‘This does not define me. It does not define you.’

Editor talks about experience with sexual assault; self-healing is a journey, takes a long time, worth every second

Mint+editor+clears+mind+by+going+on+hikes%2C+taking+care+of+plants+and+pets.

COURTESY OF SANDI KOBIESA

Mint editor clears mind by going on hikes, taking care of plants and pets.

SANDI KOBIESA, Managing editor

Editor’s note: this leditor involves sexual assault and trauma and may be triggering to some.

I remember my mom asking me why I refused to wear the bootcut jeans with sparkly stars on the back pockets and star hoodie she got me. I remember wanting to burn them in a fire and never wanting to see them again. I remember being a small 12-year-old girl experiencing a major trauma and thinking I’d never recover from something so foul.

Ten years later, I can say that I did recover. This incident does not define who I am, it does not alter me as a person and what I’m meant to do with my life.

To get to that point was difficult, I won’t lie to you. I spent years fighting the hardest battle of my life, and I still struggle with it some nights. I still cry, I still yell, I still curse the man that tried to ruin me, but at the end of the day, I am beyond thankful that I’m still here.

One thing that helped me beyond belief was therapy. At the beginning, I was humiliated to even consider therapy, as it was such a taboo thing to talk about. My mom questioned me for weeks about why on earth I would want to talk to a stranger about my feelings, as she didn’t know what had happened to me.

It’s easier to talk to a stranger about something like this than it is with your mom. It took me about two years to convince my mom to let me go to therapy, but when I did, I felt so free.

I had spent two years dealing with the pain inside, refusing to tell anyone what happened to me. But the second I was able to tell this woman what happened to me, how I felt, what I wanted to do to make the pain go away, I felt heard.

My therapist listened; she didn’t interrupt me or tell me my feelings were invalid. Once I spewed my heart and soul out on the table, she looked at me with the kindest eyes in the world and told me she understood my pain.

I saw her three times a week for a year to get to the point where I felt like I could see her once a week. That once a week led to once a month. After two years of therapy, I was able to stop going and to focus on self-healing.

Rule number one on self-healing: do what feels right to you. Do not let anyone tell you what you’re doing is wrong. If they do, fight them. Seriously. People judged me and criticized me on my choices towards healing, even though they had no idea what I was going through. I cut them out of my life very quickly. There is no room for toxicity.

That’s basically my only rule because healing is fluid. It’s different for every single person in the entire world, no matter what the help books tell you.

It’s a constant rollercoaster with ups and downs. Some days, the downs feel like they’re going to drown you; some days, the ups make you feel like you’re unstoppable. But again, these do not define you. They are not you.

Speaking of unstoppable, that’s one word I tell myself every single day. Words of affirmation may seem silly at first, but they helped me in some of the darkest times. “I am worthy. I am strong. I am unstoppable.” Unstoppable became my go-to word to the point I have it tattooed on my foot in morse code. No one knows what it means when they see it, but I do. That’s all that matters.

If you’ve read my plant column then you understand that I’m crazy obsessed with plants. The reason behind that is actually related to that day ten years ago.

If I can take care of plants and help them grow big and strong, I can take care of myself and heal myself. Taking care of my babies helps clear my mind of any negativity — it helps me focus on the now. I have a really bad habit of stressing over the past and thinking about what I could have done differently. Well, guess what? You can’t change the past. You live in the now.

Another thing that helped me heal were my cats. Same reasoning – if I could take care of three little babies, I can take care of myself.

And so can you. Find something that you’re passionate about, something that clears your mind from focusing on the past. I always joke with my friends: “if I can do it, you can do it.” And now I’m telling you the same thing.

You should not feel shame when it comes to sexual assault. You should not be judged, ridiculed and hurt over something so traumatic and life-altering. It takes a lot of time to process what happens, trust me I know.

I also know that you are strong. You are capable. You are so much more than anything you can imagine. I believe in you, you matter to me, I love you all (insert virtual hug).