“I Still Have Nightmares,” Amanda
I wished I had died. But I survived. Living had become a foreign concept. How did I do it, again? Had I even known what it meant? I held no joy, no peace. The path I had set up for myself in the before was pulling me along. My parents had so many concerns about my life in the after, but I didn’t move home, didn’t drop out. I stayed. I kept moving. Like a train stuck on the tracks that laid before it, unable to change direction.
I existed. That’s probably a better word for what I was doing. I watched too many shows that I used to care about to try and distract me from the monster of my nightmares, whose hands were just moments away from latching on to my throat once again. It was in this stupor that I found a light, a clarity. Julia, on the other side of the screen, had a goal. She had vengeance fueling her will to live while I sat on the couch with no purpose, no life. As I watched her struggle towards her objective, I felt something move inside me. Week to week, I would sit down and watch her story religiously. It was as if my only purpose was to witness her fight, her setbacks. I had started to look forward to something. Soon enough, I was doing that in other parts of my life. I felt something when I saw people, when I talked, interacted with them. The fear I had felt around others for so long had started to give way to something else, something lighter. I wouldn’t call it happiness, but it was like that. It took me two months to touch another human being of my own accord. But I had started to wake up from my daze of crushing emotion before then.
Julia inspired me to seek my own vengeance. I would chase after my own goal with the ferocity that she did hers. A piece of me had been taken that night – I couldn’t give up the rest. So, I looked over my plan from before and adjusted it to fit into my After. I turned my pain, my anger, my shame into fuel and funneled it into my goal. I started living in the ways I knew how. I focused on building relationships, albeit very superficial ones. I focused on school. Now that I could envision a future for myself, I had to make sure not to mess up the opportunities I had in front of me. I focused on my health. It was hard to eat, but I made sure I kept up with it. I am moving forward with a life, achieving goals I set up for myself with a singular purpose: whatever form it takes, however I have to, I will live as much as I can.
I still have nightmares.
They feel so real that even when I open my eyes, I have to turn on the lights just to be sure. I check my locks obsessively. My only line of defense to protect my home from the darkness outside. I can’t have anything touch my throat or be in large crowds for too long. I can’t have too much physical contact with people without having a full-on meltdown. But I learned what I can do as well. I can say when I’ve had enough. Who cares if it hurts someone else’s feelings? I’m protecting myself. No one has the right to tell me what to do with my time and energy. I’m taking back the control that was stolen from me.
What happened to me will always haunt me – I’ll never be free from it. My vengeance is to live. What’s important to my goal isn’t how much I can take before breaking. It’s what I come back from – how I come back from it. I am always one moment, one step away from drowning in the current of my own emotions. But I keep getting up through every setback, every trial. I keep living. And this is my greatest revenge.