I’ve said before that fat people are weirdly invisible. It’s true. For me, I think on some level I wanted — needed — to be invisible, particularly to men.

While I did not deliberately set out to gain weight and become invisible, I think my subconscious led the charge to protect me from a past that I couldn’t let go of and didn’t know how to reconcile.

My first — and last — college boyfriend raped me. I had just turned 18. He was 21.

At one point, he punched me. Hard enough that I saw stars. Not the good kind. I had an imprint of his fraternity ring on my jaw for a couple of weeks. Copious amounts of appropriately applied makeup can make all kinds of badness seem to disappear.

The funny thing, not that there is any humor in this whatsoever, is that I thought I was being smart.

We were in my dorm room, a place where I felt safe and should have been safe. Neither one of us was drunk. There were no drugs involved. We weren’t at a party. None of that stuff. I was with some who I thought cared about me, somebody I trusted. Mistakenly as it turned out. We had been seeing each other a few weeks, and he apparently decided he was tired of waiting. Simple as that.

This was the early ’90s, before date rape on college campuses was widely recognized for the problem it is, when “these things sometimes happen to girls.”

The counselor I saw afterwards, SOP at the student health clinic, said the school could not do anything because “the alleged perpetrator” was not a student there.

“You should really just forget about it. Pretend it never happened and move on with your life,” the counselor said.

It would be years – at least a decade – before I learned her advice was epically bad, the worst counseling in the history of ever.

I tried to take what she said to heart and so I never properly dealt with what happened. Like many girls and women in similar situations, I was convinced it was my fault. I know now that is not true, but a traumatized brain does strange things.

You know how they say you never forget your first time? I dearly wish I could.

I honestly tried to let it go. I did a reasonably good impression of a carefree college co-ed, a happy-go-lucky girl who had not been robbed of every ounce of dignity and self-respect. I pretended to be a normal college student who was not constantly questioning herself and everything she believed, who was not constantly in a state of high alert, watching for the next hidden danger.

I am not the first person to whom this has happened. And sadly, I won’t be the last.

I don’t reveal my humiliating history as a ploy to gain sympathy. This is not an oh-woe-is-me story.

I do it to illustrate that sometimes — probably most times — there is more going on with most people than meets the eye. There are things going on that we don’t understand, possibly they don’t understand.

For me, and I’ve only recently come to this conclusion, being fat and thus invisible meant being safe. No guy wants a fat girl. And if no guy wanted me, then no guy could hurt me.

I get that this is incredibly flawed logic. Again, there’s no telling what a traumatized brain will do to protect its owner.

I also don’t share this story as an excuse. The buck still stops with me. In all honesty, I don’t think I was aware of what I was doing to myself until way after the fact. It was my mom who eventually asked me if I was hiding from something. I had not yet come clean with her, but moms always know stuff.

I have no idea how I’m going to feel once this is out there and people know my “dirty little secret,” but putting it out there seems like the right thing.

Writing is cathartic. It’s how I work through things. And if my sharing this helps even one person who finds herself where I was, then it’s absolutely worth it.

For me, understanding the why of things helps me fix what needs fixing. Because I didn’t take care of myself the way I should have at the time (20/20 hindsight is a wonderful thing), I let what happened dictate a large portion of my then future. I don’t want to do that any longer.

I’m not a “victim.” I’m not a “survivor.” I’m just me. And like everyone else, there are things both good and bad that have made me who I am.

Sometimes life serves you a crap sandwich on marble rye toast. It’s not only important how you deal with it, but that you deal with it. It’s taken me nearly 20 years to come up with that little nugget of wisdom. Better late than never, right?

I finally figured out that was up to me to say, “I don’t want to be invisible anymore,” and “I don’t want to be ashamed anymore.” Now it is up to me to make both of these things happen. Piece of cake! (Yes, that was sarcasm.)

I’ve come — way belatedly — to the realization that not only do I have nothing to hide from, I have so much to share. And I can’t do that if I’m invisible.

So I’m not going to be.