I’m the Girl Who Wants to Forget but Can’t


I was sitting on the couch in between two girls, and one grabbed my arm to get me to move over. The fear and panic arose. I couldn’t think straight. “What’s going on!?” my mind screamed.

I looked around me and could vaguely see others watching me. Maybe they saw fear on my face as I tried pulling away and snapped at her to let me go. Maybe they saw me struggling to breathe as I felt like I was being suffocated to death.

Can’t breathe.

I look for an exit but feel suffocated, boxed in, with nowhere to run or hide. I don’t know where I am. Everything is dark. All I know in this moment is fear, panic and pain.

I was standing around in a group of young adults just talking and one girl, who I barely knew, walked over to me. She got in my face, staring me down. When I was finally able to walk away, I felt so upset and agitated. Her intent gaze felt like a violation of my personal space, space that people violate to assault me.

Run!

Hide!

Scratch your skin.

Try and get the feel of their touch out of your memory.

Yet, it’s not their touch. It’s not their fault. It’s the stranger on the street. It’s the classmate on the playground. It’s the shadow walking toward you on the street. It’s the disappearing stranger in the heart of your neighborhood.

I tried taking a break from playing games when a guy came over to me and grabbed my wrist to pull me into the new game. I pulled away using self-defense techniques. My head was spinning. I had to run and hide.

Don’t let anyone touch me.

Still, I didn’t truly notice the deep effects of this act until bedtime when I tried sleeping. I had that nightmare again. I was being chased by a guy who was trying to hurt me. I woke up the next day hoping to just forget about it. Then, that night, it happened again. He grabbed me again, and I was back in that dream, every night for weeks at a time. I suddenly had no desire to sleep. If I did, then I would just spend it running from those who wish to hurt me.

No, can’t sleep.

Can’t breathe.

Can’t think.

Run!

Hide!

Don’t speak.

Don’t move.

Don’t trust anyone.

Someone is behind you.

Oh right, it’s just your shadow.

No, someone is behind you.

You’re in danger.

I’m safe, but my body and mind can’t see it. How could it? I might know I’m in a safe environment, but my mind feels trapped. It can’t forget. No matter how hard I try, and I really do try.

Some days, I think I’m free. Then, someone inadvertently triggers another episode. I’m being hit for no reason. I’m being called names, told I’m worthless or that no one cares about me. I wonder why I even exist.

I’m back in that dark spot where suicide feels like the best possible solution to my pain. I decide to reach out for help instead. Then, I wonder why I didn’t just end my life, as the ridicule begins.

“You’re so selfish.”

“You’re a coward.”

No, I was the face of a victim. I was a victim. I felt weak, powerless and helpless. The demons may still have me at times, but I’m not that girl anymore. I might be broken, but I’m not a victim, weak, powerless or helpless.

I’m strong.

My scars are internal. Invisible. To some, they don’t exist. To me, they changed my world.

I’m not just a girl. I’m a survivor. I’m a fighter. I’m a girl who wants to forget but can’t. I’m a girl who feels guilty because her pain doesn’t seem as bad as the pain of others.

No, I’m a girl who needs to know and remember that her pain matters. Her trauma is real. Her trauma deserves acceptance.

I’m that girl who

Can’t sleep.

Can’t breathe.

Can’t think.

I’m the girl whose mind screams at her to

Run!

Hide!

I’m the girl whose mind says,

Don’t speak.

Don’t move.

It’s in these seemingly small actions that the pain comes crashing in like huge tidal waves. Uncontrollable. Uncontainable at times.

So, I smile. I laugh with you. I may even joke with you, but I may never forget. I’m a survivor of trauma, and I live with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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