Health and Fitness - Telling Strangers What Happened to Me
(This is Part 2 in a series of stories about my journey beyond sexual assault. I hope it will open up healthy dialogues about sexual assault in our LGBT communities. For more resources, go to https://www.thehimmproject.org/other-resources/.)
Meeting strangers has become my daily regimen in my recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder.
It started Nov. 12, 2015, which now seems like such a long time ago and a galaxy far, far away. (Yes, it does remind me of a Star Wars movie.) I am doing so much better now because I began (and have continued) this innovative therapy to talk about my sexual assault openly and often.
I keep talking about my trauma – one person at a time and one day at a time – so that I can heal. Either despacito – slowly – or at light speed works just fine. The most important thing to remember is to just keep moving forward each day.
That autumn day, I walked up to the first stranger I met to gain support for my journey. It has been my therapy to re-engage with society after isolating myself so badly because of PTSD.
Enter Joshua, who allowed me to walk up to him and share my story. I told him what happened on that suicidal night just 10 days earlier: A moment when I laughed at Stephen Colbert’s monologue on The Late Show changed my life. That laughter made me pause to appreciate the moment, and it inspired me to make a plan: My goal was to become a guest on Colbert’s show.
Consequently, Joshua is one of the most important people I’ve ever met. If he, the first person I approached, had dismissed me completely that day, I might have given up on this therapy. It could have destroyed any hope that was remaining in me. And that just might have turned me to the dark side for good.
But he wasn’t dismissive of me. He didn’t try to make me go away. He simply listened. And that is incredibly powerful and helpful for survivors of sexual assault. We need people to just listen to us and hear our stories.
Joshua is the only person I’ve met on this 862-day cross-country journey who saw a blank poster board, which I was determined to fill by asking people to write me messages of support. Yet he showed his support by writing on the board.
His actions said: I believe you. I support you. These are the first two important steps to help sexual assault survivors. (For more information, go to startbybelieving.org.)
That first message came to represent something amazing on this journey: a moment of fear overcome not once, but twice. We fear what we do not know. I did not know Joshua. He did not know me. He took a chance on me. I took a chance on him.
Many months later, I met a group of strangers taking a break outside an improv theater. I learned something from those guys and gals puffing on their Parliaments that gave me a better understanding of how to manage this thing called fear.
They told me that the main tenet of improv is to follow the fear. Only when you do that, they said, do you truly realize the magic on the other side. That knowledge is worthy of Jedi masters.
On this journey, I’ve had little reason to use my light saber. Fear was not to be my enemy. I’ve embraced that fear and used it to make me stronger and find that magic every day. And I’ve done that now with tens of thousands of complete strangers I’ve met across the United States over 862 days.
There are now 24,672 moments of fear that have been overcome (twice) and are represented on 370 giant foam poster boards that I’ve carried on this journey. I continue to move toward my goals: gathering support for being a guest on The Late Show and for conquering my sexual assault and PTSD.
But I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the question that pops up during this journey. It’s a question that can impede the ability of many in our LGBT community to begin healing from sexual assault.
One day, I took a deep breath and answered the question for the first time. And I nervously waited for a response.
This article of hope and support is brought to you by that guy with a lot more to share. That guy with more stories than the Central Library is Ron Blake. You can find him at Blake Late Show on Facebook and Instagram.