Meet “Heather,” and take a minute to listen to her story.
I came from a really poor household. Money and good luck have always been elusive. Then again, despite our impoverished conditions, I never lost hope.
Fortunately, my efforts paid off when I graduated from university with a degree in finance. I didn’t waste time. Right after graduation, I immediately started looking for a stable job. My goal at that time was to really make it big in the corporate world so that I can pull my family out of extreme poverty.
The heavens heard my prayer. I landed a job as a credit analyst for an international finance firm. Finally, I felt like I could say goodbye to my hard and impoverished past.
True enough, I was earning good money. I was able to put food on my family’s table. I was able to send my younger siblings to school. I also was able to afford the rent for a decent apartment for my family. Things were indeed looking up for me. I believed that all my sufferings were all a thing of the past.
Until that one fateful evening.
I wasn’t surprised or bothered that my company was male-dominated, given the cutthroat and competitive environment in the finance world, or that I was one of the few women. I worked overtime, like the men, and I got used to staying late in the office with my boss and some of my colleagues.
On the evening of Feb. 5 last year, my boss called me to his office and told me that he was seriously considering promoting me to fraud analyst. He told me that I was really hardworking and ambitious and that he liked that about me. He also said that he could easily promote me to higher positions faster. I wondered why he was telling me that.
At first, I thought that he must have seen me growing well in my post and that he was genuinely pleased with my performance. Then suddenly, the tone of the conversation changed. He said there was just one condition that I must agree to. I asked him what the condition was, and then he told me that I should sleep with him.
I thought I did not hear him correctly, so I asked again. He said in a firmer and stronger tone that the condition for my promotion was for me to have sex with him.
I panicked. I suddenly felt attacked. All along I thought that I was far away from my hard and troubled past, but here I go again, caught in a very compromising situation. I told him no. I thanked him for the offer, but I said no.
That didn’t sit well with my boss. He told me that he would not take no for an answer and that he would make my life miserable until I said yes to him. I was dumbfounded. I stormed my way out of his office and immediately went home. I never told my parents about it because I didn’t want them to worry and honestly, I really didn’t know what to say.
Days went by but what my boss told me remained fresh and vivid in my memory. I stopped working overtime and just went home after normal work hours. It went well for a week or two, but our firm suddenly landed a huge project. When the news of the project went out, my boss called me again to his office. I hesitated at first but since it would really look weird if I threw a fit at the office, I gave in. I cautiously went inside his office and even left the door open, just in case I needed to run out again.
Much to my dismay, the moment I stepped into his office, he immediately put the blinds down and rushed to lock the door. He then grabbed my hands and threw me on the sofa. He slapped me twice and punched me, so I wasn’t able to resist him.
I don’t want to recall what happened after that, but my body and my mind knew the feeling of helplessness and misery very well. He won. He got what he wanted. I fell victim to his trap. After what he did, he threw a signed contract of promotion on the table and congratulated me. He said I worked hard for my promotion, so I should be happy about it.
Recovering from this nightmare wasn’t easy. There were days that I felt like I was useless and dirty. I also felt like I deserved to die. If this were a movie, he’d go to jail and I would have raised my fist in vindication. But the reality is harsh. I learned that early in life.
Uphill, But Not Impossible, Climb toward Recovery
Putting this thing in the past was an uphill climb. Though there was really no physical threat anymore, I was still afraid.
I wasn’t ready to seek professional help at first, so I decided to read self-help books. The most helpful thing I learned from all my readings is to forgive myself and to feel what I’m feeling without shame. I was angry. I was sad. I was numb. I allowed myself to feel all these.
I began to meditate. I sit down, close my eyes, take deep breaths then imagine my head opening up, with small black pieces of paper flying out of it. I didn’t know how effective that would be to calm me down until I tried it. Now, every time I feel overwhelmed or anxious, I meditate and let those black pieces of paper fly away.
I also tried facing the mirror and telling myself, “It’s not your fault”, “You’ve got this”, and “You’re safe now”. Much to my surprise, this worked. I forgave myself. I felt a deeper sense of peace.
I began to accept that no matter how many times I replayed the scenario in my mind, I could not undo what had been done. Accepting the fact that you were helpless that one time can really help you heal.
It’s not your fault that you were abused. People with lewd intentions are the ones who are at fault, so no point in torturing yourself over things of the past.
I quit my job. I realized I can be successful again, this time in a safe environment and in the company of good people.
I also opened up to my mother. She cried with me for three straight hours. She wanted to confront the man who did this to me, but I told her that instead of going back to that episode, I wanted to move forward, move on with my life. We both decided that it was time for me to seek professional help. I was still afraid to open up to a stranger, but my mom assured me that it’ll be okay and that she will not leave me alone.
I have been visiting my psychiatrist regularly now and I’m more at peace with myself. My psychiatrist was able to help me heal by making me more self-assured and secure.
Right now, I can’t say that I have fully recovered from my dark past, but I can say that I’m in a better state and condition. I can now laugh and enjoy the things I used to enjoy without feeling threatened and guilty.
What I went through was hard but it also showed me how strong I am to be able to bounce back and find peace after the storm.
Head content writer for Sunshine Behavioral Health.
When not visiting with current patients, you can catch him at a local Detroit Tiger's game, or reading new material from his favorite author Tim Ferriss.