Survival pares you down to the barest version of a human. You eat when you can, sleep where you can, and get the hell out of reality as often as you can. The years I spent hiding from the pain I’d pent up feel like an extended nightmare. I suppressed quite a bit from then, because it was the only way I could justify continuing to live to myself.
I was excited when I started Dialectical-Behavioral Therapy. It sounded like exactly the coping skills I needed. Even normal people said it sounded helpful! Surely it was all sunshine and rainbows and feeling better, right?
I’m not sure if any of you have had a PTSD flashback, but suppressing trauma tends to make that kind of thing happen more often. I’m not going to say I was a lot happier not thinking about it. That clearly isn’t healthy, and I know well how much further damage it caused. But DBT involves instilling healthier thought and behavioral patterns, which involves examining the ones you’ve used and why you’ve had to use them. The ‘why’ is often the problem.
I had no ways to deal with what happened to me, no idea of where to start, and embarking on yet another therapy program was daunting to begin with. The mental health world is not fun to navigate, especially when you’re still in a bad place. Obviously, anyone who is seeking help is doing so because they’re in a bad place. With low support, people like me are as likely to end up in a shelter or halfway house–if they’re lucky–as in a therapy program. I count myself as incredibly lucky that I was finally “adopted” by strong supports. One thing about survivors is we like to hold out hope for other survivors and help where we can. We know it’s rough, and if we find a leg up anywhere, we’re spreading that shit like wildfire.
I still believe DBT is incredibly helpful, and although my attendance has slipped a couple times, I do still plan to stick with it. People backslide while they’re healing. It just happens. Things come up–like said flashback–and suddenly the world is a hostile place again, and we want no part of it. At least that’s how it happens to me. I’m still early in it yet, though. And part of me was still not ready to let go of the anger–and the ones who caused it.
I’m unconventional. I always have been. I sometimes don’t go about things in the best way, but I usually achieve the results I want. I had wanted for years to shake up my family’s illusions of themselves. They were abuse apologists, and it was allowing the more vulnerable among them to be hurt over and over. One aunt, some cousins, my mother–so many had experienced abuse and had internalized responsibility for it because that’s exactly where the family put it. It made me sick and sad and angry, but I was still caught under my own illusions of still being a powerless child when it came to my family.
So I sent my grandmother a message officially parting ways with the family. I sent my and my siblings’ abuser a message, and I exposed him to others around him for what he was. I heard nothing back from the former–though plenty from a couple family members, mainly detailing what was clearly a bitchfest about me from my mother to her sister–and was blocked by the latter. Bringing the total of my Facebook Mortal Enemies to: one pedophile and an unapologetic abuser. These two people are the only two who have ever seen fit to block me on social media, despite one family member’s description of my emails as “nasty” (they weren’t. They were angry, but they were truthful). I take this as a sign I’m at least doing something right with my life.
My definition of an apologetic individual is one who owns up to their actions that harmed another and sincerely apologizes. I received one court-ordered letter and a card with $50 and some word salad about how my abuser’s life was going and hoping I “find peace”, as if my anger at him was from some malignancy in me that, you know, wasn’t a direct effect of his actions. My apology from any other family for doing nothing to help is never forthcoming. The thing is: I didn’t expect an apology. I didn’t expect some grand admission and people falling at my feet in remorse. I expected exactly what happened, because I read a lot about things that interest me, and it has always boggled my mind how someone can be cruel after having experienced cruelty. I knew what the response would be, because it’s a reaction so depressingly common that survivors have to be warned and prepared before the confrontation.
What I didn’t expect is the outpouring of support from people I hadn’t even spoken to in years. Even family members of my abuser, which lead me to harshly re-examine my thoughts on “bad blood”. It softened the blow from the relatively small backlash and reminded me something I had forgotten myself–I am not alone in this, either. I have people I can talk to, despite my usual inclination to hide out when I’m going through a rough spell.
I’ve linked this to my personal Facebook numerous times, because I have nothing to hide. I heard a few times in the backlash “you need help”. It’s funny how people use that phrase in a way intended to hurt, when it should be one used to empower another to actually get help with healing. We can’t always do it alone, and there is nothing shameful in seeking help. Nothing.
To my friends who stuck with me through the years when I was still ashamed of what happened and didn’t want to admit that I couldn’t heal on my own, thank you for sticking with me. People like you make all the difference, and I wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for my friends, both old and new.
Stick close to the people who truly love you, and there will be hope eventually. Just the hope of hope was enough to keep me going sometimes, and holding on was worth every dark day.