To the Ex-Boyfriend Who Told Me 'It Could Be Worse'
I remember exactly how the words left your cracked lips. I had just told a guidance counselor about my history of sexual abuse, and was in the process of being diagnosed with a mood disorder as well as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I understand now you probably had no idea what either of these things entailed — I was only 15 and you were 17. But it doesn’t change the affect it had on my young, fragile mind. I was explaining the situation to you, and I was crying. Then, the words were released from your mouth like air from a balloon:
“Don’t you think you’re overreacting about this? It could be worse.”
It sounds like nails on a chalkboard for me, even now. For years, I kept this with me, always second-guessing if the symptoms of my disorders were rational. When I woke up in the middle of the night wailing, I would wonder if the event that caused my trauma had even taken place. I would wonder if it was really just a dream, and beat myself up for everything I felt. I contemplated telling my guidance counselor and my parents I had lied even though I hadn’t just to escape this nightmare. Your remarks did not help the detrimental inner turmoil that consumed me.
For an awkward sophomore in high school, my diagnosis was devastating. What I went through was, and still is, terrifying to think about. Therefore, you had no right to tell me I was too upset about this. My brain is different from a brain without PTSD. My mood disorder also changes my chemical balance, and it happens to be chronic, meaning I’ll fight it for the rest of my life. So, I’m not overreacting any more than someone with cancer is when they tell you that chemotherapy is painful.
I now know you were wrong, and what I deal with daily is very real. My assault did happen, and my mental illness is incredibly real and incredibly painful. While I understand you were young, you had no right the comment on the gravity of something you didn’t understand. Today, I take back the right to validate my feelings.
If you or a loved one has experienced sexual assault or any other type of abuse, you can call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.