal my body, because I was forced to finally rest it completely. But to my confusion, my chronic pain got worse.
When I was receiving treatment, what started as unilateral shoulder pain turned into bilateral. Soon, my entire upper back was hot, tender, tight, and filled with trigger points to the point where I couldn’t even be touched.
I started school again in March of 2011, and, although I had a new lease on life, my chronic pain got progressively – no, exponentially – worse. It got to the point where I could not even carry a backpack on my shoulders, I was in so much pain. Throughout 2011, I continued to decline. Once an active weightlifter, I had to completely stop working out. The only exercise I got was walking – that was all I could do. I couldn’t move my neck from side to side – to cross the street I had to pivot from my hips to make sure no cars were coming. I couldn’t raise my arms more than a few degrees from my sides. I was in constant irretractable pain. I could barely make it through the day. In the summer, it got worse to the point where I couldn’t even stand to hold my head up when I was standing up, my neck muscles hurt so badly. I needed to constantly sit with support. I lost all social life, all semblance of happiness. Each day was a struggle to get through. I constantly used tiger balm to sooth the pain for a few seconds, but used it so much that my skin on my neck started blistering. My scalenes were some of the worst tightness/pain, and my entire neck broke out in a rash from all the tiger balm.
I was set to graduate school in 2012, and I made a silent pact with myself; if I was not better by graduation, I was going to take my life. I couldn't bear to live my life like this, and I truly feared – and believed – that this was going to be the rest of my life. And it wasn’t living. My Olympic dreams were completely shattered, but even things I previously took for granted – pursuing a nursing career, getting married, having a family – seemed like dream at this point. I didn’t know if I could do it. Every muscle from my low back to my neck and even my jaw felt like it was on fire – hot, tight, spasm-y pain that never let up. it was exhausting.
I exhausted every practitioner imaginable. In the summer of 2011, I went to see a shoulder doctor in Bellevue, WA. At that appointment, he told me, “Well, I think you’re in pain because you’re depressed. You should try to go on antidepressants.”
At that moment, I completely lost faith in Western medicine.
After that, I started looking for alternative treatments. I traveled to New Jersey in the summer of 2011 to a chiropractor that sounded like he could help. In addition, I saw a posture specialist in Washington, D.C. After that trip, I felt like it helped a little. But then it went right back to the way it was.
After a subsequent trip to the posture specialist, who was back in Oregon, and an unfortunate trauma that occurred there (a sexual assault), I gave up on that. I continued to look, and my pain continued to plague me.
In September of 2011, I found a physical therapist in NY that sounded like he could help. It was the first truly mind-body technique I had been willing to try. I had never believed in the mind-body connection my entire life, but what this guy presented was definitely more in the realm of mind-body than anything else (it was called Associative Awareness Technique). In October of 2011, I flew out to NYC to get help from this physical therapist. It was a week of treatments for about 4 hours a day and it was definitely unlike anything I’d experienced before. By the end of the trip, I was feeling a little better. (This trip, SVU saga continued).
I went back to Seattle, but my progress didn’t improve. I went BACK to NYC in December of 2011 to see the same PT again, but I was stalled. My pain would always come back.
While in NYC, I realized I couldn’t keep traveling back and forth. I began looking for alternative treatments closer to home. While there, I found a physical therapist in Colorado named Rick Stockwell. I began communicating with him; he also did a similar technique to the PT in NYC, but he added some other methods as well. He also had overcome a chronic condition and really started to give me hope that I could maybe overcome my chronic pain one day.
Within the next month, it was decided I was going to go to Colorado for 10 days during my spring break. Rick also often worked alongside a life coach, Melaney Sreenan. The two of them teamed up and essentially put me through a true boot camp when I was there. I was getting my body physically and emotionally “beat up” essentially for 4-6 hours a day. And this was a true step into the mind-body realm that I had never entered before. I very slowly started to become aware of my own thougths and beliefs, and realized my beliefs about my chronic pain were very deep-seeded (why wouldn’t they be, right?). I also became aware that some of the relationships I had in my life at that time were truly toxic (but I learned the hard way and didn’t let go of them until something truly awful happened). Rick utilized AAT on me, but also something called Primal Reflex Release Technique (PRRT) and, the real game changer, TREs – trauma releasing exercises. I believe that the PRRT and the TREs is what truly initiated my turn around (physically). In addition, I was introduced to meditation by something called the Amygdala retraining program. All of these things, combined with Melaney’s intense coaching sessions, helped me begin to overcome my physical pain, and release some stored up trauma (from my assault and other traumas I had experienced) that I had never dealt with.
By the end of the trip, by some miracle I could run up the stairs. THAT was amazing for me! When I went back to Seattle, my progress was extremely up and down. I filled my day so much with exercises – which involved some short meditations as well as some other mind-body activities. But my schedule was so packed with that work, that it became STRESSFUL. My body would improve, rebel, improve, rebel. However, I was totally aware of the small miracles that occurred – the first time I dribbled a soccer ball around a field, I cried. I cried! In addition, I started doing yoga. I slowly began to work out again – I found that if I did any sort of lifting or intense physical exercise like sprinting (which I could do again!) I needed the yoga afterwards, or my body would rebel the next day, and I would be in pain.
But it was a constant battle. As soon as a pain would come up again, I would spiral back into my old mentality and become hopeless again.
And then, the REAL life changing moment came in the spring of 2012.
One day, Melaney told me, “Your body is fine. It’s your mind we have to work on.”
I didn’t understand what she was talking about (in hindsight, my negative self talk, my beliefs, and my toxic relationships … to name a few) …
She told me that day, “I want you to get this book: Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself. Read it cover to cover and start the meditaitons.”
I had no idea what she was talking about, by I did as I was told and got the book.
The book was written by a Dr. Joe Dispenza, someone I’d never heard of before. Melaney thought I would like his book, because it has a science-y feel to it, and most of his book discusses some aspects of quantum physics, quantum mechanics, and the science behind how our brains work. I began reading about how our thoughts influence the physical state of our body – for example, by thought alone, we can literally TALK our bodies into anxiety. Think about it – you’re feelin fine, but you have a test next week, you start analyzing worse case scenario, and all these thoughts come rushing to you and then BAM you’re having a breakdown (ok, this happened in nursing school a lot!).
Anyways, I liked the feel for it. But the meditations were completely different story.
Up until this point, I had never done more than a 15-20 min meditation. Once finished with this book, the meditation that accompanied this book was an HOUR AND 10 MINUTES. What????
I had NEVER believed in meditation and my mind was SO busy I could hardly keep up with my own thoughts, let alone expect my brain to quiet down enough to actually sit through a meditation.
But, I started doing them.
I didn’t really get them (ok, to beginners – they are quite weird and different!), but I did them anyways.
When I was about halfway through the book, I decided to look at Dr. Joe’s bio at the back of this book. Who was this guy anyways?
I was shocked when I read that he was a chiropractor in WASHINGTON STATE. What?! The coincidence of that! And, even better, he was still practicing. I told Melaney, and she said to go see him. I was about to leave for Colorado for a month, but decided to drive the one and a half hours to see Dr. Joe before I left.
Around that time, I was having a horrible flare up of my chronic pain (the “flare ups” as I called them happened about once a month at that point, or once every 3 weeks – progress, but still not where I wanted to be). Today, it’s pretty funny to hear Dr. Joe imitate me the first day I walked into the clinic, but it was pretty accurate. I was a mess walking in there, negative, and still believed that no one could help me. I remember thinking, “Oh, yeah, he’s just a chiropractor, and he’s only gonna spend 15 minutes with me, how the hell is that going to help me?” I even texted that to Melaney. Talk about negative!
When I went to Colorado, I saw Melaney and Rick semi-regularly throughout the trip. I made some more progress, and continued to do Dr. Joe’s meditations.
However, at the time, I was still indulging in some extremely toxic relationships, and the turmoil that these put me through easily threw me out of balance.
When I went back to seattle, right before school started, I had a massive flare up that sent me to the ER because I couldn’t move my neck.
After school started, I started seeing Dr. Joe on a regular basis. Melaney had told me, ‘He just has a really good energy, he’ll be good for you.’ Ok, sure, whatever!
But slowly, as the weeks moved on and I saw him more, his energy started to wear off on me. I got what she meant. I realized I couldn’t really leave that place without being in a good mood – it was impossible!
I continued to do the meditations, but my body was still kind of physically stuck. I was SO MUCH better than I was a year ago – worlds different, really – but there was that constant fear that the pain was going to come back. I LIVED in that fear (I didn’t know it at the time), and most people wouldn’t blame me. I did yoga, did a little lifting, but would always injure myself and get set back. And, the other thing I noticed, was that if my body felt ok, another pattern popped up – usually my sleep. Even with sleeping medications, I would have “flare ups” where I would completely stop sleeping. And then my body would hurt again, and my sleep would be ok. It was as if my body was bouncing back and forth between patterns. Hmm…
In January 2013, my entire life changed within 1 night. Most of you know this story, so I won’t go into it right now. But my life as I knew it was shattered, as I had to cope with this trauma I wasn’t capable of coping with. The week after, I was diagnosed with an “incurable” disease and for the first time in my life, I truly wanted to die. I never thought anyone would love me again.
My physical body took a backseat as I tried to cope – alone – with this trauma that had occurred. I stopped sleeping, I developed PTSD and I could hardly function. I was a complete mess. Honestly, I don’t remember a lot of this time; I definitely stopped doing the meditations during this time, and could only live in the trauma, each and every day.
2013 had a turn around, or so I thought at the time, when I went to the JHF gala (SVU saga, part 3). But I never imagined that 2013 could get any worse. Yet my day to day life was spent living in the trauma I had experienced, and I didn’t even realize it at the time.
However, I had one saving grace: finally, a year after reading Joe’s book and sorta doing the meditations, I FINALLY was going to my first ever Progressive Workshop in June of 2013! I had absolutely no idea what to expect, but I shelled out the money and went to the workshop.
It was the absolute best thing I could’ve done for myself at that time. On July 5th, I had a very, very stressful meeting I had to survive – prior to that, I could hardly function. I couldn't sleep, I was throwing up, I could barely work because my anxiety was so bad. After this workshop, I started to ENJOY doing my meditations – imagine that! But, more importantly, that week leading up to that meeting (with the NYPD), I was absolutely present. I had no fear, no anxiety. I didn’t LET myself feel that fear until the day of the event.
Many of you know what that weekend led to, and the ensuing issues that arose. After that weekend, I was overcome by my trauma and PTSD again. I stopped meditating; well, I didn’t, but I was just going through the motions, I wasn’t really putting any effort into it. And my body paid the price. I ended up with an injury that lingered and lingered and lingered. I had more events happen, and my PTSD and sleep got worse. I almost lost my job. The events completely took over my life – for those of you who know that story and saw me during that time, you know what it was like. It wasn’t pretty. I had trauma after trauma occur during this time and I could barely keep my head above water. I lived in a lie – showing up every day to work, smiling, happy to the world around me, when inside I felt like I was dying.
But I didn’t give up. And, I remember so clearly, one day I was in Dr. Joe’s office, and I hadn’t said a word, but after he had adjusted me he sat down and looked me in the eye and said, “Izzy, you have a strong, healthy body. A wonderful man is going to come a long one day and sweep you off your feet and love you for all eternity. You have a beautiful life ahead of you. Just don’t try too hard to be happy!”
I was a little baffled at that, and wasn’t sure I truly believed it, but took it to heart and filed it away.
The tail end of 2013 was probably one of the worst months of my life. The culmination of 3 awful traumas occurred within weeks of each other in November and my life, soul, and spirit truly fell apart. I crumbled. For the second time in this process, I truly wanted to die. Everything that I had believed in, had faith in, and meant to me had fallen away. I was left with an empty soul and heart, which for me was one of the worst times of my entire life (but now, I realized, needed to happen in order to create the life I have today).
After a few weeks of this, I’d had enough. I told myself I was done with the drama and the trauma, and I pulled myself together. One week later, I got asked out by 5 different (good) men, one of which is the love of my life. When I saw Joe and told him, he said to me, “you made the conscious decision to no longer be this person you were, and you freed up energy and made room for him.” Something like that! That didn’t make sense to me until later.
My life slowly started to change. I was accepted into LIU’s nursing program, and in January I went to New York to start nursing school.
Moving to NYC was tough. The trauma that occurred there still ruled me, and my PTSD was easily triggered. The thoughts I had of myself and what happened ruled my life, day in and day out. It was a rough adjustment. I didn’t give up, though. And, I had miracles startin to happen. One of the most amazing things I accomplished during this time was that I started lifting again. Not just here and there – REALLY lifting! I was snatching and clean and jerking, and really training. I cleaned 65kg, 10kg off my best EVER. When I stopped and thought about it, I couldn’t even fathom how far I had come – 2 years before that, running around with a soccer ball was an accomplishment. Wow!
In February, one night before I was supposed to travel to Arizona for Dr. Joe’s Advanced Workshop, I did a snatch and felt something tug in my shoulder. I knew it was bad as soon as I set the weight down.
All of the negative emotions I’d felt with my chronic pain rushed back as I dealt with the pain of a strained rotator cuff. I did NOT want this to happen right before I was travling, yet it did.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that injury – and many subsequent other ones – was a sign loud and clear to my body.
I was frustrated, but I went to this workshop with an open mind.
The 5 days in Carefree, AZ completely changed my life forever.
For the first time in my life I REALLY meditated. Sometimes, 6 hours a day. And not only that – I went deep within myself and connected to something far beyond my comprehension and anything that I had experienced before. In one meditation, I experienced a profound emotional healing (if you are interested in hearing this, feel free to message me) and have been changed ever since.
I was surrounded by more love that weekend than I’d ever seen before. The people surrounding me were some of the kindest, most genuine people I have ever met. That workshop still stands out as one of the best experiences of my life.
At the end of the workshop, I had my brain mapped by Dr. Jeffrey Fannin. In that meditation, I truly FELT my future was at my fingertips. For the first time since my chronic pain started, I had true hope that this did NOT have to be my reality. I heard stories of people who had overcome incredible obstacles, healed themselves of genetic conditions, and created amazing futures. I NEVER would have believed any of this if I hadn’t heard it for myself, out of these peoples’ mouths. Hell, prior to this even reading these stories I didn’t truly believe it. But once I heard it from these people themselves – and I’m still friends with many of them today – I was filled with such hope for my future. I was a changed person.
Except, going back to NYC, I let my environment overtake me again. I went back to the same thought patterns, the same anxieties, the same fears. I was meditating, but still not really putting my heart and soul into it. I was only half doing the work, but expecting full results. Wasn’t happening.
My physical healing was kind of at a standstill again. In May of 2014, I got into NYU’s accelerated nursing program – a dream I’d had for years – and came home for the summer before starting my NEW nursing journey at the place I’d always dreamed of going. The year before, I had not applied to accelerated nursing programs because I wasn’t sure if I could handle it – I thought I could MAYBE handle it with my body (which was HUGE), but my emotional health was still not 100% after the year that I’d had, and I was worrie about the stress afeting my health. But I had taken a leap of faith and applied, and got in. A MIRACLE transformation from where I had been 3 years before!
The day I got home, the injury I’d had the previous summer recurred. So now I was dealing with a strained shoulder AND an injured low back. And, like my usual patterns, I let the negativity get the best of me, let the old fears pop up.
However, I lived my life the best I could, and Robbie and I had the most amazing summer of our lives – the longest time we’ve spent in person together. I remembered Dr. Joe’s words to me a year before and couldn’t help but smile. It was a constant battle between fighting the fears that my body would never be healed, and being happy and present. I was still meditating, but still not fully with my heart in it. Subconsciously, I didn’t truly believe that this work would work for me (which I didn’t realize until recently). But I kept pushing forward.
And then, just like that, I started nursing school in September of 2014.
Now, if any of you had been through nursing school, you know how challenging it is. After the firs week, I was terrified – how on earth was I going to be able to meditate, change my body and my life without the stress of nursing school getting me down and destroying my progress?
In a fateful scheduling incident, there was ONE weekend out of the entire semester where I did not have a test or midterm to study for, and that happened to be the week of Dr. Joe’s first ever Advanced Follow Up in Seattle. A few days before I was supposed to leave, there was some chaos – I had lost my wallet on the subway, which included all modes of transportation AND my drivers license. I could not travel without my drivers license, and because my bank was based in Seattle, I had no money. Long story short, my parents had to overnight my passport to me in order to travel home. Because of that, I had to miss my pathophysiology class to wait for my passport to arrive at my apartment. Because of that, I was able to listen to Dr. Joe’s teleclass that day, and  was actually allowed to ask a question on the live call (coincidence? Nope!). I told him that with my nursing schedule, I felt I was constantly living in a state of fight or flight – some days I was up at 5, at clinical all day, came home, studied, and then went to bed. How could I possibly change my life under all this stress, when I hardly had the time to eat meals, let alone meditate?
Dr. Joe started his answer off with, “Since I’ve known you, you have made great strides in this work, and you are in a field that is going to help a lot of people one day.” I definitely started crying at that, as I realized I truly had come such a long way. And, he gave me a tool – even just concentrating on your breath for 20 minutes a day, anything to bring you back into the present moment, would help. I took that to heart, as I got ready for the crazy flight back to seattle.
The advanced follow up was a game changer. At the time, I didn’t realize it – I was distracted, because at the end of the following week I had to start studying for my pathophysiology exam, I had a ton of work to do etc etc, not to mention I got to see Robbie … so I was distracted. But I was surrounded by the people who meant the most to me, and I soaked up that love and experienced the workshp the best I could. Meditating at 4 am … going to 6 pm … it was nuts! No sleep, but no problem.
I left Seattle with my heart completely open. I felt so changed. And, as soon as I got back to NYC I was greeted with an awesome Mind Movie manifestation! Wow, this stuff works!
I really felt like I was getting this work, and it was finally settling in.
However, in January of 2015, my life took a completely different turn than I was expecting, all because of a phone call from the NY Daily News at 9pm one night in Seattle.
In a flash, my sense of calm, composure, and faith in my self was shattered. My previous trauma – which I had told myself I had moved on from – was completely thrust back into the open. I broke. I tried to maintain myself, but my PTSD skyrocketed and I could hardly function. I remember being curled in a ball in my bed, and Robbie couldn’t even touch me. He felt completely helpless.
I went back to school to start my second semester of nursing school, and I was actually glad to start because I thought it would give me a distraction from what had just occurred. But I was wrong. That pleasant distraction lasted about a week, and all those old emotions popped up again. My body broke. I stopped sleeping, even with medications. I remember taking a pharmacology class on no sleep because I had been up all night with anxiety
I tried my best to maintain myself on my own, but I realized I needed more help. Actually, help came to me through a series of beautiful events at NYU and I was led to an amazing advocate and social worker that has completely changed my life.
For the next 9 months, my life was school, crisis, school, crisis, let’s do something badass but stressful, repeat. February, I made the decision to do something that may impact the rest of my life, and has subsequently generated numerous public newsarticles about my life. This trauma and this situation became my LIFE, yet again. I didn’t know it at the time, but I became my trauma. I was a victim all over again. I was a victim to the system, I was angry, I was sad. I felt everything I did when it happened 2 years prior. But this was different, because it was public. It was new. It was mainstream. The entire advocate world in NYC new my story, even if they didn’t know my name. how could I even wrap my head around that?
I became my trauma. Every thought of every day revolved around this point in my life. I was living a lie – I appeared put together, nearly a 4.0 student, but I was dying inside. I had no idea how I was going to survive all this. And I felt horribly guilty, because I felt I brought it on myself since I had made the choice to pursue this. But I wanted justice, and this was my way. But, traumas and dramas kept happening, just one after the other, almost more than I could wrap my head around. And I identified with those. I had to tell professors because my PTSD stability was so unpredictable. i told most of my professors, except for one during my third semester. I had leeway, even though I never had to use it. But my trauma continued to be who I was, even if I didn’t know it.
I kept meditating and creating my life, but there was a huge gap between who I thought I was, and who I truly was being. Yet, there were still blessings in my life. I not only had an amazing advocate on my side, an unwaveringly supportive boyfriend, but in a beautiful twist of fate, one of the most amazing and incredible people showed up in my life – a professor who I had actually been terrified of first semester, but who I had again (now third semester). In a series of events, I ended up in his office one day, in tears, and ended up opening up to him, and it was the best decision I made in nursing school (even though I had been terrified of him during first semester). Even though I was living in this trauma every single day, he carried me through. Without judgment, he listened to every single part of my story, let me cry and cry and cry when no one else would listen, and was there for me, completely unwaveringly and without judgment, for the rest of my schooling. I am eternally grateful, because I would not have survived this time of my life (and managed to get almost a 4.0) without this person. And even though that is a time in my life I want to move on from, the gratitude and love and appreciation for the kindness and compassion he showed to me will always stay with me, and I will be forever grateful.
Despite the traumas, my dreams seemed to be coming to reality – I went to another Advanced Follow-up Workshop and sat in tears listening to a beautiful woman tell her story how she used this work to help in her healing journey for overcoming ovarian cancer and heard other amazing stories. I graduated nursing school – an event that had me in tears after everything that had happened. The moment that my special professor pinned me was one of the happiest moments of my life – I had survived SO much and never let it beat me.
I went to south Africa for a month and had the time of my life. Yet when I was there, I was constantly plagued by old traumas and self doubts – about myself, my physical condition, my old eating disorder, everything. It all came up at once, when my crazy schooling had settled down. What was going on?
I got a huge wake up call the week I got back from South Africa.
The day after I got back from my trip, I was set to volunteer at Dr. Joe’s advanced workshop. I was SO excited, as this was the first workshop Robbie and I were doing together, and I KNEW it was going to be amazing. I was so exhausted I knew I would be able to slip into a meditative state pretty quickly.
Well, an unexpected whiplash injury (don’t even ask!) disrupted my plans for a “perfect” event.
Probably more so than any other time I had done this work, I sat in this workshop angry. I was in SO much pain that standing up in the morning made me nearly pass out. I was so so so angry that I almost walked out of the workshop. I couldn’t get comfortable since I was in so much pain and definitely couldn’t concentrate in my meditations.
Sunday, our last meditation, I nearly walked out. But I didn’t. I stayed, and I heard an amazing woman’s story – she had been a nurse for 23 years, and when working in the ICU a patient had fallen on her and crushed her spine. She also had had SVT for a number of years (supraventricular tachycardia) and had had horrible chronic back pain for 10.
I listened to her tell her story about using Joe’s work to heal herself of her back pain. In October, she had completely stopped ALL medications, even her meds for SVT. Prior to that, she was taking about 25 medications a day, could hardly even unload the dishwasher, and would go to work and come back and cry in agony.
I was mesmerized by her story and was drawn to her; even though I had overcome the majority of my own pain, I could relate so much. I cried listening to her story, as I had almost missed it since I had nearly walked out.
I found her aftewards, and we talked. Ironically, she knew who I was! We kept in contact.
The following week, my major wake up call came. I saw Dr. Joe, and he said something to me that was a true wake up call – “we need to talk about what you’re attracting in your life.” He sat me down and talked to me straight up. He told me how I was presenting to the world, how I was living in this trauma I had experienced, and what that was doing to me. For the first time in a long time, I really listened to what he said. And not only that, I took what he said, and really examined it.
I went through a few really tough weeks of self reflection. And I noticed some astounding things.
Nearly every thought that went through my head was negative. Whether it was about my body, about my life, about my trauma, it was negative.
The biggest thing I realized, thought, was that, on a deep, subconsious level, I did not believe that Dr. Joe’s work was going to work for me. Even the countless people I’ve talked to – friends who had healed themselves of genetic bone disorders, cancer, chronic pain – I had this deep, deep unconscious belief that I was the exception. That it worked for everyone but me. When I voiced this in the office, I started to cry. It was a huge, huge realization I had.
I started realizing that I could not tell myself the things on a daily basis that I was and expect to lead a fulfilling life. My eating disorder thoughts/hatred of my body, fear of my old chronic pain, and the traumas that I had were continuing to dominate my thoughts. Even though I had beaten the odds with everything, these thoughts were still there. And THAT was what was holding me back.
This happened only a month ago. And since then, I have made leaps and bounds. Not all physically, mostly mentally. They have been subtle, and most people don't even realize it. But people have noticed. Of course, Robbie knows why. Not everyone does. But now, my challenge isn’t healing my body completely. That’s just a byproduct. My challenge is changing my belief system that my body will never be functional, that there will always be pain, that I have to rely on outside sources to “Fix” myself (BIGGEST challenge right now); changing the thoughts I have about my body on a daily basis, body image issues. THAT is what I have to work on now. The byproduct of that is healing. Look at my nurse friend – look at what she had done. If she could COMPLETELY overcome herself, her pain, and her past, I could too. I had done an incredible job – I had overcome myself and my past enough to create a beautiful life for myself. But something was holding me back. Something was keeping me from reaching my full potential, especially in my physical healing. I talked to a friend, who, when I talked to him, was in tears because he could see my potential so clearly yet I couldn’t. this was the message I kept hearing over and over again, and I realized it was time to do something.
So what have I been doing?
Constantly monitoring my thoughts. I have been meditating on changing my thoughts nonstop. I focus soley on my future. I watch my mind movie (when I remember to!). I try to catch my negative thoughts before they become a whole thought. But most importantly, I have the utmost KNOWING that my body is WHOLE and HEALTHY right NOW. That’s a belief that can be challenging sometimes, but it’s the only way. Especially now, when im truly trying to overcome my pain and heal myself without any outside help (chiropractors and PTs), it’s a challenge every single day. But I get up and I do it. I catch fears that pop into my head, and attempt to change them. I see myself lifting heavy weights, doing backbends, doing gymnastics. To even be able to think about doing these things again is a true miracle, considering where my life was  5 years ago. But it’s the next level for me – and I want to get to that level. To not fear the unpredictability of my body (one day it’s fine, one day my old chronic back pain is back, etc), to not fear relationships in my life, to not fear the future, to LOVE the unknown and KNOW that it only holds the most BEAUTIFUL things for me is what I strive for each and every day. Today has been one of those days when I’m in pain, and I’m fighting the old thoughts. But I keep crossing that river, no matter what.
It’s challenging. This past week, there seems to be a pattern a day I work on. One day it’s my physical pain. Another day it’s my eating disorder thoughts (self-hatred is extremely tough to fight!). another day it’s old trauma coming up. But I’m still fighting. Even this morning, I texted someone and said I was having a hard day. For no reason. It was just old feelings coming up, old memories, old patterns.
So ask yourself this – what limiting thoughts and beliefs do YOU tell yourself on a daily basis? What subconscious personality program are you running? For me, it was being a victim – of my trauma, of my physical pain, of my past. I was a slave to my past traumas, all of them. And I was viewing my future based on the lens of my past – mainly, not truly believing I would ever be physically healthy. Im still on sleeping medications – that’s another thing I want to accomplish, as well.
There’s lots of work to be done. But as Dr. Joe recently said in a teleclass, the work is never done. You get to one level, and it’s time to pursue the next level.
We are all human. We are all searching for certain things. Some of us are searching for bodily healing (like me). Some are searching for a connection to the divine (which I have done too, and wow is that awesome!). Some want to create certain things in their future. All are a part of Dr. Joe’s work, and other work as well (I just use his because his is what I’ve concentrated on the most and had the most success with).
The key is to NEVER GIVE UP.
I recently listened to a podcast called “Mechanic to Millionaire” and the guy said this: “As long as you are still breathing, and your heart is still beating, there is hope.”
I nearly lost that hope a few years ago. I gained it back, thanks to Dr. Joe and this work, and the amazing beings that have entered my life along the way.
This has been my journey. I can say I no longer have chronic pain. WOW!!!!! THAT  right there is a miracle. I do say that I have old PATTERNS pop up – and that’s true. Old pain patterns, old thought patterns, old relationship patterns that were the result of trauma (and I apologize to those who have been on the receiving end of those, which are laden with fear and stress!). but they’re patterns. Patterns can be broken. And the first step in this process is knowledge, because knowledge is power. And now that I know that’s what I need to break, I can do it. Sometimes I lose sight of it – thank you doesn’t do enough justice to Robbie, Emily V., and Ken C., who have talked me out of my head countlessly the past few weeks.
Im still a work in progress. I may still get depressed. I may say horrible things about my body to myself. I may have pain, and I may have a lot of it sometimes. I may have fear that someone I care about is going to turn on me. But those are becoming less and less.
So if you hear me say, “my shoulder hurts,” or, “I’m worried about my back today” -- That’s so much more than a shouder hurting. It’s years of fear of chronic pain returning. It’s fear that I will not achieve the goals I want to in life (I have some lofty ones!). But really, it means that I am letting my past overtake me in that moment. So if you hear me say that, I just ask you to have that perspective – the, “don’t worry, it’ll heal” isn’t what fixes it. It’s a “remember you are a new person now, this will change and this is not permanent.” Pain means something different to me than most people, and few people understand that, and I hope this enlightens some people. It’s, “Are you believing in your future more than your past?” Because if I am fearing that pain, or the old sleepnessness, or the old trauma then I am living in my past more than my future, and  I need a reminder to snap out of it.
This is my story. I am work in progress. But holy SH!T have I come a long way! From living a life constantly filled with self-hatred, acquiring horrible chronic pain, losing all physical fitness to the pain, unable to even carry a handbag or turn my neck … to today, graduating nursing school, starting a job, doing handstands, squats, yoga. I’m a miracle. Even if I forget that some times, I am a walking miracle. I can’t tell you how many times doctors told me, “I don’t know what’s wrong with you and I don’t know if you’re going to get better.” But I DID. And, even with the trauma on top of all of it, I never let it stop me.
So, as I start my new journey as a nurse, I am humbled about where I have come from. Where I was, what I went through, and where I am now. I used to constantly search ffor things outside of myself to make me happy, using SVU and other things to qualify my happiness. Now I spend my time meditating, and working to better myself. I meditate 1-4 hours a day, something I never thought I would do. But most importantly, this is a message to anyone who reads this: there IS hope. Whether you’re suffering from PTSD, chronic pain, or other health issues THERE IS HOPE. I never imagined I would be where I am today, and I have to remember that because it truly is miraculous! So please – NEVER give up. seriously – coming from where I have come from, and talking to countless others who have overcome incredibly serious conditions, has inspired and moved me beyond words. You just have to believe – no, you have to KNOW – that your body is capable of healing and changing. And you have to FEEL it.
I would not be here today without some amazing people that have been placed in my life at important times. My family, thank you for financially supporting me in this healing, I know it’s been difficult.
My HNA teachers – no words. You carried me through one of the hardest times of my life in 2010, and I survived because of you. Thank you.
My friends and professors at Seattle U, you supported me in my initiating this change and through my sexual assaults. Thank you.
To those of you who picked me up randomly during 2013 – Autumn, Connor, Kieresten, Elyse, Ashley and anyone else – thank you. You gave me little snippets of light during the worst year of my life.
To all of the people I’ve met through these Dr. Joe workshops and the facebook group – you have moved me and inspired me beyond words, and have encouraged me to keep fighting. The love I feel from you is always with me. Especially Emily and Ken, you two have been such lights in my life the past month, I feel like I’ve known you too forever! Thank you.

Robbie – you deserve so much more than my words can express. You have not only supported me in this journey, but entered into it during a difficult time, when most people would’ve run away. Yet you stayed, learned and loved me and supported me across this river of change, and also initiated your own journey. Thank you.

And lastly, Joe -- words cannot express how much I love you. You have guided me, nurtured me, mentored me, in person and from the field, and have made me the young woman I am today. I love you beyond all time and space, forever and always.

And to anyone reading this – thank you for reading this, supporting me in my journey. And remember – THERE IS HOPE.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Second Semester Review: NYUCN

Hey everyone! So if you're  reading this you hopefully survived your first semester of nursing school. Congrats! First semester is LEGIT the hardest and worst one. Second semester is MUCH less complicated in terms of workload, assignments, and competencies!

So, if you're like me, you've probably heard that A&E2 is killer. Don't panic yet -- there are some strategies to share that will help you succeed.

Adult and Elder II
In general: I had Professor Gilles this semester, and I loved her! She made it a point to highlight the important, key points of each lecture, was clear and concise, and has always been super helpful outside of class. She was absolutely great for this semester.

This is the core class of this semester. Unlike semester 1, A&E2 is the class you will probably stress out the most for. Why? It's the most credits, but it is also a huge jump in terms of "thinking like a nurse" from the first semester.
Tests are much more priority-based -- ie, "What would you do FIRST?" These types of questions get you into the style of NCLEX and for some people this type of jump can be a bit jarring, and the class averages sometimes reflected that.

If teasing out priorities, first actions, and first implementations is not your strong point (which it isn't for most people!), I highly recommend purchasing or tracking down a copy of the MedSurg Success book. This book was my LIFELINE to get used to the types of questions that are asked on these exams. These exams aren't about memorization -- they are about taking what you learned in class and applying it to different situations (unlike patho, which is just regurgitation of material).

For me, what made me succeed in this class was the following:
1. Before each exam (I would attempt to do this at the end of each week), I typed up ALL of my notes into ONE document. Everything -- I would take handwritten notes on the powerpoints, and then I typed everything up.
2. From my typed up notes, I made study questions to help me learn the material (ie: "What are the symptoms of left sided vs right sided heart failure?). These questions helped me learn the content of the material.
3. After I felt comfortable with the material, I did a ton of practice questions. First, I did practice questions from the MedSurg Success book -- the beauty of this book is that it is divided up into chapters that closely follow the material we learn in class (ie there are specific sections for Endocrine disorders, diabetes, head injury, etc). I did every practice question that pertained to the topic in class.
4. Once I did the MedSurg questions I went on to the evolve website for our textbook. Make sure your professor tells you how to access the practice questions on the Evolve website! These questions were a LIFESAVER -- at first, they may give you a panic attack because 90% of them are way harder than what will appear on the exam. But they are GREAT practice becase once you do those questions, any questions you encounter on the exam will most likely be easier.
5. If i had time, I did some questions from Saunders (optional book on the syllabus). I don't like Saunders as much because there are very few questions that pertain specifically to the topics we cover in class, but it's great for content review and to get some extra practice with questions.

Again, this isn't a "one size fits all" recipe for success -- this is just what worked for me in this class, and I continued this format for the rest of the semesters in both A&E3 and Leadership.

A note on A&E Sim: it's only 3 hours!!! Rejoice! Pre-sims are a bitch and a half and they will be for the rest of the program. No way to skate around those -- they're just long and tedious!

This class is about as straightforward as it gets. The study guides outline exactly what you need to know on exams -- not like A&E or patho or any other class. It's a gift!!!

Van Cleave and Fidel split teach the class -- so no matter what section you're in, you'll have both of them. van Cleave can be a bit dry, but Fidel is hilarious. fun suggestion: keep a list of "Fidel-isms" to look back on at the end of the semester, it's worth it. Nothing much else to say for this class -- it's jus pure memorization.

Dr. Standard and Weidel both teach this class because there is only one section. I loved them both. I really like psych so maybe that's why I liked the class, but it was relatively straightforward.
I had it first half of the semester, and apparently after my section they changed the study guides to make them harder (more like A&E) because people were doing so well (they were pretty detailed like Pharm).  But it was a great class, and I really enjoyed it.

Psych clinical: The majority of you will not be in inpatient psych; they don't allow it. I had a great instructor, named Patrick, and I was in a facility in Brooklyn. A lot of psych clinical is talking -- you do a lot of interaction with clients and patients. Most of these clients are very stable because the majority of these are in outpatient settings. There is a lot of practice with therapeutic communication, even leading therapy groups. Psych is my strong point, so I enjoyed this, but it is not for everyone.

Psych sim: I had Weidel for psych sim AND OH MY GOD HE WAS THE BEST EVER. I never had so much fun in simulation before. He is absolutely hysterical and would intentionally try to make us crack up during simulation. It was the best sim ever, and it made coming to class on a Friday morning at 8am a little more bearable. So if you have him, enjoy it!

Ok. This class. This is the class that everyone kind of forgets about. I took the online version, which I liked because I was able to take breaks during the lectures etc. The lectures are VERY hard to get through because the material is very dry. DO NOT save the online lectures until the last minute, it will screw you for the midterm

The midterm is legit impossible. You get a cheat sheet, but it is SO HARD. I walked out of that midterm feeling like I had failed. Legit. It was my lowest test score at NYU I think, if I remember correctly. It's really, really hard. And there's no way to really study well for it except to listen to all the lectures and try to understand the material, but the questions are not straightforward. Just be prepared. 

PICOT: don't save it until the last minute. Unfortunately, some of the poster grades are really dependent on the advisor you get. My group unfortunately did not have a great advisor for our poster and we got one of the lowest grades in the class. Make sure you stay on top of your poster, that you please your advisor, that it looks pretty and don't save it to the last minute. This is the class to just get through this semester.

Well, that's about. If anyone has any questions, feel free to find me through instagram! rizzo02481 and I'd be happy to answer more questions! 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Reporting your sexual assault: Is it Worth it?

It's been a long time since I've written a post about the causes near and dear to my heart; a lot has gone on, and I can't speak about most of it, but I wanted to write about this one part, in the hopes that it'll help someone else some day (and now I can finally write about it).

My goals for this post is NOT to rehash my story and continue to live as a victim. Rather, this post will be divided into 3 parts:
1. My experience of the legal system: this will ONLY include the legal process I went through THIS YEAR and speak to a "normal" process (NOT what happened in 2013, as that was anything but normal). Nor will it detail my actual sexual assault or what happened. This is to just shed light on the process itself.
2. What you need to know: This will speak to how I survived this hellish year and what helped me get through, and to give insight to anyone who is considering this process. And answering the biggest question -- is it worth it?
3. How YOU can help someone who's going through this process: my suggestions for someone who is supporting someone else -- whether it's a daughter, significant other, mentor or friend.

I've divided into these three sections so if one section speaks to you more than the other -- i.e., you don't want to hear me ramble about my own experiences :) -- you can skip around. I hope it speaks to you in some way.

So … where to begin?

My experience with the reporting Process


Like I said previously, most of the people who have found my blog know what happened in 2013 -- my assault, my horrific reporting process, and the inexcusable actions of the police, and the SVU fandom. My case had officially closed in 2013, and although that entire year was one probably the hardest and most horrific year of my entire life, I had accepted the closing of the case and had begun to move on.

When I started at NYU last fall, a part from an ongoing IAB investigation, I believed that this chapter in my life was officially closed, and there was no reason for me NOT to think that.

Through a series of (unfortunate) events, in January 2015 my life was completely turned upside when my NYPD experience was aired/written about/published across a multitude of NY news outlets. During that time, the wound that was healing was ripped completely open, with no control on my end, and my sense of calmness and composure -- an a lot of my healing -- was completely undone. I saw some of the worst of humanity that week -- if you're curious, google "NYPD rape victim" in the news section, pick a few articles, and read the comments.

I went back to NYU for spring semester, trying to hold myself together, but in reality was in a million tiny pieces. I completely crumbled.

Through a series of FORTUNATE events,  I was led to an incredible social worker in February who helped me in the midst of media chaos and trying to keep my head afloat in school (hey, nursing school is HARD - really hard! Even without all this trauma!). I was dealing with such a flare up of triggers and trauma, my life was really turned upside for a period of a few weeks. she helped me sort through everything and make a list of priorities of things we were going to tackle in the time that I saw her.

One of those pressing matters was finding out what happened in 2013 when my case was closed, and why I never got any answers as to why they closed it, just so I could get that sense of closure I never had.

Again, through a series of synchronicities and "coincidences," I got a chance at something not many survivors get -- a second chance at justice.

The NYPD decided to reopen my case and pursue it from scratch.

The process itself

To sum it up, one of the commissioners hand picked a detective out of all 5 boroughs to re-examine my case (NOT related to Manhattan SVU -- yes all 5 boroughs have their own SVU teams!).

A few people close to me were almost angry when I decided to pursue this. "Why are you doing this to yourself again?"

My answer was simple: "Because I'm getting another chance at justice, which is something few survivors get."

The day was June 8th: D-day. Okay, maybe not D Day. But that was the day that the new detective and her Sgt. were going to meet me -- at NYU -- and go through the interview process. Again.

I knew this time around was going to be different. My social worker/advocate (call her CJ) changed her day around so that she could be with me the entire time. I was going to have her sitting on one side of me, and one of the public safety officers on the other side of me. A safety-net sandwich.

The thing is, there is never a right time to do this stuff. Any of it. The day I chose for the interview worked for my advocate's schedule, but I had an exam in school the next day. In my head, I knew that it could be no worse than the first time around in 2013, in terms of both the normal process and then the crappy stuff that happened.

Our meeting time was set for 2pm. I told CJ that the original interview had taken 3 hours; she was convinced that this one would take only about 2, so she had another appointment set for 4pm. I said ok.

Now, after a few years of meditating and practicing mind/body things, I was able to control my anxiety and nerves up until that Monday. I gave myself that Monday to feel the stress and anxiety, a normal part of the process.

I arrived at NYU public safety with CJ and we met in the public safety office. If you had taken my blood pressure, it probably would;ve been sky high -- the stress was FOR REAL. But, to be expected.

I had never met these detectives before, and, although they assured me they were in no way, shape or form connected to the Manhattan SVU, I did not trust the NYPD. One bit.

When they arrived, I was taken aback at the fact that the Sgt. -- an intimidating MAN -- was the one who did all the talking (not the female detective who had called me). As we walked into the interview room together, he said that my advocate and the public safety officer were not allowed in there.

Oh hell no.

CJ, who's shorter than me, packs a lot of feistiness in her tiny frame. There was no way in hell she was going to let me go through this interview alone. And, because it was NYU property, they had to have public safety there. The detectives were not happy, but they eventually gave in.

We went in and sat down, my "safety net sandwich" on either side of me.

Although my trauma history constantly reared its ugly head whenever I had to be in the presence of the NYPD, I had gained some confidence in myself. CJ had told me to be brutally honest with the detectives -- and that's exactly what I said as soon as I sat down:

"I do NOT trust you guys or anyone on the NYPD after what happened to me."

Exactly what I said, brutally honest. Because I absolutely didn't.

After I got that off my chest, we started.

Honestly, I have blocked the majority of the rest of the day out. Even sitting here, almost 6 months later, my stomach is churning when I think about that day.

I went into it thinking it couldn't be any worse than the interview in 2013.

I was dead. Freaking. Wrong.

The next 6 hours -- read: six hours -- were some of the hardest, most excruciatingly painful hours I have ever had to sit through.

The interview started out with the Sgt explaining they had everything from the first time around, but they wanted to approach everything from scratch. Not only that, but the first interview had taken 3 hours -- still a long time -- but Det. S had condensed into a single page. A single page. Which nowhere NEAR captured anything accurately (so I later found out).

They again wanted to go through the entire story -- from when I first met the guy through the night that it happened (which was a 2.5 year process).

OK, I thought, I'll just tell my story and that's it.


Every word that came out of my mouth was picked a part.

Every. Single. Word.

One sentence out of my mouth, and it was "wait, stop explain that in more detail." All from the male detective.

And the worst was that every time I said something, it was refuted "as if it were the defense attorney."

Every single word out of my mouth was met with a victim-blaming, "well maybe this is your fault" sentence. Every. Single. Thing.

I had a friendship with him? Oh, ok, so maybe he was confused and he thought I wanted it.
Maybe you didn't really say no.
Maybe you sent mixed signals to him.
Maybe another person in the same situation would've thought you wanted it.
You probably did want it.
"What do you mean your body responded? Explain that to me." -- that was probably the worst most humiliating part. (And it doesn't matter how many professionals tell me that the body is made to have a sexual response, and that happens in trauma -- it didn't matter to them, and they tore that to shreds."
And, one of my favorites: "If he had turned around and said that he loved you, would we even be here right now?" => insinuating I was just a jealous lover who got rejected. What the actual f*ck. I remember completely shutting down after that, dissociating, my strength and confidence shrinking.

Every part of my story was met with an attitude of how and why it could've been my fault, how I could've done things differently, how it was a weak case, how maybe another person in his position would've been confused as well …

I had not examined my story in a long time, and I had never felt ok with what happened and still found some way to blame myself. But after the first 2 hours of this interview, that self-blame, shame, and humiliation was brought to an entirely new level.

I could not once -- not once -- make eye contact with the detectives, but hung my head the entire time, wanting to just disappear.

At 4pm, we had to stop for a break because CJ had her appointment. We weren't even halfway through what happened to me.

I had a few tears in the room with CJ and the public safety officer before she had to go. CJ had to go, and there was no way in HELL i was going to hang out with the SVU guys.

So i left and took a walk for about an hour.

At 5, it was time to reconvene. And there was no way to prepare myself this time.

I walked in, feeling like I was about 2 inches tall. I couldn't tell you where we began, what I said, or what they said to me. I just remember being torn apart.

And then something I never ever prepared myself for -- they made me re-listen to the controlled phone call I did in October 2013.

That, by itself, was the most painful thing I did in this entire process.

The controlled call brought me right back to that moment in 2013, the moment that HE got back into my head, that I questioned the validity of my own experience, and the moment where the original investigation fell apart, as I knew that he had not given them anything. Not a single word to illustrate his guilt.

The current SVU detectives wanted me to re-listen to it and explain things that were said in the call. I sat through it as best as I could, answering their questions, but my soul shattered all over again, as I heard HIS voice, his slick, smooth way of manipulation and I was literally transported back to that day in October 2013, in the dark, cold room at the SVU precinct in Manhattan. It was 60min of mental torture and anguish, something I never thought I'd have to re-live again.

When it ended, the strength and togetherness I had been putting out crumbled. I said I needed a minute.

I ran outside straight into the bathroom, and crumbled.

CJ ran after me and I just slumped against the wall, crying that strong, ugly cry, as all those feelings i hadn't felt in almost 2 years boiled back up to the surface.

I have no idea what was exchanged or said when I was in there, but I knew I felt like I had been shattered. CJ must've said something to help piece me back together, because we eventually made our way back into the interview room.

If I felt like I was 2 inches tall last time, I felt about the size of a centimeter. I sat there and hung my head, unable to glance up, as the humiliation and shame permeated every fiber of my being. I just wanted to disappear, more than ever.

Finally -- 6 hours later, 8PM -- we were done.

Between the controlled call and the moment we left, and even getting home is a complete blur. i don't remember a single thing. I know CJ must've stayed with me for a few minutes. I know she stayed long past her 5pm work day and I know she wanted me to email her when I got home. But i remember nothing, completely dissociated from myself and the trauma they had made me re-live.

and, even better, I had my exam the next day.

I had no room to relax, recover, or process anything that went on. I was in school Monday through Thursday, working Friday and Saturday, and doing schoolwork all day on Sunday. There was literally no leeway. I took my test, and got a low score for me (an 88%), on hardly any sleep, crying half the time, but I refused to be treated differently because of what was going on.

The interview brought to the surface my trauma in a way I hadn't thought about it in a very long time.

I was somehow to keep pushing on with school, maintaing my grades, holding my head above water and shelving the pain of re-living that experience. Granted, it was the only way I could survive. I never talked about the interview again, except for a brief few minutes with CJ, because there was literally no time to deal with anything.

A few weeks later, I had something happen in one of my clinicals that brought all the trauma to the surface. This is the reality in going through this process -- that trauma sits right below your skin, no matter how hard you try to push it away. Granted, I am a happy person, I love my life and I loved my job at this time! But i was very easily triggered, because underneath the surface of my life that trauma was waiting at the surface, because I knew I had to drag it up at any moment the NYPD called me.

So with what happened at clinical, I was affected for about a day. Of course, when this incident happened, I had another exam the next day. I won't go into what happened, but the way my professor handled the situation was one of the worst victim-blaming mentalities I had ever experienced. Sitting in her office as I had to tell her what happened, I was transported right back to the NYPD interview, and all of those feelings came rushing back. Again, I held myself together. But as soon as I left the room, I shattered, again -- right in the middle of the hallway. Humiliation, yes. Luckily for me, on that particular day, another professor of mine saw me (I could not hide, literally -- so embarrassing). I guess it was a situation of "right place, right time" because at that moment I probably would've talked to a dog if they had expressed interest in listening to me. But this professor did, opened their office to me as a place to vent, and, from that day forward, has been, throughout this entire process, my "safe place" while dealing with this stressful process. and I am forever grateful for that.

Now, for the past few months, I've been dealing with aspects of the trauma that have popped up in some way, shape or form (there is more going on behind the scenes than written here, but more on that another time).

The last week of October, I was about to head back to Seattle for a workshop with Dr. Joe Dispenza -- a weekend filled with meditation and healing. I couldn't wait, as the year that I had warranted a weekend, perhaps more than any other time this year.

A few days before I was scheduled to leave, I got a phone call from the NYPD saying they wanted to talk to me.

Now, any time I even here mention of the NYPD, my anxiety skyrockets. It's the one aspect of the old PTSD that I still have to work on. I avoided calling her until I was in a safe space to do so (NOTE: will discuss this more later, but having any semblance of control in this process is mandatory for surviving it and I refused to cater to their needs).

I was gearing up for them saying they were ready to close my case. But instead, when I called, surrounded by love and support, I was shocked when she said that they were ready to move to the next step and they wanted me to speak with the DA. They were going to talk to the perp, but they wanted me to meet with the DA first.

I thought that this meant something positive and that it would perhaps continue past my meeting with the DA.

I couldn't meet with her before I left for my trip, so I was scheduled to meet the week after I got back.

The trip was one of the most healing experiences I've had the pleasure of participating in, and I came back so centered and level-headed, prepared for anything.

My professor and CJ were both unavailable the day I had to go to the DA, and I was terrified. But I knew they were there in spirit, and I knew that i had their love and support even if they couldn't be there with me in person. And thankfully, one of my kickass coworkers came with me, never leaving my side.

And this is where I seriously messed up.

Going into this meeting, I thought that I was untouchable. I was so zen, for lack of a better word, I thought that I could have anything thrown at me and it wouldn't shake my foundation I had built over the weekend. I was on such a life high from my workshop, I felt like nothing could drag me back down to the earth, even this trauma. Hell, I had even not done all my homework thinking that this meeting with the DA would be such a breeze that I could finish everything afterwards.

I could NOT have been more wrong.

I had not seen the detectives since our meeting in June. Similar to the initial meeting, I would not let myself feel anxious until a few hours before the meeting. Then I let it go -- or it came up without me having control over it, I can't decide which.

My coworker met me at Starbucks, and the detectives picked us up. I told them at that moment she was coming -- one thing I wasn't going to take was them telling me no, so I didn't even give them the option to tell me she couldn't come.

I got into the car and was immediately sent into full blown panic. Im not sure if it was being in a car with NYPD officers (the last time was 2013 and we all know how that went) or if it was the meeting coming up, or a combination of both, but my body took over. It was the worst anxiety I'd felt in a very, very long time, probably more so than the actual meeting with the NYPD. or, it felt worse, because of how zen I had been for the past week and a half.

As we pulled up to the courthouse, I thought i was going to throw up. My heart rate was probably around 180, no joke. It was enormously intimidating, getting out of the car, going through metal detectors and walking up to the Special Victims Bureau. Like, is this really happening? It felt like I was observing someone else's life. A bad, bad SVU episode. UGh.

There was no hope in centering myself at that point, my PTSD was so bad. I knew that no matter what happened I was going to be ok, but in that moment I had to accept the fact that I felt absolutely horrible. And that I was completely terrified of what was going to happen.

I still could not look the detectives in the eyes, as I remembered back to our June interview. The female detective tried to give me encouragement and said that she could tell I was stronger now than I was before. Whether she was being nice or noticed the change in me since my workshop, I'm not sure, but I tried to remind myself of everything that i had learned at this workshop this last weekend and how much healing I had done.

I tried  to hold that as I was called back into the DA's office, but it probably lasted about 2 minutes before it completely disintegrated, yet again.

The DA started by saying that she had "known" me since 2013, when my case had originally been presented to her by the other detectives. OK, I thought, this won't be too bad because she already knows everything.

Well, yet again, I was wayyyyy wrong.

Instead, she wanted me to go over every detail of that night. Again. Every. Single. Detail.

Although the meeting with the NYPD in June had been longer and worst over all, what she picked apart of my story left me feeling as bad as i did in June. And she was held up on ONE detail of my story -- "my body responded."

As if having a sexual response during an assault is bad enough, she wanted me to explain in every detail what that meant. Like, play by play. And, it was as if that that meant my experience was less valid, and that it was less likely to be a crime.
And for the record, sexual arousal rape is a common finding. Read this article for a better understanding (and I'll probably have to go re-read that after finishing this).
But according to being able to prosecute sexual assault, the fact my body had a response in this situation made it less valid and less prosecutable.
She read the definition of what rape is under the law. She blatantly said I wasn't 2 out of the 3 definitions and that it would have to be rape 3 -- that I had said a verbal no and that a person in a reasonable mental state would understand my "no" as meaning no.
But, because I had this "response," apparently my no and my wanting him to stop made it less valid, and more "confusing" - -as in, maybe another person in his situation would have been confused about what I wanted. And that I had sent mixed signals (no, I'm not crying as I write this).
So, apparently me pushing his hands away and saying no and saying "I have to leave my clothes on" and "I can't have sex with you" are confusing terms. Okay.

After that, I completely shut down. Again.

But it got worse.

At that point, 1 hour in, she called the detectives in.

At the time she originally got my case presented to her in 2013, all they had was the controlled call. But, I had another piece of audio that was recorded that they had not known about. The detectives had that audio. She gave me the option to listen to it right there and have her ask me questions, or she'd listen to it on her own and she'd call me with questions. I chose to the former, to get all of it done in one setting. I couldn't handle another night of something like this.

It was another hour of pure hell, similar to the controlled call. 2 years later, he re-entered my head. 2 years later, I started questioning myself. Again. I did, however, notice the strength in my voice at the time of this recording and I tried my best to hold on to that. I was angry, and you could hear it. I knew my truth, and you could hear it. I held on to that as best I could.

But i completely checked out. It seemed like the Sgt was getting pissed at me, because all I could do was text my friend and my professor because I couldn't deal with what I was feeling. I had never, ever felt so completely dissociated before.

I stared straight down; I couldn't bear to look at anyone in the eye. I had actually texted a friend of mine, "I feel like I'm 2 in tall right now."
"No, you ARE NOT. You are a WARRIOR," she responded. But i sure didn't feel like it in that moment.

At the end, I had 3 people staring at me. The DA sat opposite me at the round table, and the detectives sat on either side of her, looking at me. She said what I feared:
"Looking at all of this, and the fact you said (insert comment about sexual arousal during assault) I think it's best we close the case."

Inside, I crumbled. On the outside, I maintained my poker face, refusing to show any emotion, although I didn't know how much longer I could hold it in. I was completely humiliated, her words about the arousal part -- the one aspect I could never fully come to terms with -- echoing in my head.

I stared straight down, glassy eyed as the DA muttered words to me about "not prosecutable" the defense would "tear you apart, even a bad defense attorney." Stop. Just stop.

The detectives spoke and said they wanted me to know they tried really hard. They gave me some details and insight into how the investigation had gone.

I just remained silent, looking at my hands.

"Do you have anything you want to say?" the detective asked me.
"Nope," I said immediately.
"How do you feel about everything?" she probed again.
"I'm not feeling anything," I said automatically. Lies.
"Are you sure?"
I refused to break down in front of them.

Somewhere in there, the female detective and the DA both said, "Just because a case isn't prosecutable, doesn't mean it didn't happen." Sorry, but those words did not help at that point. At all. You were sexually aroused...

Somehow in the mix, it was decided that we were done there, and the DA handed me her card. I was on autopilot. I don't remember what I said. I just stared, pushing everything down. And I fantastically had clinical the next day, so somehow had to deal with all of this and be able to function for 8 hours tomorrow.

Reminiscent of June 8, I walked out into the waiting room where my friend was waiting for me. I said to the detective, "I need to go to the bathroom." At this point, she knew what that meant so as I walked out she told my friend to go after me.

I walked in and completely lost it. Again, that hugely ugly cry, with all the feelings coming up again. Yet somehow, these feelings felt worse. Perhaps it was because i had been completely unprepared for the emotional toll this was going to take. Or perhaps it was because the DA had focused on the ONE part of my sexual assault I had never been able to forgive myself for. Whatever the reason, it came up. and it came up harder than I had ever thought it would, considering how Zen I had been the week leading up to this.

I have no idea how long we were in there. I pulled myself together the best I could, but mentally I was checked out. For anyone who has dissociated before, you will know what i mean when I say I "wasn't there." But I wasn't. I was completely somewhere else.

We walked back out into the waiting room. Thank god for my friend, or else I probably wouldn't have gotten back home, or I would've left all my stuff in the DA's office.

But that was it.

After I left, the detectives were going to talk to their chief, to see if they could still speak to HIM. Later I would find out that they wanted to do what the DA said -- do not speak to him.

almost exactly 2 years to the DAY -- off by a DAY -- my case had closed. Again. No justice at all.

Needless to say, that night completely threw me off my mojo for 2 weeks straight. I'm still recovering, today. And thank God for the incredible people in my life who helped get me through the day after this interview. Somehow, the day after the DA was worse than the day after the NYPD interview. I am eternally grateful for the people who helped me get through and sort through these messy feelings.

About a week later, the female detective called me again just to fill me in on more details, after I had composed myself. For the first time, I tried to listen to her and not let my distrust of the NYPD get the best of me. I heard her when she said, "We really tried." I told her I knew they did and thanked them for trying.
She ended with "If you ever need anything or anyone to talk to, you can call me. Don't lose my number."

And that was it.

That night after the DA, after we all walked out, at some point, still in a daze, I asked the female detective, "What's the point?"
She started to answer something, but I continued, "No. I mean what's the point of reporting? If this case was doomed from the start, what's even the point of going through this process?"

"Because you stood up for what was right. And you will know that you did everything you possibly could."

What you need to know about reporting:
The one thing that I kept being reminded by the people who understood this journey was this: At least you know the process was done right this time. This is true; compared to the first time around, this was done by the books, and there wasn't much else they could do.

After the meeting with the DA, I couldn't deal with my emotions for about a week straight. I kept thinking to myself, "what was the point in going through this?" The pain, the suffering, the anguish of what they had all put me through -- which amounted to NOTHING -- was pointless. At least, that's what I thought at that moment. And part of me still does.

As I have a little more distance, despite this being so difficult to write about, if you -- or anyone else -- is considering reporting your sexual assault to the police, here are some things I learned:

  1. It is very unlikely you will get justice. At least, justice in the legal sense, which is usually what we think about. This is the brutally honest truth. Unless you were raped and they beat you, you had a rape kit done immediately, you were attacked by the prototypical "rape" scenario (i.e. stranger in a dark alley), or you were abused as a child -- you will most likely not ever see a courtroom. And this sucks. The way our justice system is built is innocent until proven guilty. These crimes, a lot of the time, leave no physical marks -- only emotional ones. And sadly, the emotional ones are not enough to prosecute this crime. When a robbery occurs, something physical is taken from you -- that is easy to prove. With sexual assault, the most important aspect of yourself is stolen from you -- your dignity. But that is not something that is physical, and sadly the majority of people get away with it. Going into this process I did not have much hope - when we met with the DA my hope was regained, and I thought maybe something WOULD come of it. But I was let down. If you report, just know that this is a very, very likely scenario.
  2. It will be the hardest thing you ever do in your life. BUT: you survived the sexual assault, so you WILL survive this process. Nursing school is hard. Working at an animal shelter seeing kittens die is hard. Losing someone to suicide is hard. But nothing I have ever been through in my life has ever compared to what this process did to me (except for maybe my battle with chronic pain). I hate to use this as a reference, but a quote in SVU was once said: "You survived the abuse. You're going to survive the recovery." Honestly, this is true. If you survived your sexual assault an the aftermath -- you can survive anything. Anything. This process, the reporting process, will shred every bit of dignity, self-confidence, and faith in yourself than you ever had. It did for me, more than the assault itself. I felt almost as bad during this process as I did during the sexual assault itself and the immediate aftermath. Be prepared for that. But no matter what the police throw at you, no matter what anyone says you will get through it. Because you survived a crime already that destroys you, beats you into the ground, and tears your soul into a thousand tiny pieces, tearing away your dignity and throwing you into a bit of humiliation. But you survived that. So even though the feelings of the reporting process will bring up all of the same feelings during the assault -- and it may feel worse -- you will survive it.
  3. This process will affect every aspect of your life. In 2013, I let this process consume me. I couldn't function, I almost lost my job, and my health was a mess. I refused to let that happen this time around, and I did a good job. However, it did come up in some way, shape and form in my day to day life. And that was hard. I couldn't walk by NYPD without my heart jumping into my throat. When we talked about legal issues, malpractice suits and assault in one of my nursing classes, I had to leave the room for a few minutes. The emotions were always near the surface. But the key is finding the balance between feeling those emotions and triggers and not letting them consume you. That was my job this time around -- find that balance, which was absolutely necessary in school. I had no leeway to let my emotions get the best of me. I took a couple of exams on no sleep, from being up all night with nightmares. But i had to push on. It affected my personal relationships, as some of the people close to me didn't understand why i was going through this process again. But no matter how you feel through this process, know that, as U2 so eloquently puts it, "It's just a moment, this time will pass." It will affect every aspect of your life, but just tell yourself that it will not be forever. This process, instead of letting a wound heal, it continuously rips the scab off. That's just what happens during this process -- it's impossible to completely move on while you have sand being scraped into your wound. But just know that it will heal slowly, as even sandy wounds begin to heal with time.
  4. Have at least one person professional you can turn to. The most important people who helped me through this process all came into my life at different times. CJ came right at the beginning of this process and has stayed until the end. It is vital to have a therapist or an advocate with you throughout this process. I cannot even fathom what this would've been like if I had done this without the support of CJ throughout this past year; I don't think I could've done it, and her role was much more involved than the first time around. Not only that, she worked with NYU to help me in any way she could. This 
  5. Have at least one person who "gets" it. Friendships with survivors can be tricky. In 2013, one of the most painful parts of the year was actually the betrayal of the group of survivor friends I loved and trusted. It closed me off to this community and I didn't trust other survivors for a very long time. This year, I was blessed with a few people who entered my life who shared that they were also survivors. And they were much farther ahead in the healing process. These two women, incredibly strong, inspiring women -- I could just give them a glance or a stare, and they would get it. They knew exactly what to say, when to say it, how to say it and it was always what I needed to hear (even if it wasn't always what I wanted to hear). I've met other women who are at the same point as me in the healing process, which is also vital because you can talk through things together. But having a few people in your life who are over that hump and that trauma is so so so important because they can give you that light at the end of the tunnel. The times that I walked in to their presence and just burst into tears and they held my hand, gave me a hug, or told me i was going to get through this meant the world to me during the times of crisis -- they just "get it."
  6. Find comfort and support in few, but confide in the ones you know you can trust. I have made this mistake far too many times -- confiding in people I thought were trustworthy, but ended up not being trustworthy. Or only being supportive for a very short amount of time when it was convenient, and not out of true caring. While in nursing school, I ran into this problem extensively. As one person put it: "The people who come into this program are very weird." Ha! But really -- everyone is so self-centered and focused on their studies -- which they should be -- there is not much leeway for anything else, especially being a friend to someone going through something so traumatic. I found friends I thought I could trust -- but it turns out they weren't the right people. At all. And that was extremely painful, especially because I was in an environment were I felt very alone (away from my boyfriend and my few friends at home that knew what was going on). But when someone is genuine -- and that can be hard to tell when that is -- and they want to listen to you, if they are "safe" in your eyes, trust them. You need someone to talk to, especially someone who can be separated from the trauma. For me, this came in the support of two very wonderful, kind, caring people who entered my life at two very different, but pivotal moments. One, who entered almost 6 months ago, had literally nothing in common with me, and honestly was the last person I ever thought I would ever feel comfortable confiding in. But it was  a time where I was at one of my lowest points in this process. Shortly after, I found myself telling my entire story -- THREE hours -- to this person. It was the first time anyone not-professional just sat and listened. To everything. And throughout my conversations, I have grown tremendously, in ways I didn't think I would. I am truly, truly moved and beyond grateful, and have felt supported in a way I never thought I would in this environment, and that has been absolutely vital to my healing. These people are few and far between -- but when they come into your life, and you feel like you can trust them, do so. It takes a leap of faith -- after I verbalized my story, for about a week, I was completely terrified that I had said too much and that I scared this person off (my story is long and it's a lot to process). This was due to old trauma from trusting the wrong people. But when these people do stay around and they show you they are reliable and that they truly do care -- this allows you to heal even more and to begin to trust people again. And that is such a beautiful thing, and has been the greatest gift in this process for me.
  7. Have healthy coping mechanisms. Most of us who have gone through trauma develop unhealthy coping mechanisms at some point. This is part of the process. For me, I had outgrown most of those -- but at my worst times, I resorted to some unhealthy ones, again. Do not beat yourself up. I did, so much, and it made me feel horrible about myself. But what CJ and others have said -- they were used to help me survive. And it's not great. But it's ok. Because I'm still here. You're still here. But on that note -- it is necessary to have a bag of healthy coping mechanisms to draw from. For me, my meditation practice, yoga, my kittens, and being in nature are the things that have saved me the most. Talking with people who will listen, too. Listening to music, coloring, anything that gets you out of your head for a few minutes. But without my meditation practice, I would NOT be where I am today. One of my mentors once told me, "A lot of people, if they went through what you've gone through, probably wouldn't be here today." I've held that for a long time, and try to remind myself that. But it is because of my grounding work in meditation I have been able to stay in school while dealing with this trauma, and get good grades.
  8. Don't push your emotions down. I definitely learned this the hard way. Granted, I HAD to do that for the majority of my time at NYU because i literally had no time to process anything. There is a fine line between pushing your emotions down and living in victimhood -- but you must feel those emotions in order for them to move through your system and out of your body. If not, they get trapped in your body and manifest in other ways -- physical pain, illness, anxiety, PTSD. It is all emotion trapped in the body. Learning to feel the emotions in the present and deal with the feelings as soon as possible will ultimately help you heal in the long run. But having the necessary support around you is important too -- for me, I needed to make sure I was in a safe space to deal with a lot the things that came up. I didn't want to deal with any of this in my room at home, because that was just that -- my room to sleep, and do homework. I couldn't have any memories of trauma there. So for me, dealing with them in the appropriate place -- in CJ's office, my professor's office, at work with my kittens -- was what i needed. So finding what's right for you is important in dealing and working through the emotions that come up. If you don't work through them, they will come up -- and it will usually be when you don't expect it (which has happened to me too many times, usually in the form of a meltdown in the middle of class -- super embarrassing, yes).
  9. Be honest with your work, school etc, but not overly honest. One of my biggest challenges was deciding what to tell people during this process. Because it was affecting every aspect of my life, I had to admit myself that I needed to let someone at school know. This was in the form of CJ. I had to come to terms with the fact that that did not make me weak (still trying to tell myself that). But I also had to make the decision on whether or not I needed my professors to know, because I had know idea whether it was going to affect my schoolwork or not. and the last thing on this planet I wanted was to get bad grades because of this -- I refused. Second semester, when the height of the media fiasco was going on, I needed to be honest with some of my professors, especially because my PTSD was so bad and so unpredictable. How much you want to say is up to you, but I gave a very brief overview of the scenario. My third semester, when the case opened up again, I once again had to evaluate what to say. This is difficult and proved to be a bad choice for me this semester; I said too much to the wrong person and it was used against me. However, the majority of my experiences being honest has proved to be beneficial. At school this is again a fine line to walk -- for me, I wanted to be honest because I am a straight A student, and no matter what happened I was determined to keep that. So having some of them know a little bit of the background -- if something should happen and I have to miss an exam or something -- was necessary for me to feel comfortable with starting the semester. So walking that fine line of honesty and judging who you can tell something to was difficult to discern, but also important.
  10. Love yourself. By far the hardest part of this entire process, one that I am still completely 100% bad at, but working on every day. Love yourself through this process. Forgive yourself. You are not at fault for what happened to you. I don't even believe this for myself yet, but it's something I have to work on, constantly. My chiropractor has always said, "Love yourself enough to do this." This process is so horrible and heart wrenching; but remember that you're doing this for YOU. To give yourself a chance to get justice, even if it doesn't happen. For standing up for what's right and for not letting the perp win. And even though I'm not there yet, finishing the process can be worth it in itself. because, like the detective said, you stood up for what was right and did everything possible in your power to demonstrate that. 
  11. Forgive. Forgiveness = letting go. Forgiveness isn't being ok with what happened -- but it's letting go of what happened so you can move on. The hatred and anger -- at the perp or yourself -- holds you back from living to your full potential. This is something I struggle with, constantly. But those negative emotions suck the energy from you and keep you stuck. Forgive yourself, even if it's just baby things, each and every day. Love yourself through this process, because you're amazing for even just deciding to go through it.
How to Support Someone Going through this Process
For anyone who has a survivor in their life that they want to support, or for someone who has a survivor come to them.
  1. Everyone copes differently. Trauma can bring out some of the strangest behaviors in people. Trauma also induces a multitude of coping mechanisms -- eating disorders, cutting, etc. Some people cope that way. They are not weak. It's just what they need to do to survive. Some cope by being public. There's a lovely lady on instagram named "AmberTheActivist" who has not only coped 100% publicly, but has created an activism and awareness campaign through the process. Some people don't want to talk about it at all. and that's okay too. Everyone deals differently. For me, writing and talking to a few select few has gotten me through. Writing like this is incredibly therapeutic; it's easier to be honest with an anonymous audience than one-on-one, for some reason. And those that I do talk to know it all. So for me, having those few people, writing, and speaking out (not hiding it) are what have helped me process this.
  2. Offer support. There is a good chance that this person -- like me -- is struggling silently. Fighting a silent battle that they think no one understands, in an unforgiving, unwelcoming environment (my life the past year). If you feel capable and able -- offer your support. Even if they don't take it, just knowing someone cares can make all the difference.
  3. Listen. Chances are, when you offer your support, genuine, unbiased support, it will be one of the first times the survivor has encountered that in this process (this was my experience). The first time in this process this year that that type of person offered their ear, a nonjudgmental, unbiased ear, i was terrified, but so grateful. Since then, this person has been there for me, without hesitation, listening to any and all aspects of my story throughout this process. Just out of kindness and caring. "The greatest gift you can give someone is your attention" -- my favorite quote from Dr. Joe Dispenza. Chances are, that if this survivor opens up to you, it took an enormous amount of courage, strength, and a leap of faith to do so. And they are probably terrified. So listen. Encourage them that you're not going there. Remind them that you don't judge them. Remind them that they're strong. And, if you do care -- always remind them that you care. Because that is the greatest gift of all in this process -- having some there, just because they care about you and your survival through this process.
  4. Do your best to now withdraw your support. These issues can be tough to handle. Know your limits when talking with survivors. I have had friends in the past that I've opened up to -- best friends -- who were not healthy themselves. Their mental instability -- from past trauma -- caused a crumbling and disintegration of friendship; these were women I considered my best friends. Know your own limits when talking with someone in this situation, but also do your best to truly be there for that person, if you said you would -- chances are, they are counting on you now, in some way shape or form. And it's a difficult journey, to share a story that is so humiliating, so shameful -- you leave a piece of yourself with that person. Something so personal, so difficult -- to share that with another person is an incredible journey in itself. So do your best to be there for that person, even if it is only in specific ways.
  5. Therapeutic touch. I sound like such a nurse writing this! But seriously -- touch can be so healing. But it depends on the survivor. Touch, especially hugs, increase oxytocin, which a natural stress-reducer. In fact, a 20s hug can release enough oxytocin to reduce the harmful effects of stress, and can even lower your blood pressure and heart rate. Boom! Give more hugs. It's always important to ask permission from the survivor if you can give a hug, or let the survivor ask for one, because some people do not like to be touched. I'm the opposite -- I love hugs! So if someone, like me, loves hugs -- use them. Comfort the survivor. A hug can be an enormously powerful comforting tool, releasing that oxytocin and calming that stress response. Give that 20-second hug if you feel ok, and if the survivor feels ok as well. Read them, ask them, but most importantly, comfort them -- and if physical touch is ok, use that, because it can be amazingly healing.

This process for me has been one that I will never ever forget. I have seen the worst of humanity in many parts of this process, the worst of the way society handles sexual assault cases -- but I have also seen some of the best of humanity. I've met some of the most incredible, kindest, most selfless people I have ever met. Some of the most inspiring sexual assault advocates, survivors, and non-survivor allies I have EVER come across. People who, just out of the kindness of their hearts, were there for me. Support came from the most unexpected places. And I'm going to hold on to that, because that's what matters most in these situations: finding the love and the positive throughout this process. Because there was a lot of horrible that went on. But there was a lot of beauty that came out of this situation -- mostly in the people that i met, came across, and who have forever changed my life for the better.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but facing your fears head on.

Thank you to everyone who's been with me through this journey. And to anyone who is on this journey, starting this journey, or was sexually assaulted and considering what you want to do: you will be OK. I promise. Even if it doesn't feel like it right now, even if you have some days were you feel ok and you can pull yourself together contrasted with days where you just want to curl up and die -- you will be ok. If I can survive it, you can too.

And together we can change society.