Writing about the nature of abuse along with my own personal experience of it has been an extremely helpful tool for me to better integrate who I am. For a long time, I distracted myself from going there, knowing full well that when I did, it would be intense. Eventually, that strategy failed and I was left with no other healthy alternative than to face the big, hairy, purple monster head on. When I did face it head on, guess what? It was intense.
I had to do a lot of interior work to get to a place where I could be fully honest and present with the full impact of what happened and the damage that was done. In this full embrace I finally allowed myself to grieve on a level I previously thought was “too selfish” (my abusers’ words, not mine) to do. I allowed myself to fully acknowledge a range and depth of feeling that was previously inaccessible. The paradox of pain and relief that go with this sort of work often overwhelms me in a way that requires literally all I have to sustain and keep going.
Those who have done this sort of work know what I’m talking about. It’s hard, deep, soul-wrenching work. And yet, being an abuse survivor is just one part of who I am. By allowing “abuse survivor” to take center stage for a season, I am finally giving a voice and spotlight to what was previously relegated to the dusty backstage corners of my life. The part of me that was abused needs and deserves to be seen and nurtured so that it can be better integrated into the bigger part of who I am. But the abuse is not who I am. The wisdom, hard earned from the experience, points to who I am.
By giving this previously unintegrated part of myself a voice, I am reclaiming my sense of who I am, truly. Speaking up about being a victim of abuse is empowering. It releases me from the toxic shame that held me captive in my abusers’ lies. It is cause for congratulations, not for smothering, judgment or pity.
People who have done this sort of interior work get it, and I am grateful to have some kick-ass mentors and supporters. Unfortunately, not many people have done such interior work, and the ones who don’t get it really drag me down. I only have so much energy after battling my own demons, and I have very low tolerance for those who fail to battle theirs.
Some of the most frustrating people I have encountered in this process are those who minimize or deny their own stories, then feel threatened when I won’t do the same. Equally exhausting are acquaintances who lurk on my blog without engaging me directly as the whole person I am. I am not my blog. I am a real person with a real name that is not “Abuse Survivor” in real life. My blog is one tool in my toolbox to better integrate my whole delicious self. It’s inevitable that some who know me personally will use this voyeuristic window to snoop, and being the observer of human nature that I am, that doesn’t bother me. It bothers me that anyone who knows me in real life would reduce me to an image formed solely from what is read here.
There are many other labels thrust upon me through life-choice or circumstance which fail to describe who I really am. Wife. Mom. Writer. Cat-lover. Abuse survivor is just another one of these labels. But it’s an important one. It’s a paradoxical one. It’s one worthy of integrating more and more into the bigger story of my life.