“We must become so alone, so utterly alone, that we withdraw into our innermost self. It is a way of bitter suffering. But then our solitude is overcome, we are no longer alone, for we find that our innermost self is the spirit, that it is God, the indivisible. And suddenly we find ourselves in the midst of the world, yet undisturbed by its multiplicity, for our innermost soul we know ourselves to be one with all being.”

― Hermann Hesse

I was trapped in a cycle of betrayal. I was certain there was something wrong with me but I couldn’t figure out how to fix it. After breaking off my engagement, I did not want to get involved with another individual intimately until I was certain I could maintain a sustainable romantic connection. For about three years after my last serious relationship, I searched for answers in solitude eager to find out where it all went wrong and how I can correct myself. Close friends told me it was unhealthy for me to cling onto the past and keep playing it inside my head, but if I couldn’t correct myself, I did not wish to think of the possibility of intimately connecting with another human, I was determined to be alone for the rest of my life.

I know my past haunted me, the disrespect I did not correct in others when I was treated like an instrument of sexual pleasure. I can still remember the lustful looks that met my teenage eyes with no regard for my fearful confusion, the teenage eyes that had no previous notion or instructions about the carnal desires that reign the behavior of XY chromosomes. One silly game of truth or dare had turned into nightmares of threat and compliance. All I wanted was to make new friends in the new country I was to call home. Lack of knowledge can be such a dangerous attribute to carry, a factor that the ill-intended almost readily prey on manipulating the perception of right and wrong within the mind of the innocent. It is not without foundation that wise men asserted the use of the Latin aphorism “scientia potentia est” — knowledge is power.

My education on men happened as crudely as it can, far from the illusory land of happily-ever-after. I let myself delve into promiscuous misadventures in the attempt to fathom the laws of attraction, dictating the other’s reaction to my initiative. It was my instinctive way of learning to play the game in the yearning to grasp a sense of control, washing off the word victim I wore as a label to describe myself. Little did I know, it was the use of this precise label that kept causing the internal injury. As my failure to heal continued, the injury made a ripple effect and I hurt good men with my chronic anxiety and insecurities. My instability made me a vulnerable subject, and it didn’t matter that my companion was loyal and affectionate, I lacked control over myself. My change of acquaintance was initially characterized by apathy, and it slowly evolved into pain of hurting someone who cared about me. Ultimately it was my admitting to my cheating and my ex-fiancee’s forgiveness that made this cycle unbearable.

A little over a year after my heavy-hearted resolution, I started living alone. It was in solitude that I gained clarity over my true state of mind, bliss which is not allowed while sharing a residence. In the absence of fervent interference or anyone bending my affirmations, I was enabled to freely rediscover myself without judgment and explore my capacity to change according to my intentions. As I slowly built and appreciated gaining control over myself, I felt a strong inclination to look for my fellow perpetrators. I started adding one after another on facebook to observe their lives, and to my disbelief they added me like nothing had happened. I talked to the one who most actively participated in making threats about telling everyone. We talked like two friends who haven’t seen each other for a long time. As I saw another one saying good-bye to leave the country, I left him a message saying I had no hard feelings to whatever happened before and told him to take care. He said no worries. It kept nagging in the back of my head that an ordeal that had such a dismantling effect on me was nothing to them, and that’s when I started talking to the third person who had partaken in the shenanigan. When he made a suggestion not to be timid, I blew up with the thought of how dare you. I wrote him a long message about the effect that our past had on me, my fears and my disgust towards those that aided in propagating the wrong idea about me within our community. I received his perspective of the story, in which it was only a silly game teenagers played and nobody ever thought of me the way I had been perceiving. I argued back mentioning the involvement of threats and how none of it was ever something I wished to participate in. Silence. It was definitely not the answer I was expecting, but it had to suffice. I tried to make justice for myself, and my message was taken into account.

With this, I peeled the label victim off myself and substituted it with fighter. I no longer felt deserving of treating myself like a broken person. I confronted my fears. I defended myself. That was enough for me. And since then I always try to do justice to myself so there is no shame about who I am.