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Dear Health Risk Assessment,
After taking your screener today, you told me my social, emotional, and physical behaviors are a danger to my well-being. In your cheery report with colorful fonts and strategically placed sidebars, you told me to get more sleep. You recommend exercising and eating healthier. You said go volunteer, go out with friends, relax.
You don’t know me, HRA. You don’t know what I have been through or where I am on my journey. Some days it takes all of my energy to get out of bed and go about my day without crying or screaming at everyone to fuck off. There are days I am so tired from sleepless nights or nights spent walking in my sleep that I am barely conscious the next day. Often I’m angry and sad; I just want to be left alone and not talk to anyone. Other times I am overly anxious. My heart feels as if it would pump out of my chest, and I have to check and recheck the locks on all of my doors to know I am safe.
But you didn’t bother asking me why. You took my data and you saw I was overweight, that I had high blood pressure, and that I didn’t exercise as much as I should. Do you want to know why I have social, emotional and physical behaviors that are dangerous to my well being? Aren’t you a little curious?
I was abused, attacked, objectified, violated and sold. On multiple occasions.
Do you question my emotional state now? Is my anger and depression (some of those unhealthy behaviors you made sure to mention) better justified for you on your black-and-white checklist of acceptable norms? What I’d like to know is where on your checklist is the category ‘Scary Shit I’ve Lived Through and Survived?’ I want an emoji with scars on it to represent the terrible things people overcome every day. Don’t give me a fucking frowny face when every day that I rise from bed, go to work and take care of my family is a successful one. That is a good day and deserves a damned medal, not three disapproving, scowling faces in a row.
On those good days I can look in the mirror and I see the woman I have become–strong, courageous, successful, happy, beautiful, loved. Other days the image is fractured and I only see the broken pieces of my life staring back at me laden with fear, anger and guilt.
I sometimes catch glimpses of the girl I was before in those shattered pieces. I miss her. She was a little shy, but fun to be around once you got to know her. She smiled and laughed and was happy. She found joy in small things, like singing at the top of her lungs or dancing as if no one were watching. She embraced life.
I want to be happy again, but I still struggle with the aftermath of the abuse every day. Its shadow casts a cloud on even the happiest of moments. And as much as I try to distance myself from the abuse, those horrible events shaped me into me. How can I separate myself from that which has made me stronger?
So dear HRA, I denounce your red frowny faces. I denounce your claim I am a danger to myself and my well-being. I am healthy. Maybe not according to your definition, but every day I try to be the best me possible, and that says more about my mental, emotional, and physical state than your checklist ever could.
Please support your local domestic abuse shelters or consider donating to The Pixel Project, an organization dedicated to ending domestic violence. You can find information about them here: http://www.thepixelproject.net/