In one way or another we have all experienced the pain of abuse, whether it be verbal, physical, mental, or sexual. For those who have experienced long-term abuse or have been traumatized by the victimization by another being, there is no turning back. We lose ourselves, becoming numb to the world around us, moving in the right motions, saying the proper things, never really in the world around us. How could we be? If we let the world in, we would have to let in everything that comes with it — the memories, the excruciating pain, the desperation. And we would have to accept our inability to cope.
Our first instinct is to tell anyone who will listen. We seek comfort and for a fraction of a second believe that someone can make this all right, that someone can fix the atrocity that has just occurred. Sometimes we do not have anyone to confide in. Sometimes the people we thought we could trust cannot handle the truth of what has happened, so instead we turn inside of ourselves and hide our trauma.
There are so many stigmas around women who have been abused that we fear we will be judged and looked upon differently. All we want is for life to be normal like the abuse never happened. If we tell people, than we are admitting out loud that life ISN’T the same anymore, but forever altered. We do not want to be seen as a victim because then we will believe that we are one.
You may not want to be seen different but here’s a reality check, you ARE different! You are a survivor not a victim. You have taken the worst and you are going to take it and build upon it to make you the strongest version of yourself that you have ever imagined. Our pain and joy in life is what molds us and in order to find ourselves we need to learn to accept ourselves and the life we have.
Many have gone through some form of trauma; the only difference is how you deal with it. I understand the pain is hard to fight through, it’s hard to wake up every morning because for a second everything is okay. Then you realize the hell you have been through and all you want to do is curl up, shut your eyes, and wait for tomorrow, desperately hoping that tomorrow, reality will hurt a little less. Trust me, I know.
I was put in a home at 4 and raised by my aunt and uncle after that for a year until my mother got her life together. I cried for her and never understood. The man she came with loved us very dearly but mental abuse took its toll. I remember hiding under the bed, covering my ears as he would scream and throw furniture. I would have to go to the neighbors after he threw things inches away from my sister and I. I remember speeding off in a truck while I was hanging out of the door and my mother was screaming for us.
After being sexually abused at 7, my world changed. I bottled it up and hid it in shame. He told me if I told anyone that he would kill me and my entire family. I was so scared; he was my nanny’s son so I saw him almost every day. He would shove me in the closet and I would just close my eyes and wait. I don’t even remember how many times he took advantage of me. I would wait until bed time and then I would allow myself to cry and grieve.
Our next step-father was physically and mentally abusive; my little sister got the worst of it. My whole life I got used to fear. I was sexually abused again at 12. I drank too much and he was supposed to drive me home.
I understand what you are going through. I understand why you are reading this post: the pain has consumed you and you have no identity anymore. Every one of us is different, but here are some things that saved me and brought me back to myself after years of being lost, of feeling unworthy of love without an identity and never knowing life without pain.
- ACCEPTANCE: You have to accept that it wasn’t your fault. We loath ourselves, may feel guilty and may be putting the blame on ourselves. Guess what? IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT! There is no rhyme or reason for anyone to abuse you and victimize you except for the fact that THEY chose to. You did not choose to abuse yourself. It doesn’t matter what you said to upset another person, it doesn’t matter if you did something to provoke someone, it doesn’t matter what you were wearing that may have put thoughts in someone else’s mind. You are a strong woman and can say what you want, do what you want, and wear what you want. What others do is of their own choosing.
- SPEAK UP: You need to speak up! It doesn’t have to be a family member or even a best friend, but you need to talk to someone about your trauma. Take baby steps, tell yourself and write it all down, cry and scream and let it out. Do not bottle it all in to grow and consume you, it is not WHO YOU ARE! It is only a part of what will make you. I promise that when you write it down you will feel better. When you are ready, find someone who you trust to talk to. I told my sisters when I was about 12 and they threatened to tell so I had to tell my mom. We sat in bed and we cried together. She put me in therapy and I hated it. I always felt like they didn’t care, but all the same, talking about it made me feel better. Honestly, it’s just now, at 27 that I have learned to accept what has happened and decided that it has made me stronger.
- SOCIALIZE: Research your abuse and find groups that may have gone through something similar. Many times we hide, feeling like we are alone in our trauma, but we are not! There are millions of people who have gone through abuse and have experienced the mental anguish of PTSD. You may be imagining horrifying groups where people all sit in a circle and share their stories but fear not! There are online groups where you can share your stories and help each other cope. There’s even yoga groups for women of abuse. There are so many resources out there to help you be a survivor instead of a victim.
- FIND AN OUTLET: What did you enjoy before the abuse? Personally I like to paint the pain away or exercise. Yoga and meditation have been my salvation. Many studies have been done that have proven that yoga improves your psychological and your mental well-being as well as lower your blood pressure and your heart rate. It’s helped with my debilitating anxiety and my constant struggle with bipolar disorder. It’s my perfect time to meditate and bring my spiritual self together with my physical self. I breathe in the positive energy and breathe out the negative energy, the pain and worry and any shame I may be feeling from that day. In a way, my abuse has brought me closer with my spiritual self and brought more positive energy into my life.
- FIND YOURSELF: Who are you? Who were you? I want you to make a list of who you were before the abuse and who you are now. What did you enjoy doing; painting, reading, sports, exercise? What are you doing now? Are you doing any of the things that make you happy or do you feel lost and uninterested? I want you to find something that makes you happy and stick to it, find something new even! I am about to start kickboxing in a hope that I will find a new passion to help bring joy back into my life and help create my new identity. I used to read to escape my reality, but now I write to help others cope with theirs and to succeed at life instead of live in it.
You are a strong woman with power that you have yet to discover. All you need is hope and you will succeed. They may have abused your mind, your body, your heart, but your spirit is your own and yours alone and no one can touch you now. Be fierce, be free, accept who you are and be the best you possible. Together we stand, together we conquer, not as victims but as survivors.