I recently submitted my story to Yoga Diaries and, after hitting send, had a minor panic attack.
(The Yoga Diaries is a project that collects stories of healing and transformation through yoga.)
I haven’t told many people the crunchy details of that part of my life, a time when I was stuck in a cycle of reckless behavior and self destruction. It wasn’t pretty. It still isn’t. I made a lot of bad decisions. But I also learned, in the process, who I was, who I wanted to be, and how to stand up for myself. Here’s my story.
At 19 years old, I found myself pregnant, alone and in a hostile environment.
My mother had abandoned me during my last year of high school and I was homeless, living out of cars and at friends’ houses. My behavior was reckless. A formerly model student and athlete, I barely made it to class and almost didn’t graduate. I think my teachers took pity on me and pushed me through, one of them even gifting me a yearbook anonymously.
During high school I took refuge in an evangelical church. Their over-the-top enthusiasm to welcome me in made me feel less broken. I overlooked some of the codependency they exhibited in their faith because it felt like I had a family that actually wanted to be around me, faults and all. I remember thinking they were all so open with their faults and sins and problems. It made me feel at home.
For that reason, though I had been accepted to numerous colleges that would be cheaper, closer to familial resources, or more in line with my prospects of becoming a surgeon, I chose an elite, private Christian college. And away I went.
Those first days were so odd for me, having come from such a tough last year of high school and being dropped into the lap of luxury, surrounded by children who were so sheltered, so bright, so sure of their places, their safety, their faith. They couldn’t fathom the experiences I’d been through and, frankly, they didn’t want to know.
I closed up, made a show of being something, someone I wasn’t. This wasn’t the church I had found, these weren’t broken people and I was out of place. That first year I lost three of my grandparents, people who had been pivotal in my life and in my identity. Having no one to turn to, feeling isolated, I lost it a bit.
I reached out for help, for support from my new-found community, but was told that my grandparents, who weren’t confirmed Christians, were probably in hell. I found refuge instead in the man I had started dating just before I left for college, the boy back home that came to see me. He was my lifeline. But somehow I couldn’t hold it together. I lost sight of everything I wanted and who I was, a sheltered girl who was thrown into real life in such a short time. I cheated on my boyfriend and I broke his heart. I felt helpless to stop myself, to reign in my self destruction, even as I watched it happening.
Shortly after that, I found out I was pregnant and being that my boyfriend wanted nothing to do with me, we had an abortion. He held my hand the entire time, we cried together through the pain and the clinical terror of it all, and he left me, bleeding and woozy in my dorm room. And that was that.
That summer, I fell into a crowd from college that, though able to talk the talk, played a very different game behind closed doors. In short, I found the same bad behavior from which I had come seeking healing. I drank a lot, partied too much.
One night I had too much to drink and awoke to a man I barely knew.
I convinced myself it was my fault, for having so much to drink, for going to bed naked. I ended up dating him, I think in an effort to smooth over the rough edges, to make it okay, for both of us, that he had taken advantage of me when I was unconscious. I think my sense of self-worth was so broken, so guilt-ridden over the abortion that I convinced myself I deserved every rotten thing that came my way. And so it was.
To read the rest of the story, please visit the Yoga Diaries.
Editor: Lynn Hasselberger