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My Story

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

In May 2011, I was 19. I had taken a semester off of school to transfer after my first freshman semester at Purdue University. Purdue wasn’t a fit for me, I had also fractured my leg and wanted to come back to Colorado. In January 2011, I moved into a 2-bedroom apartment in Downtown Denver with a friend from high school. The building was near the college campus I was planning on transferring to, had a security guard at night, secure access and all the amenities any college kid could dream of. I was working as many hours as possible in a restaurant to save up and support my first time of true independence. That all quickly changed in May of 2011.

May 19, 2011 was just like any other normal day. I had worked my shift at work and had come home, made dinner and relaxed before going to bed. Nothing was off and nothing felt weird. On May 19, 2011 I was woken up in the middle of the night to a masked man standing over my bed with a gun. Before I could take another breath, he threw a pillow over my face, and said “If you scream, I will kill you.” After he spoke those words, I immediately saw my life flash before my eyes and my entire body felt nothing but fear. I relived memories of my childhood, and truly felt that I was going to die. The next words the man spoke were, “Where is your safe? They told me there’s a safe in here.” It was at that moment that I could smell the alcohol on his breath, and knew he had the wrong apartment. I let him know that I did not have a safe, I worked in a restaurant, had little to no money and he could take anything he wanted. I begged for him to leave. He continued to ask about the safe and was vocally anxious and distraught that he had the wrong apartment. Yet, refused to leave. I begged him over and over to leave, I had no idea who he was or how he had gotten in my apartment. I was negotiating with a psycho.

After realizing he had the wrong apartment he spoke for some time, keeping the pillow over my face, ensuring that it was difficult for me to breath. Then finally told me he was going to have sex with me. I could cooperate or die. Without sharing as many details as possible. He removed my clothes, kept the pillow over my face and sexually assaulted me for what felt like hours. He told me to “enjoy it.” When he was done with me, I did everything I could in conversation to get him to leave. After some time, he finally told me to get in my bathroom and stay in there until he was gone. He told me if I called the police, he would come back and kill me. He took my phone and threw me into my bathroom, dislocating my shoulder. I stood there naked, afraid, bruised, numb and shattered. I looked in the mirror at this broken girl. I didn’t even recognize myself. I was praying I was living some sick nightmare and I would wake up. I heard the front door close, ran out of my bathroom and locked the front door. He was gone, and so was every inch of my innocence and security.

After, I went to the hospital, filed a police report and the man was never caught. To this day, I have no idea who he is, where he is, or even what he looks like. I would be able to pick out his voice if I ever heard it, but that’s the only true recognizing factor I have of him. I have to live every day knowing he could be my neighbor, the guy next to me at the gym, the guy in line behind me at the grocery store or anywhere. While I don’t let that fear win, it’s a reality I will unfortunately have to live with for the rest of my life.

May 19, 2011 was the day my entire life was flipped upside down. My world was completely shattered, and I felt more broken than one ever should in their life, especially at such a young age. I had experienced pain and tragedy before, but this was a whole other level. I never thought I’d be happy again. I battled extreme anxiety and PTSD from the trauma. I tried what felt like every psychologist, psychiatrist, medication, or way of healing under the sun. Nothing took the pain away. I would go weeks without sleeping or would stay up until the sun rose before catching maybe 30-60 minutes of sleep. The fear lived inside of me every day, but I continued living. I wasn’t going to let him win.

My friends and family saw a new person evolve after my trauma. I was easily triggered and couldn’t be a “normal” college kid. I was numb. I didn’t feel safe, secure or truly happy for what felt like years. I had a smile on my face, but I was truly suffering and filled with so much pain, anger, and fear. I continued to push through, continued to live and little by little life slowly got better.

Around the time I was 21 is when life began to feel a little easier. Some of the pain had gone away, but the memories were still there. I met my ex-boyfriend when I was 21 and fell in love, something I never thought I could do again after what had happened. I lost a lot of friends, who didn’t “like” or want to “deal” with the new me. To this day, I am not fond of alcohol and when you’re in your 20’s it’s what surrounds social activities. As a result, I have been excluded from a lot of social events and gatherings. I have felt like an outsider in so many ways. But I’ve also never had anyone to relate to.

I’m now 28 (at the time of this blog in 2020), and happier with the person I am and the life I live more than I have ever been in my entire life. But it has taken me almost ten years of deep healing, heartbreak, fear, passion and ambition to get here. I have had plenty of other trauma, from family issues, deaths, stalkers, and more, but nothing compares to May 19, 2011. I’ve managed to buy four homes before turning 28, have an amazing career working for a phenomenal company, I have the most amazing family, two dogs that I would do anything for, and a very small, selective group of friends. I’ve done all that with anxiety and PTSD, we can overcome anything if we put our mind to it.

I still regularly feel different or like an outsider from most people, especially those my age. I still can get triggered and still have scars even though they aren’t visible. I don’t drink often, and I’m not as “fun” as single people in their 20’s tend to be. I’m okay with that, and everyone should be. There’s the saying, you can get bitter or better. I could choose to let the demons from May 19, 2011 control my life and keep me from living, or I can continue to wake up every day and kick ass. I choose the latter.

I still have nightmares, the trauma has caused me to lose a lot of memories from before May 19, 2011, and I don’t easily trust. But I know literally anything is possible. I was once the girl who was afraid to sleep at night, now I know I need my sleep to succeed.

The PTSD and anxiety will always be a part of my life. I’m thankful that I’m at a stable place where I don’t have to take a cocktail of prescriptions and haven’t had to in years. I manage my mental health naturally through exercise, nutrition, meditation, mindfulness, and energy work. Yet some days are easier than others. The highs and lows today are nothing compared to 2011, or even 2014 but they still exist. We all have our highs and lows. The mental health piece has been the most difficult for those around me to understand. Friends and family often times do not know what to say, and when they do, they say the wrong thing.

For those experiencing mental health issues, find what works for you. Don’t be afraid to try something new or discouraged when something doesn’t work. It took me five years to find what worked for me and almost nine (and counting) years of continual failed attempts at what doesn’t work for me.

I’ve learned that I’m not a victim, or a survivor. I’m strong. Each of us are only given what we are strong enough to handle. Unfortunately, not all of those experiences are good, but they shape us and make us stronger. I choose to live every day, not knowing where or who my attacker is and not live in fear. I choose to not let him win. I choose to win.

This is only the start. I want to help others who have experienced assault or violence, or whose loved ones have experienced assault or violence. I plan to turn the worst day of my life into my passion to help others. While I never felt that I had anyone who could relate or truly understand what I was going through, I never want another person to feel like that because of trauma. My goal is to support and empower, we are all capable of so much.

I’ll be back with more to share, stay tuned…

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Russell Baron
Russell Baron
24. Feb. 2020

Powerful message. It is incredible to see the strength, wisdom, and inspiration you have gained from May 19, 2011. Turn your pain into passion, and we're all excited to see how many lives you will truly impact. Thank you for being real.

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