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Excuse me, what did you say?

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about wearing a mask to hide the way we really feel or the things that have hurt us. To keep it on or be bold and courageous and dare take it off. To allow ourselves to heal from the things that caused us to wear the mask to begin with. To wear or not to wear, that is the question. However, I feel that I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t warn you and share with you the harsh reality of some of the things people may or have already said in response to the reason(s) behind why you’ve worn the mask.

Bless their hearts, people will say all kinds of things, both negative and positive, especially when they don’t really know what to say. However, you have to choose what to listen to, what to accept, and what not to internalize. As you begin to slowly remove the mask and start to weed out those you can trust with your deepest hurts, you will find that sometimes people simply don’t know what to say. So the first

response you may get is the “I’m sorry.” This response isn’t so bad except for the fact that, they didn’t do anything wrong and now you’re sort of left to grin and nod. I’m sorry is a rather safe response so we appreciate them at least understanding that this is a hard thing to deal with and painful. Truth be told many of us wish the person or persons that hurt us would have felt sorry and not done what they did in the first place. I digress. You may have some that sort of blow it off as though its no big deal. There will be people that you may encounter that have been where you’ve been or something similar and they will offer a helping hand through this, particularly if they’ve gotten through it and learned to live with it. They allowed it to change them but not define them; yes, there is a difference. We may talk about that in the future though.

In the last 15 years, I’ve heard so many things in response to my own personal rape/sexual assault, childhood molestation and I’d like to as we say in church be “transparent” and share some of them with you.

Positive Reponses:

  • Ree you know daddy love you right? – From my dad after finding out 6 months after it happened

  • I’m sorry to hear that. – From a fellow soldier in my unit, who after knowing that the guy attended drill every now and then in our building sort of became my personal bodyguard and made sure he never came near me.

  • What? Who? Where is he? I’m going to kill him? – From those ride or die cousins and friends

Negative Responses:

  • So McGowan, come on, you didn’t flirt with him, have on a short dress, etc. – From a military officer

  • I no longer trust you. You cheated on me. – From my high school ex-boyfriend

  • Are you damaged goods? – From my ex-boyfriend

  • I heard she made this story up to come home so she didn’t have to deploy – From my chain of command in the military

See, I told you some people will just let anything come out of their mouths. Sadly, most of it is out of pure ignorance. They just didn't know any better. For those that responded negatively to me, either I chose to no longer allow them in my life or if, after I gave them a few choice words (yes I cussed and hard too), they wanted to be educated I informed them of the truth. One I don’t care what I had on. If I flirted or even if I drank, I never consented to that. My words for the officer were: would you ask your daughters the same thing? A hush came over Jerusalem and he never asked me about it again. For my ex-boyfriend from high school, it took me almost 14 years to realize this but he was young and didn’t really know what to do so I came to an understanding of why he felt the way he did at the time. However, my understanding by no means meant that he was right for responding that way. Am I damaged goods? No I’m not and neither are any of you. I’m different. You can’t just treat me any kind of way. I’m like a rose; I have to be handled with care. Material things get damaged. I on the other hand smile through my pain and no longer allow anyone to put me back in the place of self-hatred and self-blame. And if I just didn’t want to deploy, why would I tell this story, this isn’t fun. That comment was just dumb to begin with, some people you just have to let be ignorant.

As you head down this path of removing your mask, be cautious of who you share it with. Most importantly, be aware of the things that could be said. Embrace the positive and don’t internalize the negative.

Talk to me. What are some of the things you’ve heard? Or maybe even thought?

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