I am a survivor.
A survivor of childhood sexual abuse.
A survivor of childhood psychological abuse.
Whew. I have never written those words before. The relief and peace are overwhelming. For thirty-four years I have carried the weight of these realities alone attempting to navigate the “how” in how they affect my life.
Because they do affect my life.
My friendships, my parenting, my romantic relationships. All of these are affected.
My truth is that, I spent much of my formative years not feeling wanted by one of my parents and abused by people very close to me.
…Again, something I have never had the courage to write before.
As a child, the obvious dislike my father had for me was outwardly apparent enough that it ended my parent’s relationship, and by default my relationship, with an entire set of relatives. It was not until I had grown, moved out on my own, and made contact with my estranged grandparents myself, that I learned this dirty little family secret. It did not surprise me though. I had always felt passed over and unsupported as a child so this narrative simply put the puzzle pieces together. Finally, I knew that I was not alone in believing there was something wrong with my family dynamic. That I was not the black sheep but, that I was the white lamb who, by some miracle, escaped and later thrived.
That narrative make it all sound so easy: live through the abuse, get confirmation that it was abuse, heal then live life. Three simple steps that are anything but.
In truth, it has taken over sixteen years of intense inward reflection and therapy to combat my negative self view and, I still struggle everyday.
It takes conscience strength to push my social anxiety aside and make friends, to trust, and to maintain my relationships. This is especially difficult with men. When the one man who shaped your idea of what constitutes a man was a drug addicted, abusive father it leaves wounds.
Wounds that run deep and penetrate every aspect of my romantic life. From whom I am attracted to, to my view on how men should treat women, to how women should treat men, to how I sometimes still have to fight my urge to fetch male attention.
The aspects of myself that I most despise stem from these wounds.
But I carry on. I continue to heal, discover who I am, and learn to trust.
I love the above image because it encompasses everything a survivor wants to be: courageous, strong, inspiring. To be honest though, most of the time being a survivor feels more like this…
…and I am in constant fear of being voted off the island thanks to my social anxiety. It is something that people do not always understand- the need to hold people at an arms length. It makes getting close to me difficult. I let very few people in but those that do I trust entirely. It is the only aspect of my personality that is black and white. I either trust you or I don’t. This protects me from being hurt. It is my defense mechanism.
Although my personal and romantic life have taken the biggest hits from my childhood traumas, my outlook on life has become consciously and carefully designed around my past and engineered to empower myself and prepare my children for the world they face.
Being a survivor has taught me to dig deep when it comes to others and my own children. I have taught myself to examine every viewpoint of a situation and to aim to understand the larger problems instead of focusing on the symptoms, such as behavior. Assumption is the opposite of understanding and only leads to judgement.
Being a survivor has taught me to council my children about how bullies are often bullied themselves and, often times need grace, but also boundaries, and how it is important to know how to deal with these aggressive, manipulating classmates because those people only grow up to be aggressive, manipulating adults.
Being a survivor has taught me that I can only control my reactions to situations. Others are in charge of their behavior and that I can be there for them when they are ready, but I can not control them or make them see my truth.
Being a survivor has taught me that the way people treat me says more about who they are then who I am. For I am a survivor.
I beat the odds and will raise a generation to defy them.