To be clear, my life hasn’t been only failure and discomfort. I have experienced many incredible moments and excelled in various areas over the years, both personally and professionally. There are many accomplishments that I’m rather proud of.
I’ve excelled at work, receiving several promotions with increased responsibilities throughout my career, and have even been presented with a handful of professional awards from prestigious industry organizations. During my years volunteering for non-profits, I’ve chaired committees, spoke in front of crowds of nearly fifteen hundred people, created a professional mentor program, as well as met, learned from, and befriended copious hardworking, enthusiastic, inspiring colleagues from around the world.
In my private life, I have been fortunate enough to create many fond, everlasting memories with friends and family, including forming an eternal bond with my loyal and loving friend of over twenty-five years, meeting and marrying the love of my life, Chris, and becoming the incredibly proud aunt of nearly a dozen magnificent nieces and nephews. Additionally, although I may not have always been able to see it, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have relationships with parents that will never give up on me, siblings I would do anything for, and an array of trustworthy, selfless, and empathetic individuals that make up my support system.
Nevertheless, I’ve continuously struggled with maintaining overall order and stability in my life. Something always seemed to go wrong, pushing me further and further from my goals and a healthy mental state. As I grew and life’s challenges evolved, my concerns shifted from childish and straightforward to more complex issues like maintaining financial stability, battling infertility, and everything else that typically came with ‘adulting’ in the twenty-first century. Each of these concerns added weight to my shoulders. Most of the time, I felt like I was drowning, barely coming up for air, falling more and more behind while I watched everyone else pass me by. With each failure, I became further convinced that I was broken or lazy and that it was my fault. Even when I was happy, most of the time, it felt hollow or, at the very least, dulled or disconnected. Eventually, I accepted this cycle as a way of life and thought I deserved it.
Imagine that our emotional baggage is something tangible that we can all see and feel, like luggage we must carry around with us as we navigate life. At the start, we’re all equipped with an identical suitcase, but as we grow, experience new things, and face new challenges, what and how much we store inside differs significantly, as does the condition of the suitcase.
For years, I watched most people around me methodically carry their suitcase with ease, allowing them to keep up with daily responsibilities and continue to excel in life, only stumbling here and there when they temporarily lost control or faced a setback. It wasn’t until I finally forced myself to evaluate my emotional baggage and take a good look inside that I realized why things have been so difficult for me.
I had been unwittingly dragging around a heavy, bulky suitcase that was barely held together by duct tape and sheer will and, more importantly, was permanently 70% full. I made the mistake of assuming that life for everyone must have been like mine and that if I couldn’t keep up, the only logical reason was that I was weak, not good enough, or damaged. Because I didn’t recognize past experiences as trauma, I didn’t appreciate that I carried heavier baggage than most.
But the truth was, it weighed me down and kept me from being the best version of me I could be. Because there was little room left in my suitcase to store anything besides trauma, I was endlessly shuffling items around like a puzzle to fit it all in. I would constantly pack, unpack, and repack repeatedly before sitting on the suitcase and desperately hurrying to zipper it shut. Doing so wasted valuable time and energy leaving me too exhausted to keep up with everyday responsibilities or take time to enjoy life.
As I began therapy and started analyzing my past and exploring the items that I had been pushing, pulling, and vigorously dragging around in my suitcase, I realized that many experiences that I deemed as normal were toxic and unhealthy. It wasn’t until I acknowledged the past traumas that I finally realized my suitcase was just too large and too heavy and too exhausting for any one person to carry. I wasn’t weak; I only felt inadequate because I was eternally overextended.
It seems silly now that I didn’t see it all those years, that I didn’t recognize what happened to me as abuse or neglect. But when, starting at an early age, you experience things like I did, you don’t know that you’re a victim. Not yet aware of the evils and complexity of life, you trust that those around you are capable of keeping you safe. Having nothing else to compare to, you assume your childhood is typical and that everyone experiences life the same as you. Then when you are finally old enough and wise enough to process what has happened, guilt and shame have been so embedded into the foundation of who you are that you no longer have the strength to face it, no less come forward or ask for help. The thing about abuse is that the longer you wait to address it, the more time it can continue inflicting trauma, making it even harder to face.
Unfortunately for me, that’s precisely what happened. The trauma only compounded over the years. After decades of repressing memories, feeling negative thoughts towards myself, and not getting the medical care I needed, my emotional wounds remained open, continuing to scar and fester. My low self-esteem and need for approval made me an easy target for other predators to use as they pleased. Furthermore, when I endlessly struggled as I lugged that impossibly heavy baggage around trying but failing to keep up with life, I blamed myself, only adding additional stress and accelerating the deterioration of my mental health.
I was on a path of destruction, set for a life that I couldn’t call my own because I wasn’t the one in control. That role was stolen from me years ago when Jeffrey Epstein forced me to choose survival over free will. I was just a passenger along for the ride, and I probably would have continued to live life as a muted, lesser version of myself if it weren’t for what occurred during the year 2020.
Luckily, unbeknownst to me, my heroes were already on their way. Several brave women, each on their own journey, gave me the strength to free myself from my cage of isolation, self-deprecation, and denial, essentially saving my life and allowing me to tell you the story that I’m prepared to share with you. Every day, I continue to thank them for saving me because a life ruled by fear or filled with guilt and shame is not truly a life at all. They’ve allowed me to be myself, to finally find my voice, and to, at last, after all these years, use that voice for good. And that’s precisely what I intend to do.
It’s clear my heroes need a rest, and they truly deserve it, but the quest for justice needs to continue. I genuinely believe the only way we’ll find it is through knowledge, and to get that, survivors need to be willing to open up. However, even now, after the MeToo movement, that’s easier said than done. People shouldn’t have to be brave or strong to obtain justice or help.
For years I’ve been embarrassed and ashamed of what happened to me, and lately, I’ve started asking myself why. The assault caused enough damage; sharing what happened with others shouldn’t cause more harm. Yet, it does. As a society, we’ve made talking about sex and certain body parts taboo; adding assault into the conversation makes it nearly impossible. But someone must do it.
So, I offer myself and my story to you all, hoping that I help even just one person out there. If you stick with me, I’ll continue to share, and you’ll learn lots about me and the trauma I endured throughout my life, including detailed information about my experiences with Epstein and his associates.
I hope for your support as I continue my journey because I’m tired of being embarrassed and ashamed or feeling guilty and like I did something wrong because criminals decided to make me their victim. Please follow me on Medium and visit my website, CameraSweets.com, to stay up to date on the latest that I have to share.
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