It took a long time for me to accept myself as a victim of abuse, and an even longer time to accept myself as a survivor. It’s popular for us to jump right into the title of “survivor” for empowerment, eager to pin it over our broken hearts. Not me; I only could come to this place of “survivor” until I first realized and accepted the truth that I was a helpless victim.
Most of my abuse happened in early childhood, carrying into adulthood. Most of it was done by people close by with a few odd “outsiders” in the mix. I never imagined a different life for myself until that point when I started to realize I was a victim of abuse. I blamed myself for the longest time. I sometimes still do; no one likes admitting they were powerless, even against the worst things. Then reality would hit me, and with it comes the thought: “How do I survive?”
It’s like being shipwrecked, or like that movie, Castaway. Tom Hank’s character had to come to grips that he’s all alone on a deserted island via circumstances beyond his control (in his case, a violent storm). He has no known resources, no idea how he’s going to live, nevermind comfortably. It’s from that dark place he lights a fire, makes a shelter, a makeshift companion, and even a lifestyle for himself. Over four years, he changes from a helpless victim to a rugged survivor.
It took me three years of being “shipwrecked” from that very abusive environment into the outside world to come to this point, where I can accept the title of “survivor”. I accepted I was a victim, yes, and I also lived a series of very painful losses over said time, the worst of which came to a head all at once.
I was tossed and turned in a little raft over these and other storms before I came crashing to this place where it’s life or death, if not really physically or materially, definitely emotionally and spiritually. I’ll be the first to admit that most of my methods are not very healthy, nor are they ideal. They’re all I’m willing to risk trying at this point, even when I know deep down that they don’t help. I’ve become too acquainted with how costly mistakes can be.
From where I stood, all those experiences taught me the same lesson: “You’re impossible to love; you’re on your own.”
Truly…I don’t see why “survivor” is such a title of empowerment. I don’t see the appeal. I’ve read enough survivor manuals and wilderness stories to know that one often has to do things, eat things, one would otherwise never do or eat just to stay alive. I guess that’s where the whole “survivor to thriver” thing comes in, realizing we’re meant for something more than just survival. I know this is not how I’m meant to be, nor how I want to be. It is nonetheless where I am.
It doesn’t have to be as ugly as all that though, at least not all the time. Even while shipwrecked, the ocean can still be a hopeful sight. No islands, ships, or planes might be in your view, but that doesn’t mean these things don’t exist. Maybe people are looking for you as you survive on your island, friends who might think much more of you than they express. Even alone, regardless of your desperate circumstances, you still have that life intended just for you. Only you can live that life. Only you can realize that dream.
I know…it’s hard to look up and dream when there’s all this surviving to do down here. I tend to withdraw deep into myself, and hide inside a hard, pretty shell. I’ve no time for dreams or life missions, or even healing; I’d rather keep limping forward, wounded. I’d rather starve myself of love than risk being poisoned, and/or having to beg for crumbs that just make me hungrier. It takes a lot for me to come out of this shell, and really be vulnerable. It’s much safer to conclude that the world is a harsh place, and humans are cruel and cowardly creatures.
But then, little gifts come in on the tide. Maybe even a ship sails into view. Someone might say something especially kind and from the heart, beyond just surface compliments. Someone might look past my smile, and say with an earnestness I can’t easily dismiss, “You’re allowed to have feelings. If you want me to be, I’m here.” A text, a gift, a touch, a small favor, a soulful minute…love does come in time to time. More often than not, I prefer to just watch it pass by, and immediately forget to not give myself any false hope. It’s easier to believe they don’t actually care, it’s another mistake, or worse, more abuse in disguise. Other times, if I’m brave enough, I signal them over if just to be with me a while.
Sometimes things happen that actually crack my shell. A friend is going through a hard time. Maybe it’s his family, or maybe she’s sick. Maybe he has a friend he wants me to pray for. It doesn’t even have to be personal; a social or natural disaster could strike, or someone could be raising awareness of an evil that hits too close to home. I’m forced to raft out, because I’m not meant to be alone forever, because I meant for love. I’m meant more than just survival.
Writing about it does help. This blog is like bottled messages I send out to the world, hopefully to make it a little better. That’s one of my life missions I still dream about among the nightmares. I got caught up in surviving, in semantics. I had too many words, and not enough words. Maybe this will be enough though.
My life story isn’t over.