This piece is an expressive autobiographical account from one of our blog's newest volunteer writers.
Trigger Warning: The following content discusses frankly the reality of living through abuse and sexual assault, and the realities of PTSD.
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Austin Davis, Documentary, Part I
Before I was born, my mother met my step dad at a bar. She fell in love at first sight when my step dad kissed her after she came out the bathroom, and they left the bar together.
By age 8, I knew I like boys. My step dad would pick at me a little bit, but not in an intentional way. He would always tell me: don’t walk like that, don’t talk like that, or quit acting like that.
I lived life on those terms, from 8-13 years old. As I got into middle school, I felt extremely outside myself, as if my soul had left my body. My mom would order me 18 wigs, and I would wear heels with with pants and all sorts of leather jackets and boots. I would get lots of stares and people would be so shocked; like I was a crazy person who had woken up the next day and changed myself, which I would, all throughout 7th grade.
I came back in 8th grade, even more extreme - I would hide my outfits so my mom wouldn’t know what I was wearing during school hours. At the end of the year of 8th grade, I found out there was a talent show. I was the last one to perform at the end of the two hour session.
Backstage, I had a hair stylist do my hair and a clothing stylist pick which outfit goes with which track I would perform out onstage. My friend brought her brother who plays drum and her cousins who play electric guitar. I did a whole free concert.
When I stepped out onto the stage, I was nervous. Everybody went crazy in the crowd when I covered nothing but Lady Gaga songs. As I did her whole album "Born This Way", I saw the boys who had bullied me every day shed tears.
At the end, I took off my leather jacket. Underneath I wore nothing but a short cropped shirt with black studded heels and a leather skirt with diamonds. The shirt said “Trust Yourself” in the front and “Be You” on the back.
I knelt down and took off my wig. Everybody was shocked and the teachers’ eyes lit up, because nobody knew what I looked like without the wigs I would wear on a daily basis.
I took a breath in, then I talked to my audience and gave a very personal speech. I told them “You shouldn’t have to feel pressure to be who you are. I feel like I could be brave for you. So tonight I want you to forget all your insecurities, I want you to reject anything or anyone who ever made you feel like you don’t belong or that you’re no good for anything or anyone, or that you can’t sing well enough, or that you can’t write a song well enough - you just remember that you are BORN THIS WAY.”
Then I performed one last song that meant a lot to me on Lady Gaga's album, the very last track called “Hair”. The meaning behind this song is the ability to be free as your own hair and to be true to your identity and be you as your own person. After I got done, I went backstage and cried.
I knew I needed to cherish that moment because it felt like it would never happen again, as much I would love to do it again. As years passed, I intentionally threw my wigs away, along with my crazy outfits, because I knew I had created somebody I didn't want to be for the rest of my life.
At age 18, I started to want to change myself physically. I started taking hormones to change physically into a female. After 13 months of taking them, I decided to stop taking them.
I realized that I needed to be me, and not have to change myself to be someone I’m not or have to change to be different.
Throughout my life, I have struggled with PTSD. I deal with fear every day and anxiety in public places. Every day, I wake up with a stiffness and pain that brings back the past. As a sexual assault survivor, my experience affected me in so many ways and affected me feeling love from so many that are around me.
Living in an age in which the common and the uncommon are constantly interchanging, I sometimes think everything is my fault or that maybe I deserved whatever happened to me in the past.
I am here today to reach out to the young and old and tell you that you are not alone. I am here for you all the way. Know that assault or the misfortune of tragedy is not your fault. After two years of searching for the answers to my chronic pain and the change I have felt in my brain, I am well enough to tell you that there is a lot of shame attached to mental illness, but it is important that you know that there is hope and a chance at recovery.
When I’m out in public, I always get stares from people in their cars driving by and I think to myself about insecurities, is it me personally.
Today, I woke up confused, lost, stressed, empty. I had no idea what made me felt that way this morning. I felt stuck in my own existence in my bed, like I had no way out and I felt trapped. I tend to doze off a lot, and I feel shallowly connected to my own existence.
When I look back on my life, I don't ever see things as I planned and don't see things about reality, because I was self-conscious about the world. Now I see things as very hard, because the world is the challenge, the biggest challenge that we're all facing.
I feel like my life is a platform. It’s like you want to have a good time, but there’s some pain you have to get through. And there’s stressful times for teenagers; especially with politics, society, the way things have been moving, the chaos in America.
I have had to go through the deepest part of my life. The part that I didn’t want to face. For the past two years, I have gone through a lot of pain. You leave yourself behind in a way.
The truth is I can always bring my past with me, that little boy who loves music. But I can never go back. I know my life will never be the same. I'm letting go of the person who I was before. Not letting go of me today, that's not what I mean.
What I mean is that my life is different now. I can’t walk down the street and be me. People are not interested in speaking to me about real human things like I am to you, whoever is behind this screen. And they don't want to know about superficial things.
I have to recognize myself. I have been feeling unsafe in my own body since the assault when I was 18, especially because when I leave the house, there’s people touching me, or yelling. But lately, I have been opening up about this.
My body doesn’t know the difference between a normal touch and being sexual assaulted, and it’s just something inside me that I have to work on every day.
I’m here every day on the internet; the internet is just like an earth in a way. We’re going to destroy it, it is dead, it’s noise, it’s like an toilet, it’s a garbage can where you can’t sort between what’s real and what’s not.
I’m watching all these kids dying every day in the world and I hop on the internet and it’s bunch of garbage, of the truth. I see that people are doing crazy things; shootings, rape, etc. When I see anything that is related to these things, I feel embarrassed to be a human on this earth.
But I enjoy talking to intellectual people at The Center who I can call friends, discussing or having conversations as humans, talking about something that actually matters. I feel that The Center is my cave. I don’t want to leave it, and when I do leave it’s like leaving the real me behind and like I've ended up leaving as somebody who I don’t want to be.
All these mixed emotions, and feeling all these different types of emotions - it worries me because where did these emotions come from? They broke into something that I own ( My Body). And I want them gone.
As I am moving my life forward, I do also have positive aspects and hope even though I know it will be hard.
Always remember to fight for what you believe in. You’ll be surprised at how much stronger you are as a person.
To end this documentary: if you have no shadows, then you are not in the light.
Austin Davis, Documentary, Part II
When I look back on my life, it’s not that I don’t care about my past. I just remember it in an artistic way. There was never a question in my mind that I was going to make it and that this was my destiny in my life. I want to live my dream so I can inspire others to live their dream.
I still walk down the same streets. I still go to the same delis. I drink my coffee the same. I always wanted a little dirt on my shoe and I only want one more stare. I always want to walk up the stairs myself. I don’t want an elevator.
Because I personally think that’s when you lose focus: you forget how you got to the top and when you forget how you got to the top, you forget everyone who helped you, and you forget everything and everyone who inspired you.
You wake up one morning and that inspiration and creativity gives you a middle finger that says: you forgot me, you denied me, I was the reason for you.
After I graduated high school, I thought to myself, "Where am I going to stand in life?" It is hard to write about my life sometimes. I am a book. I am a book of words and people can feel free to read me.
I want to be your inspiration, your freedom, and your destiny. As I mentioned in my first part of my documentary, I tend to doze off. When I try to think, I can’t think of anything. Not even one word comes to mind. That’s where my PTSD comes in. It has affected my mentality, to the point where I can’t focus on what’s going on around me and I get sidetracked.
I am used to being alone most of the time. I still carry all these painful memories with me. I know I am getting stronger every day. But I have my days where I just give up, because it is a lot on my plate and I can’t digest it all. It’s too much.
When I see my friend Jaymin, I see that she cares about me and she lifts me up the best that she can. I get so used to being around her where I get crazy not being around her. It’s like I have to be near her because she’s all I have in my life. I don’t want to lose another loved one.
Years back, I started being friends with this guy. We started off friends at first and it got official around 6th grade. During that 6th grade year, he had to move. I cried a lot because I thought he was going to move far away. After I transferred to middle school, we reunited in 7th grade.
8th grade was my worst year. He left school early with his uncle, then I got a call from his mom that he had gotten in a car accident. I was very emotional. We had made plans together for after high school and we knew what we wanted to do. The nurse came into the room and told his mom that he wasn’t going to make it. They tried everything that they could, so they gave her the option to pull the plug of the machine. She didn’t want to and the worst nightmare was that I ended up pulling the plug.
My heart dropped and I passed out on the floor in the room. The nurse had to get me. My mom never knew anything about this. I felt like no one should know anything about it. When I went home that night, it was hard for me to eat dinner. I was now on my own. I started to feel I wasn’t good enough.
I don’t feel that way working at The Center. I talk about my PTSD a lot lately and my assault. Here's what happened: I was at a guy’s house. When I asked him for an aspirin, he gave me something different. I took the pill and I felt tired. After about ten minutes, I stood up. I felt weak, dizzy. I had to hang on to whatever was near me to keep myself balanced.
I made it to the front bedroom of the house where I collapsed onto the bed. During that moment I felt dead. I felt like I was close to death. I woke up the next morning with blurry vision and dizziness. I gained some strength, and I got dressed and ducked out the door.
When I turned 19, I realized it was affecting my sex life. When I realized that, I started having hookups like crazy, because I didn’t want to lose my sexuality. It’s part of me and my life.
I went to Mary K. Shell Mental Health Center this year. That’s when I found I had fibromyalgia. My body goes through pain, when it is stressing itself out from my past. The psychiatrist told me she was going to diagnose me and prescribe me meds for it. I walked out the building and said to myself, “I’m not coming back here and I’m not going to be treated.”
Because me going through chronic pain every morning makes me a stronger person. My chronic pain represents my community: strong, beautiful, my strength. It also represents my love life, pain, and desires, the compassion in my veins. You guys are the blood that runs through my veins keeping me alive. Now it’s my turn to be brave for you.
My social desires to be around people and love people still exist. I'm starting to trust people slowly, and feeling normal touches by people.
Every day on this planet, I’m only living day by day. I’m not really gaining anything out of it. But it won’t ever change what happen to me two years ago. I am having trouble finding myself. It’s like reliving my life all over again, repeatedly.
I miss the me from four years ago. When in the public eye, I always have a shield on for protection. Every day when I’m out walking, I get startled when vehicles drive fast past me. I feel uncomfortable most of the time out in public because I am scared of what is going to happen to me. Slowly but surely, I am gaining myself back.
On some occasions, I fall backwards and I lose my self-confidence. In those times, I try to figure something out. What can I do in order to subdue my fears and gain that confidence back?
Well, I asked myself, why not do yoga, or meditation? Meditating didn’t help me. Yoga helped in some ways so I’m trying harder for it to work. After yoga, I breath better than I did before.
Not only can yoga make you flexible in a lot of ways, but it also helps to expand your desires and to loosen up what is bothering you.
The political debate of Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford is one of the most upsetting things I have had to witness. It’s heartbreaking to me, because I am a sexual assault survivor.
Trump says she has no memory of how she got to the party, so should we trust that she remembers the assault?
YES!!!! I’ll tell you exactly why: if someone is assaulted, or experiences any type of trauma, there is scientific proof that the brain changes. The brain takes the trauma and puts it in a box and keeps all files. We live through the pain and to survive it, our brain closes the box. It causes a lot of things: body pains, anxiety, avoidance. That doesn't mean someone is lying about their assault.
So when I saw this debate on the news and that Kavanaugh was chosen to be put in the highest judicial system of this country, I was triggered. And that box inside me opened, and when that box opened, I was brave enough to share my truth with my community.
I still sometimes feel like a loser kid in high school. It’s not okay. During this lifetime you have to be a pitbull and you have to bite back, and show life that you are worth more than your image.
I have told people that I was from New York City. I’m not really from New York City. I made an imaginary life for myself, because when I was sexually assaulted here in Bakersfield, where I was born and raised, I felt this wasn’t my home anymore.
Not that I don’t know who the real me is. I know who I am. I know what I stand for and what I believe in and I don’t need anybody to tell me that.
And some people would consider it a lie, but to me it wasn’t. I've been living a lie this whole time, because of my assault. This person made me believe this wasn’t my home, when I knew it was.
So I created New York City as my city. I studied the city, the places, the inspiration for them and the history. But I quit, because I am the realest person you'll ever meet in your life. And I belong here.
To close out this documentary, I want to end by saying thank you for taking the time to read my story. Most people say it’s not easy to share personal life experiences but for me, I am what I am and it’s not hard at all.
My mother raised a beast in this world. In order to become that beast you have fight your battles and never give up. You have to be real. You have to own what’s yours and use it. Life is a creature, we don’t know what it is anymore. One day you wake up and it attacks and you wonder what you did to deserve it.
I think of it as, “Ok, well, since you attacked me I’m going to take over the name Karma and I’m going to attack back even worse. Because I am soldier of my own freedom. I’m going to protect my own.” I am a guardian of freedom. I destroy the enemies. We need to learn how to get along and not make good people extinct. What we need to make extinct is what is evil.
Where I’m going with this is that we need to come together and show everyone that love is way stronger than hatred. Good innocent people are stronger than the evil ones. As I lay this documentary to rest, I am well enough to connect my heart to all of you guys. I consider you my family.
~I am not perfect, I just think the imperfection is beautiful~
about the author
Austin Lee Davis is an Italian and Cherokee mix Caucasian whose passion is writing, both the written word and music. He cares about his community and works to be a spokesperson for it. He was born in Bakersfield, California and raised in the Bronx, New York City.