I never planned on telling my story or even sharing parts of it. I had concluded that fear had won, and I would never have a voice. What made my journey change were panic attacks. I had issues with small spaces and they got worse. So about two years ago I sat in parking lot at my counselor’s office arguing with myself about what I should do. My little voice of reason was rather loud that afternoon, and I am glad every day that I chose to face my fears, find my voice, and go into his office.

It hasn’t been easy as there has been many ups and downs. It took a couple months to gain control of the anxiety before moving onto EMDR for some triggers. It was something that I was intrigued by and I tried it. I was surprised how helpful it has been. It’s something else that I am grateful for, another part of my story that I thought wouldn’t be changed but it has. About two months after EMDR I had a huge break through where I was in a situation that would have set me off with anxiety. Instead I was cool as a cucumber and calm! In that moment, I knew that the hard work I was doing was worth it, and I was excited to see where I was going with my story.

After a year of hard work and effort I felt that two things were left on my list that needed to be crossed off. First, most of my family had no clue what had happened to me. My parents had been told a year prior, but we hadn’t really talked about it. Next, I could easily talk to my counselor about my story but no one else really. I wanted connections with other survivors, get my story out. So, I started searching online for ways to tell my story when I found information on The Younique Foundation and The Haven Retreat. I decided to apply after I realized it was very doable for me. Once I was told the dates that I would be attending I cried. I never thought that I would do something like that at all.

When it came to about a month before the retreat I finally told one of my sisters what had happened. It was a spur of the moment thing, and oh boy! I was shocked that I had just blurted it out. The month flew by and the night before I was in the hotel I messaged most of family to tell them what I was doing. I was in shock that finally the beginning of my story was emerging! The flight there was quick, and I was certain I was doing the correct thing.

The time I spent at the retreat is something I cherish. I felt comfortable telling parts of my story to others who understood where I was coming from. It was a moving experience and something that I needed. My family back home knew finally, not a lot, but it was a start. I was prepared to be more open when I got home. The staff and other ladies made the trip worth it all: the tears, the laughter, and connections I had made. I felt free after getting home, finding a new normal for me. The new normal is that people know what happened to me, it took a bit of getting used to though. One thing that I am going to be eternally grateful for is that my brother passed away a month after the retreat, he knew before he died. I almost did not tell my family before going, now I am glad I did.

My journey has led me to be more open-minded, asking for support was a difficult part for me. I had spent so much energy and time keeping silent. I was so used to doing everything by myself. I know my journey isn’t over, it’s been changed for the better. I know that I am moving forward, the road is going to be good, with bumps, but with those bumps will be with support. I have found my voice and that feels great.

-Michele, Survivor

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