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The 'Box' I Kept Hidden After Surviving Sexual Assault

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There’s this box I hid on the top of a tall, tall shelf a long time ago. I stuffed a whole bunch of things in it and hid it, high out of reach (OK, that’s not that hard, I’m short). I left that box there for years… and years…. and a thick layer of dust blanketed the top of the box. Over time, I learned to ignore the box – I pretended it wasn’t there.

At least, until the box began to overflow.

Somehow, the things I threw in the box grew – grew and grew and grew until it began to overflow. One day, when I got scared and could hardly take it anymore, I brought the box down with shaky hands and opened it a crack. And everything I had thrown in there began to pour out. Even more terrified, I tried to close the box… but once opened, it couldn’t be closed again.

This box was overflowing with my thoughts and memories of the past that I’d tried to ignore. Being sexually abused at the age of 5 was – is – too young for anyone to ever understand. I learned how to rationalize what was going on, going as far as blaming myself. But all those feelings, all those thoughts, I hid away in this box and ignored… until this past September.

Finally opening that box and talking to someone was a huge step for me. It was all so terrifying and scary and new, and I decided to face my fear of the past – and I thought t things would get better. And they have, sort of. I can feel things again. I’m not numb.

Yet there are still moments where I feel too overwhelmed. I’m trying to let one memory or emotion or thought come out at a time, and so I let one out of the box and immediately padlock the box closed to keep everything else inside. It’s hard work. The memories can still be overwhelming, and I still forget where I am sometimes. The thoughts and feelings come back in a wave, and there are days where I can’t function.

Even so, I’m glad I opened that scary, sulking box. If I had kept it closed, it would have spread more and more, filling me with an even more sense of dread. Opening that box is the first step to healing, and even though I know I have a long path ahead of me with so many problems in the box to take care of, I’ve started walking again. It’s not going to be easy. It’s probably going to be a path full of wrong turns, long shortcuts, mazes, and tears, but I gotta get through it.

Whatever box you have hiding – maybe try to take it off the shelf. Move it under a table. A chair. Put it on a desk. Look at it every once in a while. Open it when you’re ready to take that first step. I promise, there will be a moment when you know you’re ready. And when you’re ready, take that deep breath and open the box. You can do it. I know you can.

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.

Follow this journey on Missing in Action.

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Thinkstock photo by finwal

Originally published: January 20, 2017
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