Leaving Behind My Secret

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

| This is the 64th story of Our Life Logs |

In my early 20s, I lost a big part of myself. The person who I used to be was being smothered by grief and guilt. The things I once loved felt like a chore. As I cultivated life experience and support from wonderful people in my life, I was able to return to the upbeat person I once was.

I was born on a cold February morning in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1990. My father owned a material handling company. My mother made raising her children her most important task. She homeschooled us on her own and taught us how to understand the world around us, making sure our education was up to par with the state programs. As the youngest of four children, I was often spoiled. My childhood was filled with happiness.

My dad and me (age two) on Anne Marie Island.

When I was four, my parents decided to move across the country to own and run a 40-acre campground in Florida. Many of the residents were 55 or older, and often escaping winter in their hometowns by migrating to Florida. My siblings and I became very close together because there weren’t many other people of our age.

From ages 6 to 19, my oldest brother was heavily involved with drugs. It added a lot of stress to our family, but my parents did their best to make sure we had a happy childhood despite it. We relied on one another going through the challenging time, and it brought us even closer together as a family.

My siblings and me on Thanksgiving, 2007. Left to right: Brad, Ginger, Noah, me.

As I got older, the online lessons from the program we used weren’t challenging me as much. In my sophomore year of high school, my mother decided to send me to a Montessori school in Orlando geared toward homeschooled kids. I fit in well. I was the girl that could make any situation fun, a lesson I had learned from my mother.  When I graduated high school in 2008, I went to Liberty University in Virginia as a pre-med student.

I moved into my dorm and prepared for my first day. I came into the program, a bright-eyed, eager 18-year-old, ready to prepare for my future. Never had I expected that a nightmare was waiting for me.

Within the first few months of being enrolled here, I was sexually assaulted after a fellow student drugged my drink while we hung out. I fell into a deep depression after the incident. I blamed myself for what had happened. Dozens of I should haves filled my head. I should have protected my drink more. I shouldn’t have been drinking. I shouldn’t have been with him. I barely told anyone for about eight years. I didn’t want the people who were closest to me to see me in a different light. I didn’t want them to look at me and see a victim. I didn’t want to own that label, so I kept it to myself.

One can only hold a problem like that in themselves for so long before it begins to destroy them. I dropped out of college. I started to become a different person. The upbeat, happy girl my friends and family had come to know was withering. I didn’t want to talk to or see anyone.

I wanted to reinvent myself, so I enrolled in hair school. I pretended to be the bubbly person I once was among my classmates. Though it wasn’t long until pretending was too much for me to handle. I still felt guilt and anger toward what had happened to me.

While I was enrolled, I had also been diagnosed with ovarian syndrome that made my chances of conceiving a child very low. I was only 21 at the time. This added more stress to my psyche, but I kept it all inside and hid behind the personality I created for hair school.

When some of the girls in my class began taunting my façade, I began lashing out. At the peak of my anger I threw a hair brush at a girl’s head after she had said something that upset me. She thankfully ducked, but it shattered the mirror behind her. As I stared at the shattered remains, I knew that I couldn’t pretend anymore. My instructor pulled me aside after that incident and asked me what was going on. I immediately spilled all the pain and experiences I had been keeping a secret. My instructor encouraged me to seek help, and I started to see the bright side of life.

After graduating from hair school, I started working at salons in the area. After a couple of years, I still had a desire to pursue a college degree, so I enrolled at Northern Kentucky University in 2013. I continued working part-time in the salon while going to school full time. I started out as a communications major but soon realized that English would be a better fit for me. While in communications, I was having more fun writing the speeches than giving them. I changed my major to English and kept communications as my minor.

I was always making up stories as a kid, so joining the English program was fulfilling a smaller dream of mine. I never thought I’d call myself a writer until I became a part of the creative writing community at NKU. I fit right in. Writing gave me a much-needed outlet to talk about my experiences. I wrote about my brother’s drug addiction for a class, and it actually opened the door for my brother and I to discuss it now that he’s six years sober. For my senior capstone project, I wrote pieces all related to the sexual assault. The project helped open the conversation up with my family about it and helped me begin to heal from it.

Me with my parents before my college graduation, 2017.

I graduated in May of 2017 from NKU and began looking for jobs. I went through months of searching with no luck. By the fall, I became more involved with an essential oils business that my sister had begun. I sell the essential oils and advise customers on which oil will benefit them the most. I’ve been lucky to have found relief through the essential oils we sell as well. They help me deal with my depression and anxiety. They have also helped me cope with the sexual assault I went through. Through the business, I was given the opportunity to move back to Florida and live near my sister. I’m currently living in Florida working for the essential oil business and applying to English related jobs.

I lost myself after the sexual assault I endured, but thanks to the support and love of my friends, I’ve started to heal. I learned that what happened to me was not my fault, and I actually started to believe it. I took time to breathe and work through what I was feeling. I started going to a therapist, which became my safe space to discuss my problems. Through these methods, I’ve begun to heal.

I now strive for authenticity in all areas of my life. If you cannot be real with yourself, you will never be able to grow. If you cannot be real with those around you, you will never have lasting relationships. I lived so much of my life concealing a huge issue. I hid it from my family and friends. I even hid the pain of it from God. I hid this huge emotional baggage, and to a certain extent I hid it from myself. Now that I have brought this down and been authentic with the pain and life “after”, I have felt that I have grown in ways I never saw coming.

My faith in God is so much stronger than it ever was. My relationships with my family and friends have no barriers. I am now a business owner and have taken on the responsibility of conducting meetings and leading a team. I am able to be open and raw with people. These are things that I’m able to do again because I was open with myself and others. Today, I am working to live as my best self and hope to show others that they’re not alone in their struggles. We all have hard times, but there’s always a way to get through them.

This is the story of Kait Smith

Kait currently lives in Florida working as an entrepreneur for Young Living Essential Oils. No matter what Kait went through in her youth, she tried to keep a smile on her face. This became more difficult after she was sexually assaulted her first year of college and didn’t tell anyone for eight years. Through kind people in her life, she was able to talk about it and heal. Kait is a skilled writer, entrepreneur, and hair stylist. She hopes that through her story, others can find strength and be inspired to share their experiences with loved ones even if it’s difficult.

Part of the team of Young Living Essential Oils.

This story first touched our hearts on April 9, 2018.

| Writer: Kristen Petronio | Editor: Colleen Walker; Manqing Jin |

#family #grief #guilt #sexualassault #depression #mentalhealth #coping #acceptance #selflove

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