She ran into the woods yesterday – they were dark and quiet. She wanted to feel peace wash over her; she wanted the tiger to stop chasing her.

She sat for a while on the leaf-covered forest floor feeling the electric currents run through her – the ones that made her want to crawl out of her skin; the ones that made her feel like she might die at any moment; the ones that made her wonder if life was worth living.

She knew it was. Fortunately, that got her through.

They would be transient. The emotions would pass, eventually. That got her through, too.

She closed her eyes and breathed in deep. She was taken back to the origins of her fucked-up story – the story she did not write; the story that was forced upon her; the story from which she would be left to recover on her own for years to come.

She had been a victim, though she did not live her life as if she were one.

Still, in these moments of remembering – the moments that would creep up on her without warning due to a particular smell, voice, sign, place, or experience – the brain would be transported back to that time of confusion, frozenness, emotional disconnect, shame, pain, faintness, hurt, and… that story that happened over and over and over again.

She had been a victim, though she did not live her life as if she were one.

As she sat, her eyes still closed, she continued to breathe, to work with her system to help it orient to present-day time – where she was safe and grown up and that story was no longer happening.

As her breathing calmed and she opened her eyelids that were shimmering with the salt from her tears, she began to stand, slowly. She heard the leaves crinkle underneath her slow movements. She released her clenched fists and looked up towards the forest roof, the orange and pink sunset off in the distance.

She felt the breath in her chest, in and out, slower and slower, in and out. She slowly turned around, her head towards the crown of the trees. The smell of the damp forest filled her nostrils. She finally felt the peace wash over her and fill up within her.

“I am here,” she softly said allowed, as her fingertips gently touched her lips. “I am still here.”

A bird chirped in the distance as if to respond, “Yes, you are.”

She smiled softly, a smile mixed with relief and sadness – relief in knowing the episode had passed and sadness in knowing that it might not be her last — sadness in knowing that she could not deny the impact that story had had on her life – on relationships, finances, her freedom, chronic health conditions, and on and on.

And yes, she knew through her strength, she had grown beyond measure to regain and rebuild her life. And it was to be a beautiful, miraculous life.

Though she would never wake up tomorrow without that story being a part of her story. And she also knew she was not the only one that could say the same.

She had been a victim, though she did not live her life as if she were one.

They were all victims, though they did not live their lives as if they were ones.

Instead, they did the work, stood up, carried on, loved, and only looked back to recover the past that had been stolen, so they could move forward, and only forward.  

And yes, they knew through their strength, they had grown beyond measure to regain and rebuild their lives. And they were to be beautiful, miraculous lives.

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