The year 2003 turned out to be a big one for me. I never could have imagined the amount of change that one year could produce, from agony to joy. Towards the end of my junior year I knew I had a big decision to make. My parents were pushing me to get a degree in engineering by signing up for Augustana's 3-2 program with U of I or another school. In this program, I would leave Augustana to attend the other school, ending up with degrees from both schools - one in physics, the other in engineering. But I had always felt a pull towards teaching. I applied for an internship for the summer at the University of Minnesota to see what technical engineering would be like. Despite having only a background in physics, I was accepted and my parents drove me up at the beginning of June. The internship was meant to be 8 weeks and I would get paid $4000, plus live on campus for free. It seemed like an awesome opportunity. I would be home just in time for my sister's wedding even.
Everything seemed to be okay for the first week or so. I was making some new friends, following the summer workout plan, had joined a summer soccer league, and was mostly enjoying the new work. But then the anxiety mounted. I had trouble sleeping as the nightmares returned. I hadn't shared with anyone there what had happened to me and I didn't feel comfortable talking to anyone. Family came out to visit, and spending time with them helped a little. Jon and I had met the previous summer and were in a strong relationship at that point. So he came and visited over the 4th of July weekend. I agreed to give it one more week, but he saw that I was emotionally crumbling.
I spoke with those in charge of the program about my options. I shared with them the reason behind my difficulties and they tried to work with me. They offered to move me into a bedroom at someone's house to see if that would help. But I knew that what I needed was to be surrounded by my loved ones and I needed to talk to a therapist. Quitting that internship was one of the hardest decisions I've ever made. And part of me honestly still questions if I did the right thing.
The weekend after July 4th, my parents came out and brought me home. That next week I made an appointment to see a therapist that was recommended by a family member. She was a social worker and clearly trained differently than the psychiatrist I had seen previously. Jon drove me and sat in the car so that I would have him afterwards. Over the course of several sessions we mapped out the relationships in my family and I became comfortable. I was then able to share with her the sadness, shame, and frustration that originated from the date rape. Deciding to see that therapist and the way she helped me re-frame everything was a major turning point for me and allowed me to take back my life.
The biggest difference from the psychiatrist I had previously seen was that I was ready to work through everything. I decided I was ready to put in the work and let go of the emotions I was hiding. And I am so glad that I made that decision. Through the help of the therapist, my family, and Jon I was able to turn the corner in my life and see that I was not responsible for what had happened. I know I will forever carry this scar and in a few years will have to share the experience with both kids in discussing the dangers that lie ahead. But because I took the time to sort through everything, it will be okay. I wouldn't wish the experience on anyone, but I do believe I am stronger for working through the aftermath. I wish I would have done so right away instead of waiting 3 years.