It all started with some really terrible gift-giving advice. I had no idea what to get my boyfriend of seven and a half months for Christmas. What do you get a boy for that length of time? It's too long for a joke gift; it's too short for a really nice one. He was my first serious boyfriend. I had no idea. 

I got him a movie we'd seen that summer that he really liked, so that was a go. That seemed like a dinky gift, though. I asked for his best (female) friend’s advice. With no hesitation, she told me to get lingerie.

I found this black and pink set. I liked it at the time.

I went to his house on New Year's Eve. My mom took me. I wore a new plaid shirt with a camisole, and under that, the lingerie. I had already given him the movie the week before so I planned to give him the second gift that wasn't my idea. With me, I had a small wrapped box with a paper message inside it: “Now unwrap me.”

At this point, I would like to note that he and I weren't having sex. We had previously had sex. Seven times. However, I had asked that we stop as it made me feel horrible and dirty. He obliged. Another note, I had no intention of having sex. I was on my period, and wore a tampon. I had no plans of that cotton coming out of me until I was back home at my own house. My plans didn't matter to him.

He really did like the movie. I'm not sure, but I think he was satisfied with that. He got me perfume and this weird soundtrack. The perfume made me sneeze. When he opened his second present, he was slightly confused. Then, he vigorously started kissing me and taking off my clothes. When he got to the lingerie, he was awe-stricken. I don't blame him. He wasn’t physically fit and I had all of the right measurements to be a model. He would have taken the rest off in an instant, but I stopped him when I said,

“No sex.”

We got into a fight. I offered concessions like a hand-job or even a blow-job. I just didn't want to have genital-to-genital contact. He threw the biggest guilt trip he could at me.

“You can't just go back once you've had sex.”

“This is the worst present ever.”

“You're such a b****!”

He was a baby and I had taken away his favorite toy. Then, he tried being nice.

“I'll be gentle.”

“I'll do it however you want.”

He won.

During the act, I said no. His hands were on my shoulders, pinning me down. I said stop again. He just ignored me. He didn't listen to my consequent no's and stop's until I was crying. We didn't say much. The movie played on in the background.

He was some kind of smooth, sweet-talker to me then. He apologized, and I listened. He was my boyfriend and I forgave him. I went over to his house again two weeks later. That time, we had the same argument, but not because I did a provocative thing like wear lingerie but just because he wanted it badly. That time, he didn't let me win. That time I still had no plans of having sex. That time, there was no making nice beforehand. That time I said 'stop' and 'no' a lot more because, that time, he didn't listen to me until it was clear I was bleeding and, that time, I was pinned down by his hands on my shoulders, his weight twice mine, keeping me from stopping him myself.

He made up with me again. I have no idea how. I had never screamed; his dad was downstairs, and what would happen if he came up and found us? I had to be quiet, I just had to. Like every other time, I never made a sound that could be heard outside that suffocating room. 

The months after were a blur. I tried to forget what happened, to convince myself it wasn't rape, date rape, but I didn't know the meaning of the latter term. He cheated on me with his ex, the giver of terrible advice. He called me horrible names, got me sick, and begged to do weird things to me.

He still had sex with me eleven more times. He broke up with me at the end. We were on separate family vacations. It was the fourth of July.

For the first part of my senior year, I felt invisible. I felt inconsequential and unheard because everyone else was too busy being concerned about things they were doing and the decisions for the future they were making while I was committed to school (where I had to endure his presence), homework, soccer (which I sucked at) and my parents who insisted upon making my life difficult with their constant bickering still, despite their divorced state. When I got angry, when I wanted to scream and yell, I knew people didn't want to hear it, and my anger would only upset the tremulous friendships I had, so I held it in, pushing it down until it reached up and strangled my voice into a tiny, shriveled, thing that I could only remember. I wrapped myself in my cardigan, lived with a choked feeling constantly, and tried to deal with my life of invisibility. 

I did this until I got a note back on my one of journals, a requirement for history class in which I detailed my invisibility. The note said that if I hated feeling invisible so much then I should make myself visible. The novelty of this idea struck me with such force that I immediately realized the truth in it. By going along with my feelings of invisibility, I had made myself invisible, so I could conceivably make myself visible once more if I tried. The problem was, I had faded away due to my hermit-like habits.

I stopped wearing my cardigan and the loose-fitting uniforms that hid my figure, choosing instead to wear long sleeves in the growing cold and girls-fit polos. I started speaking up at lunch instead of letting myself fade into the background of gigglers. I got involved in more activities. I grew more opaque the more I rehabilitated that shriveled-up voice of mine until it was standing on crutches. Then came October.

I soon exhibited symptoms for a new medical problem: post-traumatic stress disorder. I was skittish, quiet, and prone to randomly fainting then possibly seizing; but worse when I was around him. The seizures weren't epileptic, but rather violent fits of shaking, pupil enlargement, and inability to respond followed by stuttering and unsteadiness while moving. They were triggered by social conflict and stressful interaction.  

As October faded into November and December, it became apparent to me that the seizures were more specifically triggered by interactions revolving around one individual, one smirking individual sitting across from me in history class who could never seem more despicable than at those moments. That individual assaulted me twice, and I was so intent on having a boyfriend, some social anchor in my turbulent life, that I failed to recognize it until after he cheated on me, had sex with me 11 more times, broke up with me, and made me out to be crazy to our classmates. He even made me, a music perfectionist, mess up at my Christmas bells concert. It was that individual who gave me so much stress that I put my head down in the middle of class, cried for 1 minute, then seized and was so unresponsive that they had to have a football player come and carry me from the room and down the stairs to the office.  

That boy made me feel invisible and unheard when he hurt me, and he gave me the persisting feelings of not counting and not being able to say anything. I finally admitted to what happened in December almost a year later when the seizures got too bad to ignore it any longer. After 11 months of silence on the matter, I told my therapist what had happened, then my mother who told my father and my brother and my principal and guidance counselor, which left me responsible for telling my sisters, which I did when they came to town. Even though my family wanted to kill him for what he had done to me, I still felt scared and incapacitated.

The anger came around February. I started wanting to punch him in the face. There were various scenarios, but they all ended with my fist getting well-acquainted with his face. His nose. His eye. His mouth. I marveled over the idea, especially punching his nose. The anger stewed. I had more seizures.

There were others: pushing him down the stairs, egging his precious SUV . . . I had a lot of rage. My hate-juice was pretty potent.  I wanted to make him pay. The police had other ideas.

Not reporting rape for a year, then giving them a half-remembered story, blocked from a year of PTSD, and only telling them due to my therapist's insistence didn't result in any investigation, just an awkward afternoon of talking about sex and forced sex with a policewoman. This occurred especially because date rape and its sociology goes ignored by the judicial system of my county. Unfortunately, I made myself forget the worst of it. He got his jollies any way he could, even if that meant forcing me to give them to him. I blocked out all of that, and the report was useless.

I had the grand finale of my seizures in April, after a senior retreat where I told him I forgave him (when the reality was I would hold on to that hurt for two more years). I lost my memory, except for a few details, in between cataclysmic seizures. I kept insisting it was Saturday, when I didn't know the day at all. I didn't know where I was. I didn't know who my parents were. I didn't know myself at all.

I couldn’t walk, and I needed serious rehab. But I got better on my own in two days through journaling and the sheer will to not miss any more school. It’s been three and a half years since the last seizures and since I wrote all of this up. The summer after I graduated (salutatorian, absent 35 days), I endured severe depression and PTSD, and then I checked myself into a psychiatric ward for suicidal urges. Then I got out of my hometown and went to college.

I have thrived and grown so much since I came to university. I've made friends, joined a sorority, and built a support network. I’ve only told a select amount of people what I’ve been through, but I’ve never been shamed for it. My experience even empowered me to help a girl who was sexually assaulted.  

As a senior in a difficult science major, I still deal with depression and anxiety, but daily flashbacks no longer occur. I have only become stronger since he hurt me. It gets better, but first you have to recognize the Truth.