Being a survivor of abuse, I am sure you know the strange and fragile balance between acceptance and denial. On the one hand you want (and do) hold your head up high and say to the world: I am a survivor, look at how strong I am. On the other you want to hide, because you are convinced that the world says: She is a survivor of abuse, look how damaged she is.
It is an eternal conflict between embracing our past and feeling extraordinary shame for it.
“The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud
is the central dialectic of psychological trauma.”
― Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery
I Am the Egg Shells
I have moments where I feel like I am now the personification of the egg shells I had to walk on around my family. I feel like anything can set me off, make me feel overwhelmed and emotionally off balance. I feel so broken on those days. I get so fed up at being triggered, feeling the effects of emotional abuse, having to work so hard at my recovery.
Some days I just want to hide, to deny it ever happened, pretend I don’t exist. I just want to curl up in a little ball, and let the world disappear.
On those days I need to remind myself that those days and feelings are part of life, the human condition. Everybody has days where they are tired, fed up and annoy themselves with random doubt. Everybody want a pillow fort sometimes.
I Am the Proud Survivor, Too!
Other days, I feel like screaming at the top of my lungs: LOOK AT ME, I SURVIVED!
I am proud of that achievement. I know I could have been a lot worse off, too. On those days I trust my strength, and I can see that I am a better and kinder person for my experiences.
I feel both stronger and more fragile for the experiences in my past. Sometimes that odd discrepancy in my thoughts and feelings leaves me feeling confused and unsettled. What does my past say about me? Is there really something inherently wrong with me?
At the end of the day, I can never see myself separate from my experiences. That does not make me any better or worse… It just makes me, Me.
How would I have turned out if I had grown up in a loving family? I have no idea! What I do know is that I am working hard, and managing, to make my negative experiences translate to positive contributions in my life.
We Cannot Ever Be Without Our Past
I think too often we view healing as a path back to ourselves. It is, but at the same time it isn’t. Trying to reclaim the person we were before we met our abuser essentially means we are trying to erase what happened to us.
We need to stop wishing our experiences away, and accept and embrace our journey. Can we be angry about the injustice of it all? Yes, of course! Can we be heartbroken for the pain we had to endure? Obviously! I don’t think that acceptance is about pretending the abuse was not painful and unnecessary. I just think that wishing it never happened does not help us find our new strength and inner-beauty.
Yes, you read that right! I think we become stronger and more beautiful for our experiences. Or perhaps just differently strong and alternatively beautiful.
I know this transformation is painful, but you’re not falling apart;
you’re just falling into something different with a capacity to be beautiful.
– William C. Hannan
See, we can heal all we want… we will never be who we were before we encountered abuse.