I’m like a real adult or something!
It feels strange to think of myself this way especially since I still feel like I am just a small kid pretending to be a functioning adult. I pay bills, deal with taxes, handle weekly chores, budget, work three jobs and maintain a stable relationship. These are all things I never thought I could maintain while I was emotionally crumbling back in college. Truthfully, I never officially graduated college. I had a mental breakdown in my final few months and dropped out. I was a complete mess and I felt like my world was crumbling down around me. My breakdown isn’t something I usually talk about in detail, a friend from high school only recently learning of the event.
I don’t like dwelling on the negative, I often view it as a waste of my time and unproductive. I’ve always been a “suffer” in silence type of guy, anything I go through I prefer to go through alone. Is it healthy? Hell naw. Do I do it anyway? All the time!
Trigger warning: Sexual Assault and suicidal thoughts ahead.
Today I am not going to ignore what I went through though, today I want to talk about it a bit. I recently took up a third part-time job with a local LGBT+ program teaching art to Queer “youth” between the ages of 18-24. This has caused me to really reflect back on my own coming out process and what I learned from it as my own way of seeing what I can bring to this class. My breakdown in college was a huge part of this.
This whole breaking business happened in college after a repressed memory from my childhood came back. I’ve never publicly addressed this so this is going to be a bit difficult. I remembered a friend and I being sexually assaulted by her older brother. This whole thing was really hard to categorize seeing as he was a child himself. What I went through over the course of a few years wasn’t what triggered the emotions that came after the memories. What really got to me was the idea that my friends brother must have learned this behavior from an adult, and if that adult abused him they had probably abused her and other children as well. I ended up taking a week off school to sort through my feelings about everything. That week turned into months as my anxiety and depression spiraled out of control. I was no longer just dealing with hating myself and my body but now I had these memories I didn’t want. My boyfriend at the time was the only one who really knew about the assault and he tried helping me but I kept a lot from him. He had his own issues to deal with and I felt as though anything I was feeling would just stop him from handling that.
When all the memories came back I remember that I felt immediately disgusted and angry with myself. I felt as though I had let the abuse happen and that I should have done something about it. As children though, my friend and I thought that only an adult could sexually assault you. Not another kid. We were told that it was okay, it was just a game. I was so mad that I didn’t think to protect the first person I had ever had feelings for. She was my best friend and my everything when I was young and I felt responsible for hurting her as well. After that I just felt empty and evil. I smiled and acted as I always did for a long time, silently thanking my years in drama class. I couldn’t feel anything beyond just “existing”. That’s how depression works, it drains you. Of everything.
I tried to get help from a few different venues but every time something just went wrong, in reality I was sabotaging my own recovery because I felt like I didn’t deserve to move on. I really felt like I was losing myself and I was terrified. I felt like no matter where I turned I had nothing to take comfort in. Of course very few people knew about the memories I was handling but no one knew I was dealing with dysphoria as well. I started to hallucinate, lose sleep and contemplate suicide. Finally it all came crashing down one night when I suffered a major panic attack. I was rushed to the local hospital where I was left in a waiting room for 4 hours, wanting nothing more than to grab a hand full of needles and scrape them down my throat.
Needless to say it was a magical night.
I think the moment that really stands out to me during that night took place 30 minutes before they took me into a white room. As I was sitting there, surrounded by coughing and injured patients, I watched as a man turned purple and hit the waiting room floor. Dead. I shut down pretty hardcore after seeing that. The weight of everything I was going through hit me all at once and I realized that, even though I didn’t want to live, I didn’t want to die either.
Strange but let me explain.
My whole life I was living for other people. Letting friends bully me so they would be happy, presenting as female to keep my family happy, and tailoring my opinions to keep significant others happy. None of that was living. It was just bullshit. Although I no longer wanted to die, I knew I couldn’t live either. Not with the person I was anyway. I hated that person and who “she” was and I couldn’t stand living with them any longer.
This was my turning point. I started therapy and began exploring my gender identity on my own terms. As for the assault I suffered as a child? I have never liked the term Sexual assault “victim”, I feel as though the word “victim” takes power away from me. I prefer the term survivor. I went through that shit and I came out on the other end. I won. I won’t be defined by what I went through or who I use to be. I am me now, and I am not my assault. I’m a survivor and not a victim.
I’m an adult now and I am adulting. I am growing as a person and I am constantly pushing forward. This is what I can bring to this LGBT+ program. I can bring my determination and my strength. I can bring the present Toby and I can use what I have gone through to let them know I get it.
We all have hurdles to get over, some higher than others, but we’re all strong in our own ways. We can’t let negativity define us. The moment we do, we lose.
I am still young and I still have a lot to learn and so many more things that I need to experience. To this day I still haven’t been able to find my old friend or her brother, they moved away when I was 10, but I sincerely hope they are both okay. I tried finding them for a long time but I can only assume they must be under a new last name after their mom divorced their step-dad.
Words are hard when you are dealing with old baggage and reflecting back on things can sometimes leave you feeling a bit melancholy. Sorry this post wasn’t as “hip hurrah” as my posts usually are. I just felt as though now was a good time to look back and see how far I’ve come.
Thanks for reading and I hope that you are able to fight back against any of the difficulties you might be having in your life. Take it from me, it’s worth it.