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A Word With Gabrielle Union: Healing at All Costs

As Gabrielle Union filtered her pain to spare others’ feelings about her survival as a victim of sexual violence, this actress, activist and author delayed her own recovery—until now.
A Word With Gabrielle Union On Why She’s Decided To Heal At All Costs
Slate PR
When I was raped at 19, I had a boyfriend. After the assault it was never just about me dealing with surviving rape. It was about surviving rape and dealing with my man and his feelings of emasculation. There was also my dad, who was like, “You broke my thing.” This is all in the first week, with my eyes still swollen shut and my face f—-d up from the beating. Immediately my pain is decentered because there were bigger fish to fry, in my mind. It was like, Here’s your crash course in living with PTSD. Anything could be a trigger. Anything. A door closes. I always felt like someone was sneaking up on me when they’re really just walking into a room and I just didn’t hear them. I’m constantly having to decenter my pain, and what that looks like, entirely to make other people comfortable with living, functioning, loving a rape survivor. To do that I have literally seen every therapist, counselor, spiritual healer, psychiatrist, shaman and life coach I could. But in the past few years, I’ve given myself permission to center my own healing. I’m amplifying my pain, which I had never done. When I started emptying out my basket of stuff, I had to get used to saying, “I cannot think about how you think of me or how my rape has impacted you.” I’m no longer centering that because it actually causes a pivot in my healing. I would spend half of my therapy session talking about other people, not me, and that’s not really helpful. I gravitate toward spaces where there is implied silence. That’s why I really love libraries and bookstores because my silence isn’t weird there, and I’m okay. One day in a bookstore, I discovered Darnella Ford’s Rising. I was struck by the woman on the cover: She has dreads; she’s sitting cross-legged, hugging herself; and she’s presumably naked. Years later, when I was experiencing one of those times when I felt like I was just circling the drain, my girlfriend said, “I think this woman Darnella can really help you.” I go to her place for counseling, and there’s a point in our session where we do a guided meditation and I see the book. Even though I had been in her house for two hours, it’s only then I realize that she’s the author of Rising. She tells me that she has switched careers and now runs this wellness program called Journey to Worthy. Whether I see Darnella two or three times a week — there have been those weeks — or once every few months, she always gets me back on my own worthiness journey. We talk about the ‘Me Too’ movement. We talk about #WhyIDidn’tReport. We talk about how I decentered my pain, trauma and healing because I never felt worthy of wholeness. Because no one tells Black women we are worthy of wholeness. We tell Black women you’re a real one if you shoulder the pain. If there’s anything I could say to my fellow survivors, it’s center your own pain. It’s okay to use the whole hour to talk about you. It’s okay to phone a friend and delve into your pain and really focus on your wholeness and your worthiness and your soul. Center your soul. When I started centering my wholeness and centering my soul, my peace, my health, the world opened up. This story appears in the November 2018 issue of ESSENCE magazine, on newsstands everywhere now!