It’s not easy to do this, but I’m about to expose myself to people who, in many ways, admire me. Some of you reading this have known me for years and never known about my past; others have heard these stories and may have even lived through them with me. However, most of you are just now getting to know me and I’d like to give you a glimpse of the damages that put me on this path toward confidence and self-awareness. As hard as all of this is to admit, it’s something I owe to my readers, and most importantly, myself. Vulnerability, damage, and pain can lead to strength, survival and reinvention—I’m living proof of it. So I’d like you to hold your breath while I give you a glimpse into my past. Maybe a lot of what you’ve learned about me will finally make sense.
When I was 15, I was with someone I should have stayed away from. On the outside, he was older, attractive, and rebellious; on the inside, he was borderline schizophrenic, depressed, and mildly violent (just enough to scare you a bit on a random Saturday night). I don’t know how it happened—I assume I just kind of fell into it—but somehow, I acquired a caretaker role in our relationship. His emotional and mental instability became my responsibility in the form of late night phone calls and deep, middle of the night conversations. It was my duty to be there for him and assure him I was his; that my devotion was genuine and that I would never leave.
I don’t know if you remember being 15, but if you do, you know it’s far too much of a responsibility for a girl who, at that age, was just starting to define herself.
I began to detach emotionally and sexually, and resented him for taking me away from the life all my other friends were enjoying. I wasn’t allowed to see anyone if he wasn’t with me and he demanded my full attention, at all times. One night, I refused to sleep with him and when he guilted me into it, he forced himself on me. I talk about the events of that night in detail in my book, so I won’t rehash them here.
I met Boy B while I was still with Boy A. It was easy to transition into my next relationship because I just pretended the rape never happened.
It was puppy love and it was euphoric. It numbed everything with the promise of a healthy, emotional relationship. Here I was, dating a really cute, popular guy—and he wanted me and flaunted me. For the first few months, I was on cloud 9; a pink, sugarcoated cloud of protection. I was in love, he was in love, and I was worth something again.
He did it all. He showed up with flowers, surprised me with gifts, and wrote emo blog posts for the world to see. Within months, I was completely his and everything seemed perfect.
Until he’d get mad at me.
When he got mad at me or wanted to punish me in some way, he’d walk up to the first attractive girl and put his arm around her, right in front of me. He’d cancel plans with me to hang out with his girlfriends. He would purposely ignore my messages and leave me to go crazy in my worst assumptions. Suddenly the emotions of worthlessness started to resurface and I was left slave to a boy who emotionally abused me.
Because, you see, it wasn’t that he’d just hurt me. After he tore my heart apart, he’d pull me close immediately after and tell me how much he loved me. I cried a lot; I even tried to hurt myself, but I was too much of a coward to use anything sharper than a butter knife.
I was completely lost in his high and he was my only drug dealer.
This went on for about a year or so and he ended up cheating on me with a bunch of my friends. When things finally ended, I was left broken.
The next few months were hard. Every night felt like a knife would charge toward my flesh and into my heart. When I went to school, I felt like I was walking in an empty shell; physically present, but mentally always wondering where my exes were and what they were doing. I just wanted them to feel remorse. I wanted to come home to a voicemail on my machine saying they had fucked up and that they realized their mistakes. And that I really was worth something.
That weakness I felt being taken advantage of physically and emotionally spread through my veins like wildfire. Everywhere I went, I hid psychologically. I turned inward. If I ever entered a social situation, or their names were ever brought up, I would feel my heart beat inside my throat.
Even my friends accepted walking beside my ghost and if I ever needed to cry, they’d let me.
There I was, a 17-year-old girl whose teen years had pretty much disappeared into darkness. I was defined worthless sexually and emotionally by two boys who were out living their lives like nothing happened.
And Then, Tomorrow Came
I woke up one morning and decided the pain was only getting worse. I realized time wasn’t healing any wounds, it was creating them. I was weakened by every day passing because every day was an opportunity to rebuild myself, yet I remained passive, hoping a magical answer—or another boy—would land in my lap and fix everything.
I didn’t want to live like that anymore. I was so far down … I needed an escape.
That’s when I created an ideal version of myself, who in many ways was the complete opposite of this weak person I had become. I didn’t want to live in denial; I wanted to take the pain and use it to hold the bricks together as I rebuilt myself. I literally wrote out every part of her, from the way she talked to people, to the way she dressed.
rom that day on, every day for almost an entire year, I forced myself to be and act as the ideal version of myself would. It was the hardest thing in the world to do, and sometimes I’d go hide in my car to cry afterward. But I would look myself in the mirror and force myself to go through it. I started going out again and making friends, on my terms. I took the introvert I had become and slowly flipped her inside out. I made moves on boys I liked and would walk away before it got too serious. I bought my leather jacket and my leather boots, I got tattoos, and I started my love affair with AC/DC, Bon Jovi and Alice Cooper.
It may not have been the right, or the best way, but for the first time in three years, it was my way.
I did drugs. I danced. I sang out of cars. I did everything, every day, that I was scared to do when I was with either of them. Boy A would raise his fist like he was going to hit me if I ever smiled at a waiter. So, I went and I flirted with every cute waiter I encountered. Boy B would judge me and make me feel unworthy, so I made people pay attention to me and value me—emotionally.
Most of it was hard, some of it was raw and gut-wrenching, but I continued to force myself out of that comfort zone, no matter what.
Until one day, I went to a UCLA party where I ran into Boy B. He saw me through the crowd and smiled, waving me down to go see him. I felt my heart begin to race inside my throat, as it always had when I thought of him—it was as if the world around me slowed down. All I could hear or feel was my breathing. The breathing that I had gotten so familiar with, forcing myself to become this ideal version of me.
When I came to, I was getting into my stick shift jeep with a couple of my girlfriends, cigarette in mouth, leather boots grasping the clutch, and rock music seeping through my speakers.
That night, I walked away all on my own—I walked away as the little badass I had dreamed of becoming for over a year.
I wish I could tell you confidence and self-awareness were always second nature to me, but I can’t. I also can’t tell you I don’t continue to face the repercussions of those relationships because the truth is, they are a part of who I am.
So when I write about life in shades of gray and tell my readers that embracing your inner badass is possible, it’s because I lived through it and it doesn’t matter how you find her, because it may not be the perfect path, or even the safest. What matters is that you do. She’s in there waiting and if you let her, she’ll guide you out of whatever weakness is suffocating you. I would never promise you something I wasn’t sure existed.
Thank you for reading through my story.