A couple months back I found Carolyn on instagram through mutual friends. Not long after I started following her she launched a blog called "Hold Fast in the Night;" a blog designed to share real stories and give hope. This is her story:
My name is Carolyn Terwilliger. I am finally almost free from college, I have a restless spirit that longs for adventure, & new places. These are the pieces of my heart, pieces that I have rarely let slip from my lips.
This is my story, the raw, rough, unedited version. I have never been able to sit down and piece it all together; nor have I ever successfully intertwined the words and events into a steady rhythm. There is still some shame that sits with me because some days I’m afraid that who I’ve been will affect who I’ve become, or who I may become to you. But I must own it; my story is significant, as is yours. My life has been filled with moments of despair and utter loneliness but it has also been filled with this deep hope that never completely dissipates, my body subconsciously reminding me that I was made for far more than this.
I grew up blessed with a family who absolutely loved me. My brother to this day is one of my best friends, without him in my life, I wouldn't be who I am today. My parents have always provided for me and showered me with love & grace. Since I was a tiny thing I was the peacemaker of the family, trying to always provide comfort when my father yelled. The fighting in my home as a kid wasn't violent but from a young age it was a scary thing to me.
When I was 11 years old I got incredibly sick, in and out of the hospital, doctors trying to figure out what was wrong with my body. My body was continuously losing weight, I was told that I was anorexic when in reality I was not. I struggled with understanding why I was being accused and treated like I had an addiction when I didn't. I never realized how much it would affect me but it absolutely did. I didn't understand why this was happening to me. Why my friends could run and play and I was told not to do so. I felt so alone.
It all goes back to that night in high school, a night where I can remember each & every detail. That night he raped me, a guy I thought I loved, someone I trusted. I didn't know who I was anymore. I felt a weight that I still sometimes feel trying to pull me under. For two years I didn't tell a soul, I felt used, confused and ultimately I believed it was my fault. Cutting became a way for me to cope, it was easy and no one ever noticed. I began running to guys for attention, having a false feeling of being wanted. Getting attention was easy and so I hid my pain in series of flings one after another, dowsed with alcohol and razors.
College for the next two years were some of the hardest years of my life. I struggled with depression more than I ever had. I began self injuring more and more, I couldn't feel anything. There was no happiness and no sadness, I was just alive; somehow. I was breaking and no one knew. I was nearing the end of my spring semester during my second year of college & one night I just didn't want to keep going, I didn't feel alive anymore; I had forgotten what joy felt like. I cut deeper, filled the bathtub with water, laid down, & closed my eyes. To this day I can’t even explain what it was exactly that got me up & out of that chilling water. My heart started racing, my body gasped for breath, & air began to fill my lungs again. I felt like I heard a voice, or somehow in that moment God reached out to me and called my heart back to life.
Over the next few weeks I knew I needed to tell someone, I needed to finally find healing in my life. Sharing your darkness is one of the hardest and scariest things to do, and fear can keep us from change. Because change is hard, change means drawing the poisonous venom from your veins, it is excruciating, but you have to believe in the end it will be worth it. Sitting in your suffering is easy, it requires no effort; I decided to fight. I decided to enter a rehab program that summer & I found more freedom than I had in my entire life. It was one of the hardest months; it hurt, it was full of tears, and anger. What got me through is that I wasn’t alone, these people felt pain too, and were desperate to find healing. No matter what that pain looks like in your life, we have all felt it.
Since high school I have experienced many hard relationships that have emotionally torn me apart. I struggle to this day with feeling unlovable, it is a process I am continuing to work through. I'm still facing bits of depression and anxiety, but I’ve learned over the years to trust people again. Trusting people is still an incredible challenge for me, but I’ve finally been able to develop meaningful relationships. Life is about fighting through the shit and overcoming; it is never going to be perfect but I do believe it is going to be beautiful.
Through all of the hurt in my life I have always been hopeful. I love people's stories, I love to learn what it is that makes a person feel alive. I desire to encourage people into hope and freedom. Last fall I had the opportunity to intern with ‘To Write Love on Her Arms,’ it gave me the courage to acknowledge my story and know that what I went through does not define me. TWLOHA will always be such a big part of my life. My greatest desire is to let others know that they are not alone. And so I'll remind you of truth, You are not alone.
I still don’t understand why life is so hard but I think it makes hope possible. I believe that when there is pain, hope will follow. It may follow months later or even years but I believe it comes. I still struggle and wrestle with God regarding why we have to lose the people we love, why certain things don’t work out & why people have to go through such awful tragedies. Even this past December my cousin passed away, he was 25 years old. I struggle with why and I still don’t understand, and I don’t know if I ever will. But I pause, take a step back, and breathe deeply. In pain there lies hope, it’s up to us whether we are going to sit in our pain & let it engulf us or if we are going to push against the current & wade into new waters. I’ve decided I’m fighting the current and by no means has it been easy but by all means it will be worth it.
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Thank you Carolyn. I am beyond honored to share your story.