Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Dealing With What Time Does Not Heal

Life happens. For better or worse. Beautiful moments, exhilaration and inspiration skipping your heart and blooming your smiles. Jagged painful moments: fear, sorrow, shame and anger are sharp edged as the gouge into your mind carving wounds there that time does not heal. Hoping the memories grow less poignant, less destructive does not lessen their impact.
Accidents. Medical issues. They rip away our assumptions of safety and strength. They take people we love in a moment leaving us with memories we hold fast to, as they are what we have left. Those memories and the unsettling knowledge that we are all fragile, mortal, and nothing can be taken for granted.
Abuse. Abuse scars us. Leaves us limping and torn inside, vulnerable. We begin to perceive ourselves as bad, flawed, broken. We perceive that somehow we deserve this and when we look around we see the people around us unaware of what hellish warping has happened to our view of ourselves and each other. It is difficult to break the cycle. It is hard to talk about the pain. The humiliation. The fear which becomes your constant companion. Part of you fights to take your power back, part of you becomes resigned as the community around you seems unaware or even accepting- making you wonder if perhaps you deserve the abuse. The critic in your head uses it all for ammunition.
Time makes it easier to talk about but the feelings come back. They are always with you. Folks seem uncomfortable around you, not always knowing what to say; they often say nothing or change topics which spirals you further into isolation. It gets more difficult to express the things you need to so you can heal and go forward. Depression and anxiety become constant companions you struggle with.
Even harder: when people you love still compliment and express positives about the people who hurt you. When they help an abuser, even if it is not related to you- it feels like bricks in a wall. Part of you wonders, do they understand what you went through? Do they conceive of how horrible a person can be and has chosen to be to you? A quiet voice whispers " they don't believe you."
No one wants to see the worst in a friend, even when its in front of them.
Abusive people can be very charismatic. They do not abuse everyone. Things get dismissed as jokes or moods. Do not talk about it. People might get uncomfortable. Do not talk about it, the abuser doesn't want people to know or to hold them accountable.
You have to talk to heal. The abuser gave up the right to be respected when they chose to use words and actions to torture you. This. This is truth. Talk. You might save someone else. You will save yourself. Talking with supportive people, healthy people- this helps you redefine yourself. It helps fight the inner critic. It helps you heal what time alone cannot.
The feelings do not go away. They are there when you triumph and when you fall down. Some days the feelings make it hard to get out of bed and go through the motions of a day. It is hard to go through life with an emotional prison sentence you got but never deserved. You did not deserve to be treated badly. You do not deserve to have someone feed your demons for their amusement and benefit. You deserve to be treated with kindness. Respect. Love.
One of the hardest steps is dealing with the shame and humiliation. You stayed for a while. Why? Stop punishing yourself is easier said than done.
You find your communication skills and focus slide into a variable setting you cannot always control. You assume you have to stay in a bad place. You try to keep drama low. You try to keep people around you from getting angry. You judge yourself harshly and the downward spiral continues as your mind exaggerates your weaknesses and imperfections.
The abusers words follow you and haunt you. Is there something wrong with you? What if they are right and you really are worthless and terrible?
Wrong. It is hard to see the positives when you are stuck in the cycle. You fight it in your head but part of you feels and whispers: if they were wrong why am I still vulnerable and why do people still think its okay to let them get close to you? People assume they aren't going to be abusive. Abusers say wonderful things about you to everyone but you- it is one of the ways they manipulate the perception people have of them.
This is one of the hardest things to deal with. You find yourself withdrawing from good friends because they go have good times with the abuser. They cheer on positives for that person while you are struggling with anxiety, nightmares and despair having no idea that their actions hurt.
Then at the darkest moment someone walks up. Someone you barely know. They tell you what they are facing. What they struggle with. They read or heard about your struggle. They know you know. They know they can talk to you. They know you know what they are feeling, thinking and going through. You talk with each other. You connect. A little bit of the burden lifts as you share it.
Then another person finds you. Not always people you expect. They share their story. They know. You know. You share the burden again.
After a while you realize that the tip of the iceberg is what folks see; what is underwater: that is what you start to perceive. You realize something needs to shift.
Dealing with my own issues I have found myself mentally identifying friends who are Angels, who I feel safe with. Who I can talk to. Who help me remember to laugh and create a safe place for me. Who react by giving my feelings and experiences validity rather than more heaps of stinking doubt and silence. I realize with the numbers of people quietly finding me that I am not the only one needing Angels. That with Angels around, the pain although present is something that can be dealt with.
This week I am reaching out and starting to work with many friends to create a volunteer network of "Angels" who we will train to outreach and help abuse survivors receive the emotional support to heal and step forward within the Renaissance festival community. We heal together, alone we hurt. Awareness changes the shape of our worlds.