Gal Wonder vs Galzilla The Mental Health Journey of a Sexual Assault Survivor
Disclaimer: I am about to give you a piece of my mind. This isn’t so much about sexual assault or being Asian, but if you are a survivor or battling mental health or need to make a breakthrough with your spirituality, maybe you can relate to my journey or just listen because this is a bit much.
I can’t recall the exact details of my incident because I was unconscious when it happened. What really changed me was the aftermath of waking up with the feeling that someone invaded my room the night before. Someone violated my body—and what drives me crazy is that I don’t know who did it or who would believe me if I said anything about it.
This wasn’t all in my head. Some things were missing from my room, so I think I was robbed. The sheets around me were wrinkled like someone else was in my bed. There was pain in between my legs. My belly was abnormally bloated. Then there was a trail of unknown liquid to the edge of my bed which confused me. Like there’s no way I simply wet the bed because that would be a puddle, not a trail, right? What did they put on me? What did they put in me?
I don’t know, but place your hand on your lower belly and feel my pain.
I was so scared. My heart sank when I called my mom and told her to pick me up because I had just been r—raped. I was too scared to change or shower. I just packed up my belongings and left by the end of the day.
I never talk about this but that’s why I dropped out of college.
Leading up to this, I was probably slipping into a low-key state of psychosis. Sure, I was on medication, drinking more, and riding on an all-time high because my smoking addiction made me feel oddly more in touch with the universe, but what really confused me was not my substance abuse. It was the feeling of social disconnect with others that started to make me feel paranoid. Like what was everyone saying about me behind my back and why wasn’t anyone telling me? Was something going on?
There were small things that made me skeptical. Like who stole my OBEY jacket because I definitely did not misplace that. Why did I feel like I was being watched or followed to class? Was it really a coincidence that I ran into that person eyeing me on the route I usually took? Why were people talking about me but not talking to me? And who had sex in my bed when I was gone because there’s a used condom in my room and that’s not mine. It was small irritable stuff like this that made me wonder what was going on.
So I got a little paranoid and became kind of schizophrenic. When I started hearing voices and feeling like I was being watched, the plot line inside my head became so absurd. Imagine feeling like your every move is being watched. You hear a voice in your head and you converse telepathically, but if anyone actually tried reading your mind then the joke is on them because it’s probably just Blink-182 lyrics. No, but really, the joke is on you because your life is being live-streamed and the person in the corner of the screen who is talking to you and making commentary about your life is your ex-boyfriend.
That was what the beginning of insanity felt like.
I had zero clue of what was actually happening because my radiohead was tuned into another station, but after that, I just had to leave and felt like no one even cared that I was gone.
When I got home, I stayed in my parents’ room and quietly cried myself to sleep the first night. I got examined the following day, but I was still very confused and traumatized by what had happened to me. For a while, my stuff stayed in piles along the hallway, I slept in a small tent pitched in the living room, and I had terrible frights and night sweats for nearly two weeks. Then one night when I really could not sleep, I just watched Endless Summer at like four in the morning and could dream again.
I was pretty emotionally dead for a while, but when I remembered that I had medication, I started taking ritalin with medicinal marijuana. The combination got me to bounce back enough to distract me from the trauma I still had to process. Then I started painting again and guzzling IPAs to help suppress my feelings, but then my mom confiscated my weed. That didn’t keep me from smoking, but when I needed to actually find something to smoke out of, I just picked up my teapot. I put a nug on the spout and lit it up.
Pause and take a deep breath with me right now.
The plot line inside my head came back stronger and more absurd than ever, which was amusing, but probably inappropriate for the situation I was actually in. I got to be the city planner of my own world, it looked pretty epic, and I was going to go there soon. Eventually, the voice drove me out of the house on an unplanned misadventure and told me to kill myself, but I was unprepared for suicide on the spot. Like wait, what am I doing out here, and that got me held at a mental hospital for a week.
The whole time I was dealing with this, I didn’t even understand what I was going through. I didn’t really think about mental health as something I struggled with or even thought of myself as a sexual assault survivor. I even forgot about my depression. I just kind of got through each day and let this hit me in waves.
After I was released, my happy brain chemicals were at zero again and I just didn’t know what to do anymore.. Maybe I should go back to college. Ah, I forgot about that.
Part 2 Can you imagine the painfully awkward moment I experienced when I was sitting in the middle of a school assembly and found the words to describe myself as a sexual assault survivor? There was a guest speaker who described what happens when the police respond to instances of sexual assault and how they examined victims, and I have been in that seat before. I tried to remain calm, but I was actually flipping out because we had an entire school week dedicated to the awareness of domestic and sexual abuse.
That was also the semester I was slut-shamed by my teacher in a school assignment. I took an online gender studies class because that was the last GE I needed and that was the easiest class to fit into my schedule. There were mostly girls in this class, but for the randomly assigned group project I was placed in a group with all boys, which did not feel random. The assignment was to read a horrendous lime green book titled Slut! and my group had to read the chapter about a slut named Alyssa, which did not feel randomly assigned or teach me anything about gender studies. If anything, I realized that people must have spread rumors about me in school and that was the story that got told because I’ve haven’t said a word to anyone. I flipped out even harder with all of the subliminal messages at school that triggered my trauma and I brought up my concerns about this assignment because that was not a coincidence. The teacher dismissed my concerns until the next semester by sending me to the principal’s office (in college!) and she didn’t even show up.
What’s your concern?Sir, I believe that I was just slut-shamed by my teacher and what I experienced was not actually randomly assigned, but intentional. Have you talked to a school therapist?Yes, during that awareness week, and both times the therapist couldn’t even handle me and I had to talk to an officer instead. Is there anything else we can do?Yes, that Slut! book my teacher assigned should not be taught in school and it teaches absolutely nothing about gender studies.
Part 3 I started taking care of my mental health by working on my spiritual health, whatever that meant. By this time, I had sobered up but was still on some antidepressants and antipsychotics, but I didn’t want to be on meds forever so I opened my mind to holistic approaches to health and wellness. I started to meditate regularly before bed and before I started my day. Then I started learning more about Zen Buddhism and I changed my meditation technique to zazen. Zazen is a little more hard core than regular meditation. There’s no soothing background music or positive affirmations. In this technique, your sitting posture should be elevated on a cushion. Your hands should rest at your center with palms up and thumbs touching. Your back should be straight but comfortable. Then you should be facing a wall even though your eyes are closed. Once you have your form, relax and breathe deep and even belly breaths. The objective in zazen is to not think. In zazen, we will discover that there is a lot on our minds. When a thought arises into your conscious awareness or you realize that your mind is drifting, just quiet your mind and return to the present moment.
Practicing zazen made me confront some of the tougher parts of my mental health. There was also a huge mental health awareness in school, and here I was years later realizing I had already experienced most of the spectrum. Like I started on fluoxetine and ended up on lithium. It was difficult at times, but my mental state was more manageable when I focused on my breath. In zazen, everything that I had suppressed over the years crept back to my conscious awareness and I had to process it, and then let it go.
Zazen and zen philosophy also made me seek to understand more about Buddhism. I grew up in a Buddhist household, and even though my grandma was a female monk, I had a language barrier with my grandma and my understanding of religion. When I was younger, I didn’t learn much about what Buddhism actually meant and I wasn’t taught how to meditate, but I used to observe how my devoted grandma spent hours meditating and praying. Eventually, I came to it on my own terms.
I meditated so much that I felt like I should do some yoga again, but I hadn’t gone to an actual yoga class in years and felt socially anxious about going anywhere, especially class. Then one day, I just dropped by and didn’t realize it was a hot yoga, but I stuck with it for every breath and every move until the hour was done. At the end when we got to savasana pose, my heart was beating so fast and I was sweating all over. I closed my eyes and noticed the physiological effects of increased oxygen circulation happening in my body, which relaxed my state of consciousness. The objective in savasana is to be still, but the micro movements throughout my body reminded me that I was very much alive when I had been sitting still for so long.
I talked to the lady at the front desk about working out a membership, and she connected me with the studio owner to become a karma yogi. All I had to do was clean the studio once a week to work for my membership, and it was done. I was a karma yogi for about a year until I was ready to begin teacher training. It felt pretty natural for me to blend yoga mechanics and zen philosophy together, and I was able to pick up a few yin and vinyasa classes after I finished training. I liked planning my yoga classes with themes that transitioned well, but then my studio closed because of covid and I got too anxious again so I took a break.
I also started dating someone my mom introduced me to. I really plained myself down and I wasn’t looking for anyone, but I gave him a chance because my mom wanted us to be together. It was nice to open up to someone and finally have some good conversations because I barely talked to anyone over the years, but one recurring argument that came up in our relationship was yoga vs. Christianity. I was a yogi and he was a Christian, and to him, Christians shouldn’t do yoga because yoga is a spiritual practice that derived from Hinduism. I have never heard that before, but I’ll respect your beliefs if you can also respect mine.
This conversation kept coming up even after I took a break from yoga. There were other things we didn’t agree on and I couldn’t deal with the heartache of putting up with a partner who would always try to debate me on my views and beliefs, especially during a politically charged year like 2020. Eventually he broke up with me. That hurt, but if there’s one good thing I can take away from that relationship, it’s that he introduced me to Christ and made me aware of God’s love and presence. I didn’t meditate anymore and I started to sincerely pray for God to lead the way for me.
I acknowledged that I needed God in my life and I changed for myself. I started with reading out of the Bible, watching videos online, searching for churches near me, and I really started praying to God to lead me to find a church because I was lost on the internet. It went from sermons, to dreams about Jesus, to prophetic conspiracies real fast. When I finally found my church, I knew that God was nudging me in the right direction to reach out already because if I stayed at home on the internet alone, I would have missed out on the opportunity to really grow in my faith if I wasn’t brave enough to join a church.
It seemed like this happened so suddenly because I didn’t talk much about it, but I spent years meditating to be closer to peace with myself and I was praying to be at peace with God. I am the only person in my family to convert and take the leap of faith, which was huge considering that my grandma was a monk. When I made the decision to get baptized, it was because I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. You could meditate all you can to deal with your mental health, but you won’t reach enlightenment if you can’t even acknowledge God’s might.
So I joined my church to guide me through that season of my life, and I’m thankful to my group for listening to me process my candid insanity. As I learned more about God, I also finally confronted my feelings and all this heartache I didn’t realize I held onto. We each had to share our stories, and I went last so that I could finally put all of this into words and let it go.
Part 4 If you are in a similar boat, I hope that you can also overcome the battle inside your head by hearing my story because I can see God working in my life now. I’m grateful to have learned more about myself by exploring the eastern and western sides of my mental health. My faith in God has guided me to where I am now and I’ve changed a lot over the years. Now I don’t smoke or drink anymore, I don’t rely on taking meds, I’m not manic depressed, and I am no longer a paranoid schizophrenic. I’ve got a better grip on how I cope with my mental health although it comes and goes. My mental health journey has made me explore odd states of my mind with a unique perspective.
This is weird to put into words. Even though there’s more I could say, I don’t like talking about mental health because people usually bring awareness to it and then share the suicide hotline as a mental health resource. Or they’ll suggest talking to a therapist, which I’ve tried. I also don’t like talking about sexual assault, but there’s an awareness day for just about everything now on social media and those triggers bring back sad thoughts.
I don’t like being told that I have a chemical imbalance in my brain, but it happens. Medication and therapy can certainly help, but we also need to nourish our physical, emotional, and spiritual health to reach the root cause of mental health symptoms. It takes time and it takes self-compassion. So before you call the hotline or even think about suicide, please go take a shower or a nap or eat or pray instead. I know bad days happen and I’ve been at that low point where I’ve said those five words (I feel like killing myself), but the moment will pass and tomorrow will come. There’s more to life and there’s more to death, and you will want to be at peace with God whenever that time comes.
Just to be clear, I don’t expect everyone to meditate or explore religion on their own mental health journeys because I realize this is all pretty insane.
I hope that I didn’t offend anyone’s beliefs as I shared my candid thoughts about insanity and changing my faith. I can truly thank God for inspiring me to paint in a better state of mind and for helping me collect the words to finally articulate my voice after years of silence. As I wrap up this thought, I’d like to emphasize that this is what I think at this moment. This is a lot to process and it could change. I am fairly self-conscious about sharing this and I still haven’t made up my mind on how I feel about Buddhism or yoga, but it’s on my heart because I acknowledge that my eastern side has helped me grow in my faith and understand myself as the woman God created me to be.
(What still annoys me about that gender studies class is that I didn’t learn anything from reading a book about slut shaming and now I’m here second guessing if it’s incorrect to use cis-pronouns because I don’t want to offend anyone for identifying as a woman, and not a slut.)