I don't like having disclaimers on my blog… but I'm putting a disclaimer on this one. One day I hope to write a book about the roads I've been down in this life and the ways in which God has carried me through the storms of life. I wanted to share a specific excerpt tonight. I am very open about my experiences in life, yet there's always been a defining moment I tend to keep private…
If I'm going to share my story to help other's, I have to listen to the tugging on my heart that says "share it all". Sure I have concerns about judgment and making people uncomfortable… but maybe that's what is needed. Maybe we need to be a little uncomfortable to understand what a broken world we live in. And for me… I need to allow God to heal the brokenness that has burdened me for many years.
So let's rewind to 18 year old Hannah, in 2007… Heading to college…
College was when I was faced with a world ahead of me, and confusion all around me. I wasn't strong enough to stand on my own, so I leaned on others but not in a positive way. I drank to fit in, because alcohol was such a new concept for me. I smoked pot just because I could. I had such a strong desire to experience life that it led me into many dangerous situations. Those decisions, and those helpless pleas for acceptance are exactly what led me to that one dark night that changed my life forever.
I guess that was when it all really changed. That's when the snowball effect, the chain reaction, began.
It was a weekend, early in September, and a group of me and my fellow dance majors decided to go out to some frat parties. It seemed pretty harmless, and at this point we had grown accustomed to this scene, as it was where we spent at least 3 nights a week since before classes even started. There was something a little different about this night though. Everyone seemed spread out, the kind of night where your conscience is simply screaming "this isn't working out how it should… JUST STAY HOME!" But what 18 year old listens to that small voice? I sure didn't, I was an adult and I was free and no one could tell me anything differently from what I wanted. And what I wanted was to not stay in.
If only I had listened.
As the night progressed the group of people I was with slowly dissipated and suddenly I found myself alone. I was relatively intoxicated, and not thinking straight. Since we had flowed from one frat party to the next, I assumed that maybe they had been lost in the transition, so I decided to go look for them. Instead of walking back to my room and going to bed I wanted to find my friends. I wanted to make sure they were okay. What I didn't know was that I was getting ready to walk straight into a terrible nightmare, one that would haunt me for the rest of my life. I wandered through the crowds in the various rooms looking for my friends, and at every door I turned to I didn't see any familiar faces. I just walked aimlessly trying to sort through my muddy thoughts and my blurred memories and that's when he walked up to me. He seemed so innocent, and so handsome. My naive mind was butter in his hands. He asked if I was alright, and I explained my situation… He said we could walk back towards his room and he'd help me find them. Likely story, but at the time I figured he would take care of me. Bad things didn't happen to people like me, those were only things that happened in movies. I was ignorant, and after that night I swore I wouldn't never be an ignorant, naive girl again. We got to his room and ironically I finally saw familiar faces, instantly filling me with a sense of relief. But all of that relief quickly dissipated when I realized, in my confused state, that he didn't care about my friends. In some strange way he nearly viewed them as a temporary inconvenience.
While I was trying to talk to my friends, I heard him whisper "You're beautiful" so delicately in my ear - Those words I so rarely heard. The few remaining logical, clear thoughts dissipated straight out of my head and into thin air. "Want one more drink?" - I said yes, and looking back… that's when it all changed. When the clarity seemed to grow more and more vague, and black becomes more consistent than white. I sipped my last drink, looked up, and realized that all of my friends disappeared, the door was locked, and suddenly I was forced to face the moment.
I felt my body hit the bed, and the room began to spin.
The pressure of his body against mine, holding me down.
My clothing was ripped off before I had a chance to protest.
In an instant my collarbone slammed against the bed frame, instantly sending sobering pain throughout my entire body.
In that moment I knew I couldn't run, I knew there was nothing I could do. My limp body lay there, my mind losing any control over it. I would try to push him off, but my arms wouldn't move. I would try and kick my legs free, but they wouldn't get the message. I felt his presence get even closer, and I felt my nose ring get stuck on something… And then I remember the pain of it being ripped out. I tried moving to find it, but my body wouldn't respond to my brain and his grasp only tightened on me more and more.
The last thing I remember before the darkness flowed over me was his hand hitting me multiple times, and then it all went black.
The next thing I remember was feeling the sun seep through the window, with barely any recollection of where I was.
I was alone on the floor: naked, bruised, confused, and shivering.
My eyes searched for him, and settled when they saw him comfortably wrapped in a blanket quietly resting in his bed. In that moment, I felt all sense of self worth evaporate.
I wasn't worth a bed, I wasn't worth respect, all I would ever be to a man was a lifeless usable body that would be disposed on the floor upon completion.
I was empty.
I instantly fumbled for my clothes, trying to be as discreet as possible so I wouldn't wake him. I remember quietly getting dressed and waiting until I saw the footsteps outside the door stop. I took a deep breath and left. I snuck down the stairs and out the back door. I was already humiliated enough, I didn't need a bunch of young frat boys relishing in my pain. As I walked out the back door I realized that the back was fenced in and the fence was locked so I jumped over the fence and ran. I ran all the way until I couldn't see the house anymore. My mind stopped the instant my body stopped. I stood, frozen in time, and it all hit me.
The excruciating pain radiating throughout my body, the bruises I could see, and the bruises I could only feel all told the story.
I had my most intimate gift stolen from me. And there was nothing I could do to change it.
It was as if every ounce of pride, dignity, happiness, and confidence that I had was stripped away from me… and it would take me nearly 6 years to even start to find it again.
I had lost the only thing I had control over. I hadn't lost it, it was stolen.
I showered, and scrubbed, and hoped that somehow I could wash it all away. That if I scrubbed the bruises enough, the black would disappear and the memories would fade away. But it didn't work like that, life doesn't work like that.
Life is a series of events that break us, mend us, define us, and develop us.
I was too naive to realize that at the time. I was too broken, I wasn't ready to heal. I wasn't ready to face reality, or maturity, or adulthood. I wasn't ready to grow up, so I grew down into the misery that was created for me that night. That was who I was, and that was what I was worth… nothing. Nothing more than some bruises, and a cold bedroom floor. Anything more grand than that was surely for someone else. The year went by, the boys passed, the negative comments continued…
I had no worth, and I behaved as such. On my own, I would amount to nothing. The only thing I was useful for was to be used and disposed of. Intelligence didn’t mean a thing. Who needs to be able to hold a conversation when the end result is always the same. Instead of fighting it, I gave in to it. No one ever knew the pain in my heart, the pain that caused the brick wall I carried around me. I still wanted love, I wanted to know what it was like to get a call the next day just because someone missed you. Instead of a call in a few nights because they needed something. Yet love like that wasn’t reserved for someone like me, I wasn’t worthy of that. I accepted my fate and lived it.
The reality was that I was still too fat, too tall, my hair was too frizzy, and my clothes were too cheap. Finding my worth in anything at this point was becoming a far fetched dream.
When I was 19 years old I got my first tattoo, "Agape", on my rib cage. The tattoo served, and continues to serve, as a reminder of God's love. A reminder to seek out God's unconditional, self-sacrificing love… and to no longer seek out the acceptance of man. I didn't realize the struggles that would arise over the next several years, but God's grace is powerful and mighty. Everyday I realize more and more the power of God's love, trusting in Him every step of the way… knowing He wouldn't have brought me through all of this if He didn't have a much bigger plan ahead of me.