Today marks the day in which I was raped - a day that use to make me feel physically sick to my stomach as it reminded me of a time in which I was abused in the worst way possible.
But this year, it feels different. In fact, not only does it feel different, I feel empowered. Today is not the day I was raped anymore. Last year, I made the conscious decision to change the narrative for the better, and here is why I did it.
July has always been a difficult month for me. As said above, this month reminds me of a traumatic part of my life. Not only was I raped, but I abused myself not only physically, but emotionally - surrounding myself with people who did not understand me nor wanted to. Each year when July would begin, I would feel this pit in my stomach - a sick feeling that would just linger all of the month of July. July marks more than the event itself, July marks a time in which I was no longer Meredith - I was in fact a shell of a person I was before.
July reminded me of the countless times I would refuse to sit next to a man on a bus as I was riddled with anxiety due to his leg touching mine.
July reminded me of the time I would sob in the car next to my mum as being in a car brought back horrific flashbacks.
July reminded me of the time I was diagnosed with PTSD and made to go on medication as it would "make me feel better" but in reality, I felt like a zombie and as if I was on a boat.
July reminded me of my youngest sister being petrified that she would wake up with the news of me being dead.
As I am sure you can imagine, and for many survivors, not just me - the anniversary of our sexual trauma experiences is much more than the event itself. It reminds us of a person that we were robbed of and in a lot of cases, it reminds of a person we don't want to be or associate with anymore.
In fact, it was this discovery that I made the realisation that July doesn't have to be "rape day" for me anymore. Every new year, I was becoming stronger within myself. I was making both big and small achievements in my healing process that the need to have a "rape" anniversary just made me angry and upset. I didn't want to look back on July 2018 and always feel the same dread and despair that I felt each year.
And the reason being, you ask?
Because although it hurt, although July was the worst month of my life and a reminder of what had happened to me - it was also the month I decided to make Say it Loud.
Not only was it the month that I decided to make Say it Loud, but a year before that was also the year I decided to put my mental health first and take a year out of university. July isn't something I hold with such anger and distress anymore. Yes, it is a reminder of what has happened to me, but it is also a reminder of how much strength I had to pull myself through something so traumatic. July to me now is a celebratory month. I can think back to what happened to me and recognise it shouldn't have and still be upset that it did, but I can also look back at all the progress I have made and feel empowered within myself.
I like to think of July as a month of self-care, self-compassion, and self-love. I like to remind myself with affirmations how much progress I have made since that day and how I am very much safe now.
I don't need to be angry anymore. I don't need to be scared anymore because year in and year out, I have proven to myself how much power my voice holds.