• Courtney Phillips

My story of healing – Marta Bota

Updated: Sep 4, 2019

Following a nightmare date in her teens that resulted in a horrific date rape, Marta Bota struggled with anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and an eating disorder. She’s now thriving with her makeup and tanning business and advocating for mental health and blindness prevention. She worked through her struggles with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to learn the tools she needed to be able to overcome and sustain a healthy life of mentoring others like me! Learn more about her story of healing below:

Tell me about yourself: I’m a professional makeup artist and organic airbrush tanning artist. I hold the titles of Mrs. DuPont Circle DC America 2014 and Ms. Virginia America 2016. I’m an advocate for awareness, diagnosis and treatment of ADHD, overall mental health, and blindness prevention. I’m also the ambassador for the Northern Virginia Chapter of Foundation Fighting Blindness. Traveling and spending time with family and friends are my top priorities.

My story: Following a traumatic sexual assault in high school, I struggled for years with anxiety and PTSD, because I never sought care or told anyone about my rape. I later developed an eating disorder, never realizing that it could be related to my anguish, grief and violation from the incident. I received treatment for the eating disorder four years later but suffered from severe anxiety most of my adult life.

I am 56-years-old and times were very different 40-years-ago. We are very fortunate to live in the times we do to have the opportunity to share our stories and experiences, get support and heal. I was in therapy on and off for many years for my anxiety but never shared with my doctors that I was raped. I buried it deep inside and did not realize that it would manifest into full-blown PTSD. It wasn’t until a therapist identified my symptoms years later and helped put me on the path to healing.

What happened to cause your anguish?

When I was a late teen, I was brutally date raped. It was a young man, who I went to school with. He was focused on dating me and was relentless in his pursuit. I did everything I could to avoid him, but eventually, I gave in and accepted his requests. The evening immediately got off to a bad start, and I felt uncomfortable throughout the short-lived date. I pretended I was ill to get him to bring me home. However, he completely ignored my desire to be taken home. That told me, even as a young person without much dating experience, that something was wrong.

That night he assaulted and raped me. I tried to fight him off, but it was apparent that he was stronger than me. I realized that my life was at stake. I disassociated during the assault and blocked it out for many years that followed.  When I finally made it home that night, I didn’t tell my parents. I was too afraid. For years, I blamed myself. This was during the late ‘70s, at that time “date rape” was not even a thing. We weren’t educated or well informed. 

What was the moment that caused you to realize that you needed to seek care? I was lucky enough to have had a doctor who recognized my symptoms. He asked me, point blank, “Have you ever been raped?” I remember that moment so clearly! I was taken aback! I felt violated by his question. I wondered, “Who told him?” I didn’t realize that I was carrying the burden of shame and guilt for decades! I said, “Yes, I was raped. Why do you ask?” He said you have all of the symptoms of PTSD.” And he explained that there were treatments available that I decided to try.

He treated me for my PTSD over the course of the year: combining medications and intense therapy. We did Cognitive Behavior Therapy Counseling. My very first session was extremely traumatic. I ended up getting physically ill and vomiting throughout the session. However, he reassured me this was a normal reaction and necessary for me to purge my emotions and eventually release them. It was a very difficult time to go through but looking back it was the only path to recovery.

What does your recovery look like?

My recovery process is ongoing and multi-modal. Living a healthy lifestyle of exercising, eating healthy, getting enough rest, managing stress, lots of support with ongoing therapy and a consistent active social life has helped me in my continued recovery process.

Being an advocate for mental health has played a huge role in my recovery. Speaking publicly is recent and can make me uncomfortable at times, but I understand the importance of my own recovery and to help others going through similar struggles.

Where are you now?

I still have times where I get anxiety or panic attacks, but I have awareness and the tools readily available for me to pull myself out of it. During an extreme panic attack, I do need medication to calm down. It has been a long road, but, for the most part, I have truly overcome, and consider myself, not only a survivor but a “Surthrivor.” I’m thriving and share my story to help myself AND others.

One piece of advice you would give someone in a situation like yours trying to decide whether or not to seek care:

There will always be setbacks, it’s part of the recovery process. I find that any traumatic event can trigger anxiety or a panic attack. Whether it be a death of a friend or loved one, or when life gets stressful, but I have learned to push through and take advantage of my resources, especially my therapist.

The advice that I always give to others who may have gone through something similar or dealing with any kind of mental anguish is to tell at least one other person, a trusted friend or family member. I also always recommend seeking professional help. Without it, I would not be where I am today. I love to share the message of hope and healing.

If you or someone you know is the victim of a sexual assault, there are resources to help them. RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE, online.rainn.org y rainn.org/es). When you call or access their live chat online, you'll to be routed to a local sexual assault service provider in your area. Trained staff can provide confidential support and connect you to resources in your area.

Mental Health Resources If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, don’t suffer in silence! There are free and affordable resources to help you get through these times. Here are just few options for you below:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255): Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your confidential, toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. 

  • Some federal agencies offer resources for identifying practitioners and assistance in finding low cost health services. These include:

  • Health Resources and Services Administration works to improve access to health care. The website has information on finding affordable healthcare, including health centers that offer care on a sliding fee scale.

  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has information on its website about benefits and eligibility for its programs and how to enroll.

  • The National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus website also has lists of directories and organizations that can help in identifying a health practitioner.

  • Mental Health and Addiction Insurance Help from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers resources to help answer questions about insurance coverage for mental health care.

  • Service members and Veterans have unique needs. https://www.mentalhealth.gov/get-help/veterans provides for their specific needs.

  • National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) offers peer-to-peer support groups in most locations. This in-person group experience provides the opportunity for mutual support and positive impact. You can experience compassion and reinforcement from people who relate to your experiences. 

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