When to Turn Back

Art by Weiwei Xu

Art by Weiwei Xu


Throughout April, Rest for Resistance is proud to feature writing by LGBTQ+ people of color for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The following content discusses trauma and surviving abuse, with imagery related to death, forests, and blood.

My body carries a lot of trauma. Been out of breath for years. I survived the trauma for years, mostly on my own, but also with the help of some important others. And surviving is one way to live. In many ways, I’m lucky the traumas (plural) didn’t completely debilitate me, meaning during this time I still produced, I still was productive, which confuses people probably. It confuses me too.

In these nine years of un-freedom and un-resolved hurt—these blue, fuzzy, gasping times—I held on to life’s shreds, and even found achingly beautiful moments. I certainly even made it past the abuse, and that’s why I get to write about it now. Just a year or so ago, I named the fire and moved away (I see that as growth), but in many ways, I’m still… bloodstained. In need of extra time and care to rinse and release my body. It is why I am going home, halting my responsibilities for a semester, and taking a gap semester from college.

I’ve compared my gap semester, this journey of confronting my trauma, to making it out of the woods, but choosing to turn around and head back into the dark. A curious choice. Also, a privilege not everyone has to be able to pause and go back home. Yet it is my belief that I have to go back to brave the ruins; take in the devastation, lay down some caskets. There were deaths in there (parts of me that didn’t make it). I have to name the violence and sing funeral songs where I didn’t get to when I ran eyes-closed with a target on my back.

Healing requires taking death’s inventory, while finding ways to mend the roots that might still be able to make it. Though it’s taking controlling every fiber in my body to head back into the forest, it would be harder to run all my life. At some point, I have to head back in. Otherwise, the ghosts will keep haunting. And I’m too scared I’ll live running until eternity.

For a while the question was, when do I, if ever, choose to go back into the forest?

So, it was a certain timing, fate, and omen when my family moved back to XXXX, my old stomping grounds, last fall. I took it to heart. For the first time in nine goddamn years, I do not have to share the same permanent address with my abuser. The first time in nine years, because from middle school (when she first came into my life), to high school… and even college, we’ve been in the same school, our families living in the same city. Our parents even coincidentally moved to the same city the same summer after college. I always felt I had nowhere to go. No way to rewrite or carve out a space for me. Despite how I wished to have spun it, our lives were intertwined, like a choke-hold for me.

But now I’m back in XXXX —with a mission to heal.

This city where my world first turned dark. I’m trying to turn it into something different. I’m trying by raising my voice and asking my high school to develop a better health and interpersonal relationships curriculum to prevent future students from experiencing the same kind of harm I did.

I’m also going to therapy. It’s not the first time for me, in fact my therapist now is one among several already. But young-me never got to experience this at home. It was only after college that I had access to counseling. So, I’m honoring young-me by getting her the help she needed but didn’t have. This is me grieving and braving my feelings.

I’m not saying that I wouldn’t want to take a gap semester and try to heal if I weren’t in XXXX, or if we didn’t move back, but this is a poetic setting. I’m pointing it out, and am trying to use this poetry to break free.

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Image description:

An Asian child with long dark hair stands in the middle of a forest. The trees are drawn around her in a soft way, slightly out of focus. The child is holding a shovel, the tip buried in the earth. A bouquet of red poppy flowers is laying at their feet.

About Weiwei Xu:

Weiwei is a chinese artist who studies physiology in Montreal. She hopes to one day improve the way mental health is treated in the clinical setting, and to tell stories in a visual medium. She posts her art on tumblr and occasionally instagram

About the Writer:

This is this writer’s first time submitting to any kind of online catalogue. She/they wishes we all could have time and space to heal.