4 Lessons For Dealing With Trauma From Neesha Arter’s Memoir ‘Controlled’

Evangeline Axiotis
Evangeline Axiotis goes by many nicknames, (mainly inappropriate ones), but most people know her as a music festival junkie. She's currently going through a quarter-life crisis. Her biggest supporter is her dad who constantly reminds her that raving is not a real job - but she hopes to change that soon. She can also recite any Biggie Smalls song by heart.
I met Neesha Arter right after I graduated college. I spent the whole summer applying for jobs in my parent’s living room with no luck, so I settled for an unpaid internship. Neesha and I sat next to each other in our office space in the Meatpacking District and a friendship quickly emerged.

While it seemed like we were sharing similar experiences in our internship, Neesha told me she had moved across the country to pursue her dream of becoming a writer in New York City.

One day during lunch she informed of a book she was writing and how close she was to finishing it. I asked her what the book was about and she told me it was about being raped at 14. I was shocked to say the least. I had only known her a few short months and Neesha was this funny, outgoing and witty character. I couldn’t imagine her going through something like that. In hopes of her never thinking I was prying, I kept my questions to myself. I just told her I can’t wait to read it.

Fast forward to three years later, her book was finally released. As soon as it was available, I ordered it on Amazon. I sped through the book in just two days. I needed to know what happened in the end. Did she ever get justice? What happened to her abusers? What happened to Neesha?

The truth is, although “Controlled” has a beginning, middle, and end, the story never truly ends for Neesha. This is something she has to live with for the rest of her life. “Controlled” revisits that horrible night, but more importantly, it shows us just how traumatic the aftermath can be. This is not a book with a fairytale ending. This is a story about incredible pain and suffering, and the courage it took to tell this story for the world to hear. Her voice is so honest and vulnerable that it’s empowering, especially to other victims. Although her story is about sexual abuse, Neesha sends important messages to anyone who is still living in the limbo phase of a traumatic experience:

1. Don’t blame yourself

Neesha was unequivocally a victim of sexual abuse, yet she continued to struggle with blaming herself. A million “what ifs” ran through her mind concerning that night. It’s only when she stopped blaming herself that she could truly move on.

2. Own your feelings

It’s okay to feel pain. In fact, it’s only natural. Trying to avoid the pain can end up being more destructive than the pain itself. Processing your roller coaster of emotions can be overwhelming, but freeing. Just know that every feeling you have makes you human.

3. Reach out for help

You should never be ashamed to ask for help. Although you may feel alone in your situation, there is always an outlet available to you. Neesha was hesitant to talk to anyone, even her own parents, and understandably so. While talking to someone can be extremely difficult, knowing you have a support system can make all the difference in the road to recovery.

4. It gets better

It’s so hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel after a traumatic experience. For a while, that tunnel seemed to extend for miles in Neesha’s eyes. The worst night of her life became the worst week, the worst month and the worst year. There isn’t a magic switch that you can flip to make it all go away, but there is always hope in tomorrow. In telling her story, Neesha wants to strengthen that hope of overcoming adversity.

I met up with Neesha to congratulate her and catch up. We swapped stories and laughed — she was the same Neesha I remember from my internship. It’s crazy to think about how far she has come these past few years. Her dream of becoming an author is now a reality and the same incident that once shattered her into a million pieces is now a part of her success story.

Neesha’s work has appeared in The New York Times: Women In The World, The Daily Beast, the New York Observer, New York Magazine, Interview, Teen Vogue and many more. She has spoken at the National Planned Parenthood Conference in Washington D.C. and frequently speaks and writes on women’s issues.

You can buy “Controlled” on Amazon.

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Photo by Tom Newton, huffpost