my whole heart

i guess this is the post where i do some explaining. and i want to get it over with. sort of.  i’ve listened to brene brown’s talk on being vulnerable about 20 times and read her book, daring greatly, which talks about dealing with shame and vulnerability and i think i’m ready to do this. 
just writing this much my whole body is shaking and my hands feel like they’re going numb and my eyes are getting teary and i kind of feel like i want to puke. this is a hard post to write.
i stopped blogging originally because i was dealing with trauma. i don’t know how else to say it and i didn’t know how to deal with it. and i didn’t want to deal with it. so i spent a long time hiding, vaguely complaining on facebook and twitter, posting depressing things on instagram and frantically avoiding what was really going on. part of me longed for help and comfort and support. but in my mind if i didn’t let it be a big deal then eventually it would go away. no. it was a big deal and i needed help dealing with it and that was hard to admit. in brene’s talk she talks about being “whole-hearted”. that’s what i want. i want my whole heart back.
so this is what happened: i was assaulted. i was raped. i hate that word. it took me almost a full minute to even type it. i hate it. i h a t e it.  it’s such an ugly word. i usually say “assaulted” or “attacked”… those words don’t seem as offensive. but then who am i worried about offending? the animals who hurt me? definitely not. i’m not going into the details. but i will say this: i was walking back to my car late one night when i was grabbed by a stranger. i was put through physical, mental and emotional hell. in a matter of hours my life changed forever. that’s it. that’s all i can write. there’s more to my story but my vulnerability is pretty much maxed out just writing that much. 
i hate that what happened has taken over so much of my life. i haven’t slept through the night in a very long time and usually wake up panicked and afraid. i sleep with the all of the lights on. i have flashbacks and nightmares all the time. i worry that they will never go away. i often wake up in the middle of the night and feel so gross i have to take another shower.  i cry a lot. a lot. i spend a lot of time apologizing to friends and loved ones. i apologize for not being any fun anymore, for being sad, for being scared. when someone touches me it hurts. it’s a real, physical pain. even a pat on the arm makes my heart plunge into my stomach. hugs are hard now. i hate it when people touch me. i wash my hands a lot. i find myself avoiding eye contact with people for fear that if they look at me they’ll be able to see that there’s something wrong with me. i hate that i feel like there’s something wrong with me. sometimes a song will come on the radio and my whole body goes numb with fear and it always takes a minute to figure out why i’m scared. it’s a horrible feeling. or sometimes a smell or a sound or memory forces my brain back to that night and then i feel trapped. it breaks my heart that one of my dearest friends has barely spoken to me since i confided in her. it makes me feel like maybe there really is something wrong with me. when i look at the scars on my body it makes me sick to my stomach. sometimes i’m overwhelmed by a feeling of worthlessness and i wonder constantly if i’ll ever feel like myself again. 
it’s hard to admit all of that and admitting it “out loud” to someone other than my therapist makes me sound crazy. but if i’m going to start blogging again i felt like it would never been an honest blog without admitting some of this – there would always be this huge, gaping missing piece. maybe one day i’ll blog about how i didn’t have to sleep with every single light on and we can have a little blog party. i’d like that. so i guess this post is paving the way for some much happier posts down the road.
one of my biggest fears is that what happened somehow changed how people look at me. i don’t mean that to sound vain. i would hate to think that after reading this someone would look at me as being something… less. less worthy, less whole, less lovable, less… something. i fight those feelings of “less” every day. everyday i think about what i should have done differently, how i could have been more careful… and a million other things. maybe you’re thinking them too. i don’t know. what happened has changed me and i’m not sure i’ll ever be there person i was before. but my desperate hope is that with a lot of courage and faith and patience and the support of my friends i’ll be able to be a version of myself i like again. i don’t want this to define me. and maybe one day i’ll be able to love some of the things i loved before, like traveling and sleeping and photography and blogging and just being able to relax and enjoy the company of friends. 
i feel like my life is divided into two separate sections: “before” and “after”. i miss so many things about the old “me”. but this me is the one that’s here. this me is the one who lived and who has to get up every morning and try to figure out how to go on with life. i’ve spent a lot of time beating this “me” up. i remember shortly afterwards i found a quote from an author i liked and taped it to my mirror. it read: “don’t feel sorry for yourself. only assholes do that.” yikes. that’s pretty awful. i would never say that to a friend who was dealing with trauma so why was it ok to talk to myself like that? but that was my mentality. i’m slowly learning the difference between self pity and self compassion. it’s ok to be kind to yourself. it’s okay to allow yourself time to grieve and to feel sad and to heal. it’s ok not to know how to deal with a difficult situation. it’s ok to have set backs. it’s ok to cut yourself some slack.
i am so grateful for the few people i have been able to confide in, who didn’t run away or make me feel like i had somehow done something wrong, who have cried with me and prayed for me. who have reminded me that no matter how long it takes or how much it hurts right now that this is is only temporary. i know was a lot for them to deal with as well so if i haven’t said it to your face, thank you from the very, very bottom of my heart. my friends and my bishop and the wonderful therapist i’ve found here have been life savers. and harlow. my sweet harlow. i can’t count the mornings that i would not have gotten out of bed at all if she hadn’t stuck her sweet face in mine, her tail wagging, waiting for me to let her go outside, or feed her, or just love her. i think in her eyes i’m still the same. and i’m grateful for that. 
i’m also grateful for my faith. it has been shaken to it’s very core but it’s there. i’ve dealt (and am dealing with) so many things: fear, panic, anxiety, depression, guilt, grief and many other things and i think without my faith i would not have been able to get this far. i believe in a kind and loving heavenly father who loves his children. i believe he loves me. i do not believe he wanted this for me or “gave” me this to help me grow or to learn something. that’s not the heavenly father i know. i don’t believe that every trial we face comes from god. we live in a world where evil is present, one where people make bad or evil choices and because of it sometimes we suffer. i truly believe he’s sorry that this happened and wants to help me heal from this. sometimes when i let myself i can feel his love tapping on my heart reminding me that i’m still me, he still loves me and that i still have a lot of life ahead of me and that it can and will be a good one. i know my savior suffered and died for me, not just for my sins but also for my pain, my sorrows, and my losses. i believe that his atonement is big enough and perfect enough to make everything ok. even the things that aren’t fair. even this. 
that was a long post and it was hard to write but it’s been sort of cathartic… i think. i’m still teary-eyed and a little nauseated but my fingers aren’t numb and i can sort of breathe normally. maybe no one will read this. but i mostly wrote it for me anyway. maybe not hiding anymore will ease some of the shame. i love this quote from macbeth: “give sorrow words: the grief that does not speak whispers to the o’er fraught heart and bids it break.” so thank you for reading this and for allowing me to give my sorrow words. i was going to close the comments but in an effort to take one more small step towards vulnerability i decided not to. 
i’m sure i’ll be back to blogging normal things again too. i want to show you my cute new house, and my new neighborhood and mostly more pictures of harlow. 

28 thoughts on “my whole heart

  1. Oh my dear! You are such a beautiful person, you always have been and you always will be! You are incredibly brave for posting this and giving your sorrow words like you have. I wish there was more I could do or say to help, and I hope posting this has brought you some peace, or will eventually. Even though we only know each other online, know what I will always listen, celebrate what needs to be celebrated, and love every photo of Harlow you post!
    Peace and love and strength to you dear! <3 @Moonsweetie on Twitter

  2. So brave! I don't think anyone could ever think less of you, only more for your strength. I admire your courage in sharing, and more than that your courage in surviving. I hope you continue to be gentle to yourself and keep on the path toward healing. This is beautifully written, thank you for sharing your heart with us.

  3. Vanessa, I am so sorry to hear this, but I have to admit that even though we don't know each other, some of those Facebook updates made me wonder if you were okay… What a horrifying thing to have happened. I'm glad you're seeing a therapist and I hope you will heal and get beyond this. x

  4. thank you. looking back I cringe at those FB statuses – they were pretty obnoxious. I had no idea how to ask for help and I didn't want to admit what had really happened.

  5. I am so sorry that this happened to you. You are so beautiful, lovable, faithful, and sweet. I loved the sentence that you wrote of the difference between self pity and self compassion. I hope you can see how amazing you are, and give yourself a LOT of compassion. So much courage to even write this. You have taught me so much about strength tonight as I have read this. Love you, Steph.

  6. thanks steph. I'm so lucky to have such kind friends, especially in the blogging world. and it's kind of a relief to not “hide” anymore. your kind words mean a lot. love to you too.

  7. I am so very sorry this happened. It is a dreadful thing for any person to have to work through and I wish simply nobody ever did.
    I also admire your strength tremendously. Both for writing this post, but also for the underlying and gentle strength that comes through in every paragraph.
    Thank you for sharing this. I'm sure you have given strength to so many others.

  8. i am SO PROUD of you for writing this, vanessa. this is so huge. do you realize how BRAVE this was?? i really believe in “giving sorrow words.” i think it helps. at least, in my own experience, it has helped. i am so sorry for what happened to you. it's horrible. i've been praying for you ever since you told me. i hope and pray and truly believe that you will feel more like the “old you” again one day. i know you will be healed. and some day, i hope that you feel more joy than you've ever felt before. even as the old you. xoxo

  9. I'm so sorry that this happened, and I so admire you for sharing your experience and for being so strong (Jane is right, that strength underlies every paragraph of this post). Wishing you lots of peace.

  10. So so so brave of you to share this with the world. I hope all of the things the evoke anxiety, fear and discomfort today will spill into the far reaches of your mind; a chapter from another life that doesn't hold you back. You are/will be loved, don't let any act, regardless of how unjust or violating, make you think differently. You will grow from this experience and be stronger for it. Sending you lots of love and strength.

  11. Hey Vanessa, it's Callie. Instagram killed my blog, but I decided to check yours out this morning. I just wanted you to know how amazing I think you are. I truly admire you and think you are an incredible woman, really. You are brave and strong and cool and have great style. Keep being brave and taking “small steps every day.” I struggle with depression and have to tell myself that every day. Sending lots of love your way. xoxo

  12. You are so brave for sharing that! I loved that you did because I too struggle with these feelings from a similar experience. Thank you for helping to put those struggles and feelings into words. I'm pretty horrible at doing that. Having the gospel in my life and knowing that He loves me has made all the difference. Stay strong.

  13. Tonight I decided to find out more about Vanessa Joie because I realized I didn't know that much about you, even though we've been social media friends for a while. I hope that doesn't sound creepy! I was just looking through my twitter friends and going to people's blogs I didn't know as well :) I am humbled by this post and at your courageous sincerity and vulnerability. My heart breaks for your suffering and I am earnestly praying for your healing. I have not been a victim of assault, but I have close family who have been and it is a persistent fear I live with. You did not deserve that trial. I completely agree with you when you spoke about the evil choices of others and how God wants to heal us. Thank you for bearing your testimony, it is inspiring. I'm so glad I found your blog and thereby discovered what a beautiful person you truly are. Thank you for sharing your friendship with me.

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