I Am With You

Trigger warning: sexual assault

We wanted to re-share an animated short by Chanel Miller.

You may know her as “Emily Doe.”

“While writing Know My Name, I was constantly drawing as a way of letting my mind breathe, reminding myself that life is playful and imaginative. We all deserve a chance to define ourselves, shape our identities, and tell our stories. The film crew that worked on this piece was almost all women. Feeling their support and creating together was immensely healing. We should all be creating space for survivors to speak their truths and express themselves freely. When society nourishes instead of blames, books are written, art is made, and the world is a little better for it.”

–Chanel Miller // chanel-miller.com

Melissa's Story


Editors Note: Melissa’s story of family, hope and breakthrough is why we do everything we do at SWL. We are fighting for the downtrodden and broken hearted, empowering them to press forward. We cannot change our pasts but we can change our futures, which is exactly what Melissa has done. We are incredibly thankful to her for sharing her story with us, and honored to have her in our community! -Micaela

My story is not about how I lived or how I coped but it’s about how I was changed and how I am continually being changed. How I came from an unsafe place to a place of unconditional love. Before you hear my story I want you to know that it’s not over, this is just the beginning. My name is Melissa and I am so worth loving.

So, I want to tell you a few facts about myself before I tell you my story. I have three siblings. We have an older brother and I am a triplet. We were home schooled for most of our schooling lives. I am left handed and I am the only one in my family with blue eyes.

My siblings and I grew up in an interesting household. We were home schooled by a family friend who basically raised us. Our parents often left us at our home school teacher’s house for days and weeks at a time. Growing up our family had unhealthy relationships. When I was a child I was abused; physically, sexually, emotionally, verbally and mentally. I became neglected and rejected. As I grew up, it became normal for me to feel like that, and I was constantly sad and being picked on by people for anything they could think of- I was “too fat” , “dumb” ,“weird”, or “not good enough”. My bullies were not only peers but they were my own family. Regularly, I was made to feel that I am unlovable and not good enough.

There was this constant comparison between my sister and me. I was never as good as my sister; especially in the eyes of my dad and my grandmom. It was always a competition for me, I wanted to be good enough and I wanted to be accepted. I acted out so I could get attention; I did things to get in trouble all the time and when I wasn’t getting in trouble I longed to satisfy people so they would like me. I would take any attention I could get; good or bad. I tried to find acceptance in many things and people but I still never seemed to be enough.

To me, the only place I could be accepted and I could be myself was my closet; it was the safest place in the world for me. No one would ever hurt me there, I felt invincible! I would sit in there when I wanted to get away and just be a kid. When I was twelve, I remember sitting in my closet, my parents were fighting. I felt so much shame. I knew I needed something to fill this empty spot. There had to be something more. I remember feeling so hopeless and I remember sitting there that night asking God, in desperation, to help me, to save me, and to take over my life.

My life circumstances didn’t really change, however, I was changed. I started to see that I was worthy of love and that I had hope. Then, at the age of fifteen I was raped. This made me feel dirty and made me question God, I was so confused. It brought back feelings of shame and guilt. I turned to abusing drugs, self-mutilation and bulimia to make me “feel better” or so I thought. In my head I always knew there was something missing, no matter how many times I tried to cope the feelings came back — they always came back.

My friend and her family invited me to go to church with them and I liked it there, it felt safe to me. Me and my brother started going regularly. There we met a lady, named Jane, who decided that she would ask my brother and me to help in Sunday school. We got to know her and eventually she started to pick us up from school. She and I bonded; she was so nice to me. I literally had no idea why someone in their right mind would even want to be nice to me (In my head, relationships and nice could never be in the same sentence, ever). However, at the time, I just went along with it because I was getting attention.

Fast forward a few years to May of 2007. My mom went to Jane and asked her if I could stay with her for the summer. My brothers were going to be at a summer camp all summer with my dad, my sister already lived with a different family and my mom worked 7am to 7pm so she decided that I could not stay home by myself, which I thought was weird because we always stayed home by ourselves if we weren’t at school. Anyway, so that summer I stayed with Jane and her husband, Bill. We became more like a family than friends. They loved me like I was their daughter, I wasn’t sure why. I never knew what a real genuine love looked like or even healthy relationships until I lived with Jane and Bill.

Well, September came around and my mom didn’t come pick me up so I just stayed there. I became very depressed and in a war with myself, struggling with self-harm and bulimia. That November I was taken to a crisis center where I was going to be admitted. While the doctors were discussing my admissions with my parents, they didn’t think I needed to go. They thought I was just acting out for attention and that I wanted people to feel bad for me. When in reality, I was hurting so bad and I thought I deserved to be hurt so I was physically harming myself.

After that Jane got custody of me. Jane and Bill helped me like I needed to be helped. Once I got out of treatment they loved me like I needed to be loved, they supported me. They showed me unconditional love. This is where my healing journey began. Although, I received support and encouragement professionally, as well as from friends, I continually faced change. Most people understand how difficult change is. Please understand that the changes in my life and the way I have responded or overcompensated have been challenging. I needed to learn how to deal with my anger and adjust my thoughts so my actions and words would be appropriate. I also had to learn how to mature socially (I still work on this one!). With each passing day, I look back and see how different I was and how I am changed and am continually healing.

So, for you who feel hopeless and isolated and for those of you who feel like your life is not worth living, I want you to know, there is more; a new season, another chapter, just waiting for you to walk into it. Be courageous; accept the love that you deserve. You are worthy! And know that even when you stumble you are still moving forward.

Melissa Ackley is a student at a community college majoring in Sociology. She loves getting to work with people on a daily basis as a Nail Technician at a day spa and as a Marketing Executive for a wellness company. Her life goal is to open a treatment center for women who struggle with life controlling issues.

Eating disorder hotline: 1-800-931-2237
Suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255