Thursday, February 25, 2016

It's Not Your Fault

The more I thought about writing this, the more anxious I became.   At one point I convinced myself not to write about it.  Then I thought about how scared it made me, and I realized that's exactly why I have to write.

Rape isn't about sex.  Rape is about power and control.  It's about displaying power and taking control.   It's about pain and humiliation. 

The affects of sexual assault are long lasting and far reaching.  

I know.

I was raped.

I was high school age.  It was someone I trusted.  

I walked away bruised and in shock.  

I was humiliated.

I questioned myself so many times, trying to figure out how I had gotten myself into that position.  What did I do wrong?

The man who assaulted me was someone who was in my life.  Someone I knew I would  come into contact with again and again.  He made it clear he wasn't afraid of me or what I might say.  He was invincible.  

It was a while before I thought I could share it with anyone.  Finally, I did the only thing I knew how to do when dealing with such a monumental experience.  I wrote it down in a letter, intending to send it to a friend I could trust.  Before I could send it, someone else found it and read it.

She sat me down and told me that she had read the letter.

She asked me what happened.  She wanted to know.

A wave of relief washed over me.  I was finally able to let this secret out and this was a person I could depend on. She wanted to listen and I knew she would protect me.

So I cried and let it out.  I shared what happened, how afraid I was because I would see my attacker again - it was unavoidable.  I was terrified and didn't know how to handle it.

"Don't you dare say a word to anyone else."

I was stunned.

"We can't let anyone know."

In an appalled silence, I listened to her talk about the humiliation it would bring to me if I told anyone else.  She went on to say that no one would believe me anyway.  She went so far as to say

"You know, you could have said no."

It didn't matter that I did say no.  That I did say stop.  That I did try to defend myself.

There it was.  Definitive proof. I could have stopped it.  

It was, without a doubt, my fault.

My own mother had just confirmed it for me.

So I tore up the letter.

I lived in panic and worry.  For years.

Periodically, I would have to face this man.  It was a long time before I was comfortable with any man in any situation.

I spent time in therapy trying to build up my inner strength and move on. In time, I realized it wasn't my fault.    I know the psychology behind the attack.  I even know the reasoning behind my mother's response was likely because of her own past that I knew nothing about. 

We never spoke of it again.  

Why share this now?

As I read about the singer Kesha, whose songs push me to ride harder and faster, I felt like I relived my rape and everything that followed all over again.  I wanted to reach out to her and say "I understand, I get it, and I am sorry you are going through this."

There should be no shame in a victim sharing their horrifying experience.  I know that what I went through is nothing compared to what others have gone through.   Anyone should be able to come forward and say "this happened to me" and get a resolution of some kind.

Not be shamed or ridiculed or worse.

Blamed or dismissed.

Kesha is a brave woman.  It might have taken her a long time to realize her strength and come forward to try to get away.  

And she was dismissed by those with the power to help her get away and move on.

Shame on them.  And shame on the system that perpetuates it.  That chooses to say "you could have said no" and blames the woman for being attacked.

It's not your fault.  It never was.

Friday, February 19, 2016


I succeeded.  My hike, the one that I felt defined me, is over and I accomplished what I set out to do.  Way to go ME!

I am beginning to see differences with 6 months of bike riding.  It started subtly. Activities that made me feel out of breath quickly, now aren't as difficult as before.

Clothes are fitting differently.  I am not at all near 'buy a new wardrobe' but I am at 'those pants that were uncomfortable are now easy to wear'.  

My face has changed a bit - it's interesting.  It's something I see every day so it's hard to notice.  One day I looked in the mirror and I noticed the difference. Almost like it had happened overnight.  

My legs.  That's a big difference.  I began feeling what they could do differently about 3 months in.  At the same time I began feeling the difference in how they felt when I walked or flexed for some reason.  I couldn't see it.  But the muscle was definitely noticeable to the touch.

This week I actually saw the changes in my legs.  There's a visible definition that wasn't there before.  That shocked me.  And made me smile.  

Perhaps more importantly, I am noticing changes inside me.  Inside my head.  I look back at all the things I was afraid of doing.  The challenges before me that I never believed I would accomplish, so I pretty well convinced myself to not even try.

I rode 3 miles, but was positive I wouldn't be able to ride 5 miles.

Now I ride 8+ miles for all of my rides.

I rode at 9 mph.   I was convinced that I would never reach 10 mph.

Now I am at 13+ and I even saw a 14 once!

That's what conditioning has given me.  I have built myself up and improved on myself.  

Here's where my mind, my head, has begun to change.

I started out by walking my bike up hills.

Now I have added sections to my ride that have hills.   I cringed when I added the first one. Truth be told I flat out whined when I added it.  But I did it.  My most recent hill addition kicks my ass EVERY SINGLE TIME.   I have to talk myself into doing it when I decide on my route in the morning.  And sometimes I talk myself out of it.  I have to say, though, that when I do make it up that hill, I feel elated.

I avoided going fast down hills.  I rode the brakes as hard as I rode the pedals for the up hill portion.   I was so scared of losing control.

Now, there are three hills that I look forward to flying down and I am scouring Strava after the ride to see my top speed (I have hit 30 mph!!)

We spend so much of our lives defining ourselves.  Making a box around who we are and saying "this is me".  

I am not a box.    

I don't have a limit.   

This is my most recent self revelation.

I know myself well enough to know  that I will still struggle with that.  It will be easy to slip back and say there are limits to who I am and what I can do. 

My only limits are in my head. 

I hope I can keep coming back to that.

This year 238 miles
Overall 792 miles


Friday, February 5, 2016

Do It Anyway

I am afraid.

More like terrified.  

A part of what all this riding has been about is happening this weekend. 

Thinking about it rattles the inside of me.  Just thinking about it has caused an anxiety attack WHILE RIDING MY BIKE (something I don't recommend).

Every two years I have to do a 'fitness hike' for my Search and Rescue team.  It involves distance, time, cumulative elevation and a 20 lb pack.  The time element determines what 'level' team you are. The principle behind it is to have some measuring tool to say yes this person is fit enough to be deployed on a search.   I have done this hike many times.  I have always been a level 2 team - meaning I have done the hike in under 3 hours - until 3 years ago.   

I have never wanted to be a level 1 team.  That encompasses this hike - but faster, plus additional proficiencies designed to ensure you can search at altitudes above 7000 feet. That has never been a need of mine.

A level 3 is the lowest of the low.  The barest of the bare minimums.  It means you'll be allowed to search on essentially flat grown, devoid of challenges.   In other words, the likelihood of you getting deployed on a search dips near zero.

That's me.  

Three years ago I didn't make it in time.  I made in enough time still be considered deployable, just not enough time to be deployable on the majority of searches out there.

I was crushed.   I can make a zillion excuses, but it boiled down to ... me.  My head telling me I couldn't do it.  It was right.  I was right.

I didn't do it.

Last year, it was time to do it again.  

Missed it by 9 minutes.  

9 minutes.

I am not due this year.  Not for the hike anyway.  I am due to recertify with my dog however. And your level of fitness dictates what test you can take with your dog.   

Since we have been certified together, my latest dog and I have been on 1 search together. One search.    To be sure, some of that is because the region we live in doesn't have all that many searches.  But it's also because of me.

So I set out to re do my hike in advance of when it is due so that we can become that 'better' team.   So that we can have more opportunities to be out there, to help those that need us.

I had time line goals and to be completely honest, I was intending to do this hike before now.  I had thought of November.  November came and I couldn't make myself get past the fear and do it.  Same with December.  And really... January.

What is my fear?  Of failing of course.  Trying and failing, yet again.  In the back of my head, if I fail, yet again, I will definitively prove that I am no good.

I am less.

I am not worthy of being deployed on any search.  

Which is funny considering,  in my 24 years in search and rescue, how many searches I have been on  and where they have taken me.  

I have sloshed through snow for hours on end throughout the night.

I have climbed up and down and up and down endlessly.

I have gone back day after day after day,  crashing through brush and trees and foliage.

I have searched mile after mile after mile in conditions I would never choose to go on a hike in.  And gone back the next day to do it again.

But this hike defines me. 

If I make it, I am WORTHY.

If I don't.... I am not.  

So, it terrifies me.

If I intend to become that 'better' team, I must do it now.  

I must try.

I am still scared. 

I am going to do it anyway.

2016 -175 miles
Overall - 730 miles.