"IF I TELL THE TRUTH" / IDIL / DATA BITCH & PHD CANDIDATE
When I was 24, I met a man whom I thought I could love, and in turn, he broke my mind and soul. To those who knew me, I became unrecognizable. I had shrunken to 97 lbs. I disconnected from my friends and family. I began having constant, nearly hourly panic attacks. At night, I woke up screaming from terrors. My days were living nightmares of being gaslighted and shamed in every possible way. My body became a collection of bruises, from when he supposedly playfully but in reality painfully groped and grabbed me, to the point where I started to burst into tears when he came too close. For two years, I stopped laughing.
The week before I started my new job at Data & Society, this man discarded me for the second time. And then I got sick and ended up being diagnosed with endometriosis. My doctors said I had to take care of myself and reduce stress as much as possible. For those of us who carry the weight of trauma, self-love and self-care are fucking hard. If you were anything like me, you woke up one day and saw that you were irreparably broken. And the task of putting yourself back together is overwhelming.
I could not have put myself back together without help from the women in my life, particularly the women of Data & Society, past and present. They acted as my shield to the world, so that I could heal myself. I never believed in the power of healing circles – yet the power and strength that radiated to me from my friends could only be described as magic. With their help, I was finally able to tell my ex-boyfriend that he doesn’t fucking own me – a statement that was met with contorted anger and disbelief. With their support, I applied to the insanely selective PhD program in Information Science at Cornell University and, in the happiest moment of my life, opened the acceptance email.
It’s been a hard few years. My heart still hurts. My body still flinches when someone new touches me. I still sit stunned at the extent of the abuse, and I have no idea how I survived. I still feel like I disappointed the me of the past, the one who used to dream and love without caution. Yet, as time often demands, I am rediscovering who I am. I found that I laugh so much that I cannot get past the first parts of a story without a fit of giggles. I found that I am ferociously loyal and capable of profoundly loving people. I found that I am everything I once was: unyielding, brave, proud, awkward, vain, outrageous, joyful, and so much more. And I finally have dreams again.