Actualizing My Damage

Falling in love affected me so deeply because afterwards, I was forced to stare into the mirror. I was stripped naked, sitting cross-legged on the dark floor of my room as it reflected the darkest parts of myself: the wounds that never fully closed. I realized then that I was not equipped for a relationship because I had not healed from my past. I had endured trauma and abuse in many forms and that had affected my relationship with myself. It was not entirely the boy’s fault that this did not work out. It was mine, too.

My prior relationships had left me racked with numerous scars. Some were visible; I covered them with tattoos. The other scars were invisible to the naked eye because they lay dormant in my struggling soul. It is not the romantic relationships that had scarred me this way, though; it was my relationship with my family. My father’s alcoholism dramatically worsened following my mother’s abandonment when we were younger. People often say my mother and I are twins, meaning I was a daily reminder of his pain. Subsequently, I received the brunt of the abuse when he was drunk. Once, he wished me dead. I loved my father, but everyday he battled numerous demons. He fought as long as he could for us until May 4th, 2014. For years after he passed, I still flinched when I saw a belt. The first relationship I had with a man broke my self-esteem, so I rarely stopped other men that had similar habits. It was what I had become used to.

I also realized this past year that I felt guilty for my sexual assault. The pain that that caused me is one that I am still dealing with to this day. Six months after I moved out from “home,” I tried to salvage my relationship with my mother. But every single time we spoke, we were lying. We were pretending that everything was okay. She would still bring her boyfriend up. There were pictures of him in the house. I would have to hear his voice on the phone when he called her. And I had to be okay with it. But I was not. Her and I spoke every single day, so every single day I was being reminded of the night when everything came to a head. When the years of him grabbing my butt and making inappropriate comments mixed together to form the infamous night. The night that he grabbed his bulge in front of my face. The night that he held both of my legs open and while standing between them repeatedly asked me “Why not?” The night that he yanked me off the couch and rubbed himself up against me from behind when I wouldn’t let him grab me.

I was sixteen when he assaulted me. Two years after in college, I thought I had gotten over it. But when my heart broke in a way I never knew possible after that boy and I ended our not-relationship, I knew I was far from being okay. I could no longer pretend like that night— those years, did not happen. That man treated me as an object and I subsequently began treating myself the same way. I had to listen to my mind and my pain to put an end to it, starting with my mother. I could not speak to her knowing she was actively not protecting me. Knowing she was avidly moving to Florida this summer to live with him without knowing if I had a place to stay. So I told her the truth. I told her I was incapable of pretending anymore and everything blew up. My heart shattered for the millionth time as my mother left me on read. I walked her through the vivid details of what her boyfriend did all over again and she read it, but did not answer. She still has not answered. She has spread lies and spun narratives in which I am the bad guy. She has blamed the victim. That hurt my self-esteem more than any boy ever could.

This is my damage. I have grown up like many other minorities have in this institutionalized system: poor, hungry, abused. I did not succumb to my circumstances, but I realized I had still not overcome them. Some of those demons still clawed at me from beneath my bed at night. I spent many years being angry at the world, but I realized I can’t do that anymore. I can’t be angry that some people had nice houses growing up and have never gone hungry. I can’t be angry that some people have two parents that love and support them. I can’t be angry that some will never know the pain I have. I should be happy for them. I am happy now that many have not suffered the way I have. But I have to share my stories for the ones that have not been so lucky. For the ones like me that have had random hurricanes thrown in their paths without rhyme or reason.

Before I can truly help others, though, I have to help myself. I have to hold myself accountable for my own negative habits. I needed to stop hindering my own growth.

By Jaelynn Grace Ortiz

Jaelynn is a rising sophomore at NYU majoring in Journalism and Social and Cultural Analysis with a focus in Latino studies and is minoring in Creative Writing. The list of her hobbies is almost as drawn out as her majors are. She writes poetry, essays and stories, she dances, mentors high schoolers in the Bronx and often plans environmental events in NYU Residence Halls. She has a poem published in the introspective study Inside My World by the Live Poets Society. Despite vehemently condemning social media, she ironically has instagram which you could follow her on. 

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