Walking Through The Valley of Shadow of Death by Nancy Azcona

**CW: this piece contains mentions of rape**

This piece consists of tiny journal entries from March ‘21 till July ‘21. I started to speak publicly about my rape around 2018, fifteen years after the fact. Four years after that, I find myself, for the first time ever, healing from the trauma. I’ve come to terms that my healing will be equally as long, if not longer. Forever. I am willing to tread that journey.

Leave your pain here and go out and do your magnificent things”

Judge Aquilina 

June 24th, 2021:

I haven’t been okay since March 19th, 2021. On this day, my entire being was interrupted, rudely shaken up, reversing all the progress I had made in the last year. 1 step forward, 2 steps back to 2003. I’ve underestimated how the body holds on to trauma, how the psyche can build up fear and just like that, it emerges in your everyday life. I’ve underestimated how vivid dreams can be, how hauntingly realistic the hands of a veiled face around your neck can feel… On March 19th, my lungs gasped for air. On March 19th, nightmares I was unaware of played in my mind like an IMAX movie premiere.

March 19th, 2021: 

It started off seemingly sweet. Dare I say, peaceful. I was floating across a meadow with two foreign friends. I found comfort in their presence. Safe. We crossed green pastures and clear rivers. The scene, both distant and intimate: Brentwood High’s football field, a place I haven’t stepped foot on in nearly ten years, but there I landed. I said goodbye to the passengers, and walked with urgency. The entrance of Sonderling was converted into one large open garage, but the layout of the parking lot remained the same. I approached a small plane, and a woman lay underneath it, fixing something. My knowledge on aircrafts is slim, but I assume there is something underneath there to fix. We exchange friendly hellos, a few words of remembrance, and then we part ways. A few feet away, I lay on concrete and am still, hands by my side, eyes closed, breathing in the assuming-ly fresh air. Then, as quick as I lay down, someone or something else lies besides me. A pillow placed underneath their head, intangible words leaving their mouth. I stay still, and quiet. No hellos. No acknowledgment. They inch closer to me, then on top of me. The words “no” and “get off me” escape my throat as they refuse to take my hands, pressing against them away, as an answer. “No. Get off me. No. Get off me. No. Get off me. No. Get off m-”. Then, a forced silence. Their hands clasp my throat, cutting my pleas off short. 

In my bed I feel the pressure on my neck. I feel my body kicking. I feel myself fighting. My eyes open wide, as I gasp for air. I lie as still as I was on the concrete just a moment ago, then… waterworks. I wrap one arm around my waist as I curl into a question mark, the other hand across my mouth to muffle the gutterl sobbing. I have never experienced a nightmare so graphic. So intense. So accurate. An hour has passed and it is 5:40AM. I write every detail I can, from the meadow, to the rivers, to the high school parking lot. I write my aftermath, then two messily written pages later it is 6:10AM. I do not fall back asleep until around 8AM. It is Friday, and I awake 40 mins later and start the work day. 

June 28th, 2021: 

Today, I ponder on the moments after my rape, how I never truly felt safe around men, how I was taught to never fully trust them. One day, as my mother quickly ran to the bodega to grab something and man stood in front of our car, pulled out his flip phone, and began to take what was never his. I covered my face, I cried, and I can’t remember whether my mother ran out first or if the men on the strip pulled him away before then. One day, I left the restroom of my own home in a towel and there I stood in front of a man I no longer remember, felt his eyes examining every inch of me. Since then, I began to bring a change of clothes to the restroom. I think of the times men of the internet groomed me, and I didn’t even know it because I thought I was feeling “love”. Or walking home at midnight in Boston from my shift at AMC, being yelled at thinking, “is he going to kill me if I don’t say hello back?”. At the gas station, the sense of unease consumes me when I notice him staring at me. Diligently. In Weho drunk, pickpocketed with someone’s hands, down my pants, I can’t even recall his face. 

June 19th, 2021





Today I thought it would be a perfect day to end things. Then I thought about how traumatizing that would be for my roommate, and I couldn’t do that to her. 

June 24th, 2021

Everyday has been difficult to find happiness over exhaustion. I no longer see myself and enjoy my own image. When I do, it is fleeting. My will to work is depleted, and everything is a nuisance, can’t even be thankful to have a job in these fucked up times. Ungrateful punk. What is the point of saving money if most days I feel like dying. No balance between sleeping too few hours or being unable to unglue myself from my memory foam mattress. I’ve re-acquainted myself with purging and gluttony. But today, on June 24th, I am realizing, I have not been okay since March 19th. This awakening, this puzzle piece that has been in front of me for 3 months is the only sign of hope I’ve had since that day happened. Hope meaning, this pit of nothingness I have become is not unsolvable. Hope as in, this will be a long journey of healing, but one I can finally begin. 

June 26th, 2021 

I resonate with the green pastures, and the rivers but mostly with the plane from my nightmare. I am unsure how my body works. I am unsure how or where it holds on to trauma, closely like root bound in soil. I am unsure if this nightmare is the first of many or the only one. And like the plane, I am unsure of what’s underneath it all. All I know is, surely there is something I can fix there.

July 15th, 2021

My therapist asked me to create a safety plan, to reach out, and say “hey, I tried to cut my life short a few times recently, are you okay if I or my therapist calls you when things get bad again?” I was mortified. Sobbed when I hit send. I never wanted anyone to know how close to death I’ve been, maybe one too many times, not even the one I pay to fix me. 

July 10th, 2021 

I used my Close Friends as a personal diary, and I don’t feel great about that. Trauma dumping on a well-curated list of people, on the brink of my self proclaimed Finale. I don’t blame anyone who chooses to distance themselves. I barely want to deal with myself on most days. It’s not easy, supporting someone who can break at any moment. Fragile, I’ve never considered myself as such.

July 2nd, 2021

I started writing daily affirmations on little post it notes, sticking them on my too large bathroom mirror, and praying that one day I believe them. 

July 7th, 2021

On a recommendation I started listening to Chanel Millers “Know My Name” on afternoon walks. Around chapter 4, I found myself needing to hold on to a wall for stability as I began to breath heavily and hold back tears. Someone found her, and her assaulter. I think of the times I wish someone would have just opened up a door. Checked on me, fuck, even if it was to check on him, but had someone opened a god damn door… Instead, I was safe under the guise of “caretaker’s son”, and I’m sure he fully knew no one would ever open a door. 

July 22nd, 2021

I find myself exhausted from the menial tasks I need to do for my paycheck. Everyday is a mystery on how my body is going to react, how my mind is going to process things, being asked to work feels like a lot. How have I gone so long? From middle school, to high school, to college, to my adult working life, suppressing all of this. Maybe that’s the reason I’ve always felt chameleon-like. Adapting to my environment incredibly well, but never truly knowing who or what I am. 

July 31st, 2021

I started researching what trauma does to the brain, that there is something called an ACE score that measures how more likely your body and mind are to be prone to health issues if you are exposed to trauma at a young age. I found out that my ACE score is 6. I’m in the 12.5% of people that have taken the test to have a score of 4 or more. With an average life expectancy of 80, those with a score of 4 or more have their life expectancy cut to 60. Maybe I should be frightened or overwhelmed with this information, but instead I find solace in it, that I am not crazy. My reactions, my outbursts, my paranoia comes from somewhere. Research helps me validate me more than the affirmations of those around me for some reason. I will keep researching & keep discovering to aid me in this forever journey. Wish me luck. 

Nancy Azcona is a 26-year-old Salvadoran/Dominican New Yorker living out in Los Angeles since 2017. Queer and first-gen American, the intersections are truly endless. She has been working in the entertainment industry since 2016 and is currently a Production Coordinator at Sawhorse Productions. Outside of her 9-5, Nancy is a published poet (Corazón De Seda, Undercurrents Anthology Preposition: In Between), a ceramist, plant lover, and admirer of all art & music. In her spare time, you can find her falling on her roller skates, taking way too long to finish a 200 pg book, or crying at the 5th season, 24th episode of Love Island UK.

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