My story begins when I am 8, too young to know better but just old enough to remember. My mother is shouting, screaming and threatening to throw me against the wall. I don't remember why. But I remember the terror.
My story changes when I am 16. I move to Australia as an exchange student and my world is awakened. I see what it means to be loved and accepted. I bring this knowledge home with me 1 year later. My world is shattered, my mother hates me for growing and I resent her for trying to stop me from blossoming.
When I am 19, my story changes again. I am in Ecuador, travelling in South America alone. My mother’s hatred confused with love has made me hard against the world. Brave in ways that maybe I shouldn't be. It is on this trip that I am raped for the first time. It will be three years before it happens again, but it does. It happens three more times.
My story takes a new path when I am 20. I am in India, on my fifth long trip abroad. I am running from the pain that is my home, my mother’s anger, all my shame. For the first time I let myself use the word "abuse". Emotional, invisible, but scaring all the same.
I am 21, my mother hits me for the last time. I leave and never look back.
A year later I am raped again, then twice more the same year. I grieve the loss of myself through drugs and alcohol. I binge until I cannot binge any more. When I finally get help, my Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is so bad I cannot function on my own. I cannot walk alone, can't face the world after dark, can barely do anything but breathe. And some days that is difficult in itself.
My story arrives at today, I am healing. Slowly. Bravely. Patiently. Accepting the bewilderment and pain that was my childhood, and the abuse that is rape. Learning to love myself again. Remembering that I am worth everything my mother told me I was not.
I am whole.
I am brave.
I am worthy.
I am love.
I am Ariel, I love and accept myself.