By Chanda Alicea
Forgiveness versus letting go, are they the same thing? The answer is I don’t know. Maybe they are in some cases. This challenge has had me doing a lot of deep reflecting on things that have happened in my past that I haven’t really wanted to think about because of how impactful that they were. I have gone back and forth on talking about my experience with forgiveness. Clearly I decided at the last possible minute to share my experience. I have thought a lot about how I would address this. I realize, that when you go through a traumatic experience, that there are some things that you can’t forgive, but you do have to find a way to let go and move on with your life in a way that the trauma doesn’t negatively affect you and your future.
October 31st of this year (2019) marked the 10 year passing of me being roofied and sexually assaulted at a Halloween party. It was a night that changed my life forever. To this day I still do not remember what exactly happened to me. I 100% believe that my brain has and still is protecting me by blocking out the events that occurred that night. I would like to tell you that I came out the bigger person in this scenario and forgave my attacker, but that’s false. I have not, I will never and I’m positive that there’s a special place in hell waiting for him, and one day he’ll have to answer for what he did. There’s a line in the song Praying by Kesha where she says “but some things only God can forgive.” She’s right. I’m a human and while I haven’t forgiven my attacker or even forgotten (because I never will), I did let it go.
It took over a year medication for my anxiety and depression, counseling to learn how to cope and accept that this event caused PTSD to get back to a place where I was not a hermit in my house. It took time and good friends to help me become the social person that I once was before. In addition to those things, there were people I had to forgive and distance myself from.
It’s definitely during times like this that you find out who your real friends are, and I did. I eventually realized how toxic it was for my wellbeing to hang out with a group of people who not only didn’t quite believe that I just didn’t drink myself into oblivion and forget that I was a consenting adult with someone I didn’t know, but they also didn’t want to hear anyone ask or talk to me about what happened. It was a real eye opener into the type of people who were in my life. It was a wake-up call to see how unaccepting people are to situations like these when it happens to someone they know.
It’s a situation that makes people uncomfortable and they want to brush it under the rug and move on like it never happened. I also had to learn to let go and forgive people who I thought were my friends that were quick to victim blame (It’s amazing how quick people who know you question your character the second you’re a victim). I had to forgive and let go of the one person who I thought was my best friend for just disappearing on me and using the excuse that he was just focusing on his new marriage. I was so hurt and disappointed on how someone who I’d known for years couldn’t manage to call or text to check on me.
I didn’t expect people to put their lives on hold for me, but I did have some expectations of people to care enough to be dependable. Looking back on it, I realize that this person had a pattern of behavior of ditching his friends the second he got into a relationship and I had to learn to let that go because I was never going to be able to change that no matter how good a friend I was. I learned who the takers were in my life. I had to eventually make a clean break from people which is really hard for me, but it was necessary.
This wasn’t an overnight process, all of the things I’ve mentioned above didn’t happen right away. Honestly, the first few Halloweens after my attack were extremely tough. 2 years and 2 days after my attack, I had my daughter. Now I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. This is probably going to sound so dramatic, but my daughter saved my life. Having her rescued me from going down such a dark path caused by this trauma that I can without a doubt say that I would not have recovered from. Before her, I was not in a good place. Before her, I could not see the happiness that I have now. I probably would have stayed miserable and angry and hated Halloween for the rest of my life.
When I had my daughter, I made a choice to forgive all those people I had let go and walked away from. I realized that I had not forgiven and let go at the same time. I knew that in order to be any kind of mom, I had to really release all of that shit. I had to forgive all those people not just for myself, but for her too. I wasn’t going to continue to give the person that attacked me the power of taking away the happiness that I felt about Halloween (even before I had a kid) away from me.
I made the choice to choose happy. I made the choice to let go and move on so I could enjoy all the future Halloweens with my daughter. I never wanted to be the parent who was so emotionally damaged that I couldn’t participate in the once a year family fun activity of going trick or treating.
Having my daughter prevented me from a life of constantly reminding myself of the worst thing that has ever happened to me one day a year. In the 10 years since, there have been years that I don’t stop and think about it. That’s not to say that I have forgotten, it’s just not at the forefront of my mind like it used to be. The trade off to that however is seeing the scar I have on my lip that is a constant reminder of what happened to me and most days it’s easy to ignore, but sometimes when my daughter asks what the scar on my lip is, it’s kind of tough to come up with whatever lie I concoct about how I got it. Those are the tough days.
Even though I will never forgive the person who did this to me, I took steps to learn how to let go and move on for myself, because I deserve to be as happy as I can be. Sometimes letting go and relearning how to be positive is the best you can give yourself when forgiveness isn’t in your heart and is not a viable option. Sometimes letting go is the next best thing and that’s okay.