As you know, I'm pretty much an open book on this blog. I share a lot of things about myself. Many of them aren't happy things.
If you've read this post for a while, you now know my sexuality, my orientation, I'm a sexual assault survivor, I suffer from depression, and dealt with suicidal ideation until my mid-twenties or so (and still have some moments from time to time).
If you didn't... well, now you do.
You've probably also figured out that I'm very opinionated, extremely liberal, and possibly aggressive when cornered.
However, I talk about it all because I am not ashamed of any of it. It took a lot of work to get to the point where I could stop blaming myself for things in which no blame was necessary at all (like sexuality and orientation, depression and suicidal ideation), and to take the blame from myself and put it where it belonged - onto the man who assaulted me.
Part of what drove that shame was the cone of silence that surrounded it. We don't talk about it. Not ever. That told me it was shameful. That told me I should be ashamed.
That's largely why I do talk about it. Beyond just having gone through the work of healing those wounds in myself so that I can talk about my experiences without immediately wanting to vomit or cry, I talk about it because it should be talked about.
Representation matters. Examples matter.
None of what I share is done flippantly. I've thought long and hard about what I could share, should share, and the pros and cons of doing so.
One of the first of my truths I decided to share was my depression. It was after I started following Wil Wheaton's blog. He talked openly and frankly about his depression. It was an eye-opener for me. Suddenly, I wasn't so alone with my struggle. There were others, too, and these others were real people, not the statistics I read in research about my condition. Mr. Wheaton's open discussion about the struggles of living and coping with depression gave me hope. Yes, he confirmed that it will be a continual battle. But he also showed me that a good life can still be lived. He told me in a way that felt more real than all the pamphlets my doctor gave me, that I was not alone. That I could fight the battle. That life could be good, even when my mind rebels.
It was such a huge moment for me. I realised something in that moment. I realised that the shame I had been taught to feel about depression was bullshit. I realised that talking about personal experiences with it can, and does, help others who feel they might be fighting alone. I looked at Wil Wheaton as an example of someone who battles on, and I use his example to help me continue to fight when I feel overwhelmed.
If I do nothing else with my life but provide such an example to someone else who is struggling, then that is a life well-served.
That's why I talk about it.
I talk about my suicidal ideation for much the same reason. I made it through, mostly... not for lack of trying, mind you. It's not a complete victory. I'm still fighting that darkness, but the battles are fewer and farther in between, do not last nearly as long and, thanks to therapy and the examples set by other survivors, are not as hopeless as I once believed.
Here, on the other side, I can honestly say that surviving is so, incredibly, wonderfully worth it.
Mired in it, however, there was no light. It was a blanket of hot, dark fog, pressing down on my shoulders, pulling me down, drowning me. There was no one, not in the public sphere, not in my personal life, no one I could turn to who knew what it was like, who had come out the other side and could - or would - send back messages of how amazing it was there.
There was no reason to fight. There was nothing but thick, heavy, endless fog.
If I do nothing else with my life but provide a light in that darkness, if all I've achieved is to send messages of hope back to the people still struggling through the fog that surviving is worth it, that it's possible to find a life worth living for; if I help save even one person, and that is all I do on this earth, then that was a life well-served.
And now you know why I can shamelessly say that I was sexually assaulted. When it happened, when I was struggling through all the shit that came with it, I didn't have someone I could turn to who knew what it was like, who had survived, who lived well... until after one breakdown, when someone who I knew admitted it happened to them, too. Then I did have an example of someone who had been through it all, who had come through, and who had lived well. That was such a huge moment for me.
I'm not ashamed of being assaulted. That shame belongs on the shoulders of the man who assaulted me. I stand now on a rock, proud and defiant, and willing to show other survivors of assault that they also should not be ashamed. They can come through it. Life after such a profound violation is possible, and can be wonderful.
If I do nothing but provide even one survivor some inspiration to survive the aftermath of their assault, if that is all my life ever amounts to, then that is a life well-served.
It can be no secret by now that representation matters. And that is why I "came out" as asexual. I didn't know asexuality was a real thing until my late twenties. It wasn't until a few years ago, after much research and, you guessed it, therapy, that I could even entertain the possibility that I wasn't actually broken.
There was no one, not a real person, not a fictional person, who identified as asexual when I was growing up. I thought I was a freak, weird, broken. Turns out, I'm not. Not at all. Knowing this, seeing this represented, would have helped me so, so much growing up. All the repression, the faking, the isolation and loneliness that I felt because I did not know that what I was was normal and fine could have been avoided or at least eased.
If standing up, if being "out," if being representative helps just one kid avoid all the isolation and heartbreak I felt, and if that is all that my life ever amounts to, then that is a life well-served.
Before I decided to be so open about things some people find affrontingly personal, I thought long and hard. I knew that some people would be affronted. I knew that some people would try to find a way to weaponise this knowledge (and they have). I knew that it might close some doors on me.
But I also knew how profoundly having someone to serve as an example, or who stood up as being like me, helped me in my life.
If I can be that kind of help to people, then everything else will have been worth it.