I was at a women’s health fair this past weekend and I stopped by the domestic violence/sexual assault prevention and support booth. I picked up little ribbons that signified support and somehow ended up telling the women there that I had PTSD from being abused. This was a big step for me. One to admit it out loud and two to tell someone else. What happened next though stunned me more and it’s something I have been left thinking about since then.
The woman who runs the center responded to my telling her of my history by saying – “oh you’re a survivor!”. This completely stopped me in my tracks. A survivor? Me. No certainly not. I don’t deserve to have that title. Plus to say you are a survivor means that you had to have survived something significant. Yes I was abused and yes I’m here but survived it…that makes it sound like it was important or something.
I have a hard time wrapping my head around these facts. Denial? Yes, most defiantly. I’ve been in enough therapy to know it when I see it. I don’t know if I’m ready to look at my past and see it for what it was. At times I am. I can sometimes say parts of it out loud like I did initially to the woman but then I balk and retreat away from my story.
I’m closer to accepting it and being able to process it in therapy than I ever have been before. Perhaps it’s time to start that work. I’ve done very little trauma work.. And so I leave for Wichita in a few hours (psychiatrist, dietitian and therapist) and perhaps today in my session I’ll start talking. And if I go in with at least somewhat of the beginnings of the belief that I am a survivor it will go that much better.
Filed under abuse, feminism, Hope, life events, Life Story, New Life, PTSD, Recovery, survivor, the past, trauma
Dear Unnamed Abuser,
I know you read my blog. I also know you read my tumblr so you are now reading this. Someday I will speak out about what you did to me. This is not a threat. It is a promise to myself and to all the other survivors of sexual abuse, assault and rape. I won’t mention you by name for many reasons one of which is that your name itself deserves no time on my lips.
I know you have not forgotten me. I don’t know if I haunt your nightmares or your dreams or am just a fleeting thought but your presence on my blog and tumblr proves that you have not let me go. Good.
Think of me when you read about women raped, beaten and abused.
Think of me when you see women and men give impassioned speeches about how the young men in this country must change, must own up to their actions and above all must never hurt a woman.
Think of me when you visit my tumblr and see the quotes I post there about letting go of my past and know that it is you I am freeing myself from and I have never felt more empowered than I am right now as I go through this process.
Think of me as you go to church and present a sparkling clean image to everyone around you. Know that unless you tell the truth that image will forever be tarnished by acts you can never undo and only ask for forgiveness for.
Think of me when you return to where we spent the majority of our time. Look around and remember how that time is darkened by the acts you committed. Know that for you that place will never be the pure mecca you thought you created.
Think of me if you have a daughter. Look at her and wonder how you could have committed those acts against a woman. Look at that tiny beautiful face and pledge never to hurt another woman (or person) so long as you live.
Think of me when you read of women who have moved mountains, and who have beaten unspeakable odds.
Think of me when you read of women of strength, of power, of influence.
Think of me when you hear the word survivor and especially when you hear the word warrior.
Last night I was virtually up all night because I didn’t feel well. I passed the time by watching TED talks. I chose to watch one particular talk given by Brene Brown called “The Price of Invulnerability” (it’s a good talk – go watch it!). Now whether it was because it was 4 am and I was feeling pretty crummy physically and also emotionally after a hard day or if it was just because it is an amazing talk I spent part of the time watching it close to tears. And when she said one thing the tears erupted. She said something (roughly) like this:
People who are trauma survivors have told me ‘I don’t want your sympathy. I don’t want your pity. I want you to look at your life and know what you already have’.
For me this is it. I don’t want my friend’s pity or something for what I have had to endure, my diagnosis or my past. All I want is for them to have gratitude for what they already have. I have run into people in the treatment world who wish for trauma, who make it up or embellish it. I go through times when this makes me angry and times when it simply makes me sad and times when it makes me both. I suppose the wishing/embellishing/making up comes from a place of trying to relate to other or validate why they struggle with what they struggle with. That anyways is the nice answer I can pull out of the hat.
P and I were trying to put the exact concept of gratitude that Brene Brown does so succiently above into words the other day. We were talking of our treatment friends (and they are always there) who are like this. I think to a degree we can intellectually understand it like I described above but like me P, is also a trauma survivor and there is a deep seated pain and anguish that arises when people ‘wish’ for trauma or embellish their experiences. We also talked about how we would like others to relate to us and we tossed around words like we wished other knew how ‘lucky’ they were. How they by some shade of fate or whatever just happened to have all the right hands in the deck tossed at them so they avoided trauma. We talked that we don’t want the pity or sadness which we sometimes receive from people, we just want them to know damn lucky they are. ie – all we want from others is that they know what they already have.
It’s hard not to get mad at people when they show me pity or sympathy. In my mind these are very different emotions than empathy. Empathy to me is much more of an equalizer It put both the empathizer and the one receiving the empathy on the same level. There is no ‘looking down upon’ or feeling sorry which pity and sympathy entails. Empathy is not static. It moves with a person and allows someone to heal. Pity keeps a person in a box. A box in which the peson who feels pity towards them sees that the situation that happened to them is ‘so sad’ and makes that individual a victim. There is no room to move away from that box. And I believe that there is no room to move in a relationship when one individual feels pity for another. I believe that the pittyier so to say naturally feels somewhat superior while the one who is pitied tends to feel demeaned.
And to those who do not have trauma nor can they understand my past? I don’t want that pity. I don’t want that sympathy. It doesn’t make me feel loved. It doesn’t make me feel understood. As Brene Brown reported I just want people to know what they already have. I want you or whoever is reading this to be able to feel grateful that you have been spared (if you have) by luck, fate, faith (whatever you believe in) the devastating effects of trauma. Not all are so lucky. I have not been so lucky. Be grateful for what you have and for what you have been spared. As Brene Brown says “look at your life and know what you already have’. That’s all I want or need from you as a survivor.
Filed under coping skills, depression, eating disorder, eating disorders, faith, family, friends, Identity, life events, New Life, PTSD, Recovery, survivor, the past, trauma
I have posted political posts on this blog before and got a lot of feedback. Some unnecessary and unkind, some agreeing with me, others disagreeing with me in a respectful and kind manner. And I learned from all of it (except for the attacks – that doesn’t work). What I learned the most though was from a friend, Laura, who told me that her dad taught her to trust God that no matter who wins the election, that our future is still in his hands. What an amazing way to look at the results. I struggle with my faith. I struggle trusting God and knowing that he was not the one who hurt me. But for some reason this really hit home for me and so I sit here on the couch with the television turned off. I do have a candidate that I would like to win. And yes, I would like him to win quite a bit. But am I confident that I will survive if he does not? Yes. Yes, I am. I am going to keep moving forward in my recovery. Keep healing and keep working as hard as I can. I will struggle. I will fall. I will make leaps and bounds forward. I will hope and look forward to waking up.
And while I experience this someone far away from me will be sitting in a big white house. They will be making decisions that yes will affect me but at this point I cannot dwell on that. Someday I want to be a political activist. I want to campaign for women’s rights. I want to support the women’s movement and do all sorts of things. But one thing I learned in my short time in school is that I am not ready. I have to become a woman who is a survivor and who while might not be healed is actively on that journey. I want to speak for women. I want to be their voice but first I must find my own. And I must trust that while I am doing this our country is being taken care of. I might not trust whoever is sitting in that white house but I do trust God. And I trust that while I am learning how to live my life he will be taking care of the rest of it.
Someday, I will have my chance to speak my mind. I will have an opportunity to make social changes. I will have a voice that I can use to say I was a woman who was in the depths of hell but am no longer there and I want to speak for those women. But right now I rely on those woman who are at their stage of their journey where they can do this.
My job is simple. Keep healing. Keep moving forward. And keep trusting. No matter who moves into the big white house come January.