Writing this may make it seem too real.
These are things I have not visited for a long time, these thoughts and actions have lived in a separate place I have spent a long time cultivating, so they don’t sit near my consciousness.
In the last few years, I have created a nice exterior to house this secret within. Dutiful wife in a loving partnership, helpful daughter, a home owner, respectable job, a devoted Mother, a tertiary qualification. Epitome of respectability. But despite all of this, when my mind wanders back and manages to peak through a crack in my armour, I can still be overwhelmed by feelings of shame and sorrow.
Unattractive, unwanted, mistake, bit of a misfit, not popular, clumsy, socially awkward, too much, but at the same time never enough to amount to anything. These are the main thoughts and feelings that I carry with me through my childhood and adolescence. A time marked with periods of intense bullying, of social exclusion. Never feeling a sense of belonging completely anywhere, at home I am a disappointment with my argumentative attitude, everything must be a battle. At school I feel distracted and sick with what I now know is anxiety.
What I crave the most in the world is approval and someone to accept me. Turning into a teenager, this morphs into wanting to be desired, and experience romantic relationships as my friends are. No one is lining up to ask me out, or talk to me at parties. I hide my ineptness by pretending I don’t care, drinking more than everyone else.
When I was 17, I discovered the internet. On the internet I am eloquent, I am witty and altogether appear more interesting and more attractive than I have ever been considered off the internet – it was addictive.
These were the days of chatrooms, lawless and seedy places that attract some of the worst parts of humanity. A/S/L is asked repeatedly, and for once I have the golden ticket. I am 17/F, I am the ultimate internet allure – young and female. WOW this was heady stuff. Never had I been desired before, I got to pick and choose who I wanted to talk to. But I soon found myself entering a pattern of behaviour and actions that I would sit in for years. A slow burn of self annihilation and self loathing that I never shared with anyone.
Talking in chatrooms and over MSN led to meeting men from the internet. Never desired by my peer group, I was sexual heroin to the middle aged men of the internet. A damaged 17 year old who was up for anything.
I honestly have no idea how many men I met over that time. I was not safe, physically or emotionally. I was coerced into acts I was not comfortable with. I did things that hurt and damaged my body. More than once I recounted the childhood sexual abuse that had happened to me, while men got off on it.
I did not experience the normal relationships that my friends were all experimenting with at that time, I was too busy with my dark internet secret. Because it was always a secret, I never told anyone what I did. I carried this shame about this behaviour deep inside me, yet I felt a compulsion to carry it out.
Despite this, I still believe that unencumbered sexual encounters outside the bounds of any kind of commitment are not wrong, when it’s a balanced act of pure sexual expression and fulfilment of sexual need, but this what not what I was doing, even if I used to fool myself into saying it was.
I was punishing myself, and yet I was also carrying out some weird vendetta against a group that I felt so rejected by. You wouldn’t approach me in a club, or in front of your friends, but you will text me relentlessly to get me to come and fuck you again. You have a beautiful girlfriend or wife, you would call someone like me disgusting and reject me on most levels, but you ring me at least twice a week to try and meet up with me. You tell me I’m the best you’ve ever had.
This was how I tried to get my power. This is how I tried to give myself self esteem and worth. At this point in time I can’t hold a full time job or study because I am generally crippled by anxiety and depression, I drift in and out of flats, tertiary courses, friend groups and mismanage my money. I am fat and considered unattractive. But I have a cell phone that goes off constantly with guys from the internet.
I was starting to hit a crisis point. I drank a lot, misused pain killers that were prescribed for a genuine condition. I considered suicide daily, but lacked conviction to carry it out. I medicated myself with food the most, constantly. An insatiable hunger that I could never stop or felt like I could control. If I had a feeling, I stuffed it down with food, if I felt lonely, I would arrange a hook up with someone. To people in my life, I just appeared scattered, lazy and gluttonous. Lacking focus and wasting life, no direction and not fully participating in society. A know it all, that knew nothing useful.
As with most things, we only change when we are forced to, or we face a crisis. My crisis involved a man who was a criminal. Dangerous, an evil deviant and eventually sentenced to a long prison term. While I recognise now, what happened to me was not consensual, my encounter pales in comparison to what he has been jailed for, and the sick and depraved acts he carried out.
Emotionally exhausted, I knew I needed to address my issues. For a while I stopped, but in every other way I was still a mess, it was in this state that chance led me to accessing a psychologist. Intense therapy saved my life, and helped me create the ability to function as well as I do today. But I still carry this history with me, small scars deep in my soul that act as reminders of the things I used to do.