I always wondered what would happen if I ever ran into him again. It had been 8 years since he sexually assaulted me and 5 years since I ran into him at a BBQ, causing one of the biggest panic attacks I’d ever had. He only lives the next city over from where I reside, so I knew it wasn’t impossible. I guess it just hadn’t been something I thought of often.
I remember the last time I saw him at that BBQ. It shattered me. My body reacted as my mind tried to remain calm. I felt a heat sensation circulate through every vein and vessel in my body. My heart felt like it would beat out of my chest at any point. My vision got blurry and my body started to go numb. I was able to hold it together long enough to get home, where I tried to shake it off and go to sleep. But the panic attack I was experiencing was far from being finished. I could feel the strong urges to let out all of the excruciating emotional pain I’d been holding in all of those years. I convinced myself that I’d healed from it all, but it became very clear that I’d barely scratched the surface of healing, and all I’d done those past few years was bury the pain using busyness and distractions.
So I went all the way downstairs, where no one would hear what I knew was about to happen, and I fell to my knees and let out the deepest, most pain-filled cries I had ever cried. I cried as if a loved one had passed away, and in a weird way it was kind of true. I was mourning my own self and all of the loss I experienced with the assault. Loss of trust, self-esteem, feeling safe a secure and truthfully, loss of identity. I haven’t been the same since he took advantage of me like that.
It was in that moment that I felt like I was sitting on rock bottom. I felt like I was out of options in dealing with the situation. I had tried therapy; I tried ignoring it and drinking/partying every chance I got; I tried joining almost every leadership opportunity on campus. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized all of my efforts were simply like putting a bandaid on deep, infectious wound. Any time the bandaid got old, I slapped on a new one; A new temporary distraction. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized that the only way to peace after such a horrific experience was through Christ. That night I had my “coming to Christ” moment and I’ve been forever changed since.
Now fast forward 5 years, this past February. I was at Stop and Shop with my one year old, shopping for a Valentine’s Day photoshoot. I was on the self-checkout line about to scan my items when I looked up for a second and saw a familiar face. My heart dropped before I even processed where I knew the face from. He was walking with another man right past my check out line. I could not believe my eyes. At that moment I was flooded with thoughts. I wondered if he saw me, and if he remembered who I was and what he’d done to me. I wondered if he had ruined anyone else’s life. I wondered if I needed to scan my items slowly to wait for him to pass, or if I needed to scan quickly to rush out before he came too close to where I was. As all of these thoughts ran through my head, I stood there in a daze.
I decided to scan my items slowly and wait. I took slow, deep and steady breaths and tried to stop tears from flowing. I could feel the burning sensation in my eyes and that lump in my throat. As soon as he passed my lane I darted out of the store and once I made it to the parking lot, the tears began. But I decided to pray and ask God to take away all of the things I was feeling. I asked Him to remind me that my peace comes from Him and that I don’t need to be afraid or anxious any longer. About five minutes later I felt that peace feeling (IYKYK) rushing through my body and my eyes dried up. I was still bothered, but I wasn’t sobbing and falling apart like the last time I saw him. So grateful for healing progress.