"Even though I had a lot of support from family and friends, I knew that none of them really understood what was happening to me. Hell, I could barely understand it for myself. I needed to connect with other survivors to help me cope what I was dealing with, and I knew they felt the same way."
Mark it down -- Annabella Dura WILL change the world! She's a college student, dancer, blogger and now AUTHOR. And guess what? She's only 20. But her journey hasn't been an easy one. After being raped in 2013, she realized how alone she felt and ultimately used that as motivation to help herself and other victims. She began writing a book, Into the Darkness, which serves as a two part work book for trauma survivors. The book is FINALLY available for purchase and we were lucky enough to chat with Annabelle about it :-)
Every Ella: Tell us a little about yourself.
Annabelle Dura: I'm a petite, free spirited, fiercely independent 20 year old. I am a native New Yorker, but we (my mom, two little sisters and I) moved to Corpus Christi, Texas in 2009. I am now about to finish my third year at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas (a tiny town with a bunch of nice old people just 45 min north of Austin, Texas).
You wrote a book called Into the Darkness. What's it about?
Into the Darkness is a two part work book for trauma survivors - specifically those survivors of sexual assault and rape.
The first section is a story about a girl fighting her way through a dark forest. It's cold and foggy and there are these BIG tattered pieces of dark fabric hanging from the tree limbs that wrap around her and make her numb. When she escapes the forest she deals with a lot of unfamiliar emotions and struggles being in the light after being in the forest for so long. The second part of the book contains worksheets that correspond with different sections of the story.
What motivated you to write this book?
I was raped in 2013 and my road to healing was very rocky (just like many others). I coped with dance, and drinking, and journaling. I went to therapy and smashed plates, and hooked up with boys, and got acupuncture, and massages and found God. Eventually I started a blog called The Opened Book (I still publish blog posts on it!). It is a very raw account of my healing and a collection of small epiphanies and philosophies on life. Eventually, I started getting emails from complete strangers thanking me for my vulnerability and telling me how comforting it was to know that they were not alone. That's when I realized how alone I felt too. Even though I had a lot of support from family and friends, I knew that none of them really understood what was happening to me. Hell, I could barely understand it for myself. I needed to connect with other survivors to help me cope what I was dealing with, and I knew they felt the same way.
Long story short, my motivation for writing this book came from a desire to heal by giving my suffering a purpose, and to help others heal by giving them a community.
What do you hope readers gain from reading Into the Darkness?
I really hope they are able to use this book to connect with other survivors and find support. Some therapists I've talked to worry about causing more harm than good during therapy sessions because recounting events can be very triggering and take a huge emotional toll on the survivor. The story section of Into the Darkness is to act as a tool for the reader. Using metaphors in conversation in place of things makes it easier to talk about and work through feelings or experiences that may be difficult to put a name to. Ultimately I want to provide the readers with a different approach to healing conversation.
What was the most challenging part of writing and publishing your own book?
Well there were a few.
1. Typos Galore! I'm terrible! Luckily my sorority sister is studying to be an editor and she very generously offered to help me out :)
2. Then there was the challenge of having patience when the cover wasn't printing right or when the words just weren't coming to me. If you know me, you know that I am a go-go-go kind of woman and don't like waiting for ANYTHING if I can help it.
3. But right now, dealing with the fear of embarrassment and failure is my biggest challenge. I'm anxious and terrified of negative/hateful feedback. I had it reviewed by different psychologists to make sure it was the best product it could be, but I'm wondering if people with think I'm a fraud because of my age and lack of credentials.
And the most rewarding part?
Seeing God shine through such a terrible thing and create so much good. And seeing how many people want to support me - that's pretty cool and leaves me in tears sometimes.
What are your future plans and goals?
Personally, I hope to continue crossing things off my bucket list: I really want to hire a small team of creatives to make magic with me ( and by hire I mean do projects for free with me until I can actually pay them), I want to dance professionally at some point in time (Preferably in music/dance videos), move back to NYC, get married, maybe do some public speaking, and be an effective leader. Most importantly I want to make a positive impact in the world and love as many people as I can!
For Into the Darkness, I am currently searching for a therapist or specialist to help me construct an outline for therapy groups to use. I want to reach out to as many people and organizations as possible to get it into as many hands as possible. If you're interested in bringing ITD to your town, let me know!
What accomplishment in your life are you most proud of?
I feel like I'm starting to establish myself as a professional human and that's pretty cool. Also, I'm proud of nailing my first professional dance audition (Sept 2015) and becoming a company member for Dance Waterloo. That was a huge moment for me and significantly increased my confidence (something I still struggle with today).
What do you like to do for fun?
Dance. Hands down. It is the only time I feel like I am truly myself.
Hip Hop mainly, but I do contemporary and ballet too. This is going to sound weird but I really love brainstorming - creating new ideas and exploring possibilities with my friends and mentors gets me weirdly excited. I also love spending time with my family - they are really hilarious and it so funny to see how we all have such similar quirks! When I get stressed out or overwhelmed, I usually travel. Getting out of town is really fun. Sometimes it's just to a different nearby city, sometimes I escape to a different state.
I also enjoy cooking...but love to eat even more.
Name one woman who has inspired you.
I'd have to pick BOTH of my Aunts. My aunt Emmie is a doctor and rescues squirrels. She has a fantastic sense of humor and big thoughts about the world and is always excited to learn something new. She is very true to herself and very passionate about healing and helping her patients. My Tia Elena is fearless. She is the epitome of a classy bad-ass woman. She's gorgeous and extremely intelligent :) Both are entrepreneurs and both have shown me I can be anything I want to be. I'd be very lucky to be anything like them.
What advice would you give girls today?
A little bit of love goes a long way.
You can accomplish anything you set your heart on, but you'll be kidding yourself if you think you can do it totally alone. We are humans - communal creatures - we need each other to succeed! So make good friends and treat them well. And if someone says that you can't do it or tries to put you down, know that they are probably projecting their own fear and insecurity on to you, so don't pay attention to that. Instead, give them a hug, they probably need someone to believe in them and love them too.