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"I am not enough. I am unworthy. I am ugly. I am alone and different. I am unloveable."

These are just a few of the lies I believed most my life, despite my many efforts to have friends and loved ones around me. I was always a shy, nervous girl growing up. Petrified of the wind, rainstorms, the dark, basements, and being alone. You name it, I was afraid. My friends and family teased me, and names like "scaredy cat", "Chucky" (the scared toddler from the TV cartoon, Rugrats), and "drama queen" slowly formed my identity and how I saw myself. Nightmares were a normal occurrence. Recurring dreams of basements, the full moon, and a ghost chasing after me turned into terrorist attacks, the world ending, or people trying to kill me or my loved ones. These filled my childhood and young adulthood. All of these beliefs, bad dreams, and flashbacks clung to me like sticky black tar.

A lot of this stems from childhood abuse (I don't want to give it all credit, though). I repressed most of the abuse out of fear. He was a man my family and extended family trusted. We often called him Grandpa—though not biological—and his house was like a children's playground. Funky cool old phones to play with, a playhouse in the backyard, and a pool to swim in when the days were hot. He called me beautiful and special. The strongest memory I have of him is when he was holding me while we looked at pictures in his living room, and he asked me if I had a boyfriend. I was in first grade, around the age of 6, and still very much shy and nervous. But I did have a crush on a boy and was excited to tell "Grandpa" about it. After telling him, he kissed me and reminded me that he was my only boyfriend. This is where my mind blurs—disassociation at its finest. He would sometimes put his tongue in my mouth and it would confuse me. Then flashes of bedrooms, and his dark creepy basement fill my mind. Blur, blur, blur.

Later that year or so, my younger, more feisty, sister and I were riding in his red truck coming home from dinner. I remember feeling nervous. She looked at him with the bravery of a 5-year-old and told him how we didn't want to see him anymore, that he made us uncomfortable and we didn't like it when he kissed and hugged us. He was hurt, but instead of feeling sad for him, I was afraid. Flashes of phrases like, "If you tell anyone your dog might get hurt or your family..." come back, and fear fills my body.

Besides his random presents, I would run into him in our neighborhood (he continued to tell me I was special and beautiful), and he tried to help me with my sickness when I came home sick from a mission I went on for my church at 20 years old. Aside from that, we never really saw him and if we did, we never let him come close to us.

I didn't start talking about all that happened until a few years ago at age 22. I lived a life in fear, but always tried to cover up the anxiety with being known as the happiest and kindest girl in high school. The past four years have been filled with many breakdowns, victories, therapy appointments, doctor visits, anxiety attacks (which didn't happen until I started speaking up about the truth) and healing. After much bravery was mustered and with the support from my mom and friend, I even reported what happened to me to the police. There was "not enough evidence", despite the many other women who he has also abused. They wanted me to do hypnotherapy to remember more, but they didn't move forward with my case. This fed the lie that I am not enough...but I didn't let it get me down for too long.

It's been almost a year and a half since reporting to the police, and I feel that, slowly but surely, the black tar I've become so familiar with is finally starting to transform to something more light and refreshing—like water. My hope is to inspire others to speak their truth no matter the consequence. Because as we do so, we stand together knowing we are not alone. We stand together in hope for future generations that things can be different. So, here is to speaking my truth and striving to do so everyday, and also having gratitude for all those who speak their truth one brave moment at a time.

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