Victim Yes, Survivor, Definitely!

vic·tim/ˈviktəm/Noun

  1. A person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action.
  1. A person who is tricked or duped

I don’t like it, but by definition, I was a victim. From the earliest of ages until I was twenty years old, I lived a life of unimaginable abuse, neglect, and terror. For years, I was threatened to stay silent or suffer the consequences. The message was always a simple phone call with a person on the other end saying, “Nothing has changed.”

My therapist worked hard to teach me that one of the nuances of a traumatized person is that they believe that they are somehow to blame for what happened to them. Whether it is the abuser’s message or a way for a person to try and make sense of what has happened to them, it is something that people who have been through trauma have in common.

The word “victim,” can be rather stigmatizing. It’s sometimes bantered about when we talk about someone who won’t or chooses not to change their situation. How many times do we hear someone saying, “she/he’s such a victim.”  It can be confusing, because we don’t want to be a victim by an abuser, and we don’t want to be a victim by not standing up for ourselves. Two very different situations, but still the same word.

I understand I was a victim. I understand how my many perpetrators victimized me. I have let go of the false belief that I had been a willing participant in the events that happened to me.  This knowledge doesn’t take away the facts of what happened or the feelings that go along with what happened, but it does assuage the guilt.

I was programmed (for lack of a better word) to hurt myself should I remember, tell and/or try to heal from all that was done to me. “They” were thorough in ways to protect themselves and make themselves untouchable. I know and accept that I was a victim of extreme and senseless abuse, neglect, and torture.

sur·vi·vor /sərˈvīvər/ noun 

  1. To remain alive or in existence.
  2. To carry on despite hardships or trauma; persevere.
  3. To cope with (a trauma or setback); persevere after: survived child abuse.

However, they could not touch the core of who I am and my innate need to remember and heal. They could not anticipate that I would eventually figure out the more I stayed silent and crouched in terror, that I was only protecting them.

They never realized that I would learn that when I began to talk, I was safer because if I were to suffer the consequences that they had threatened me with, then it would only bring to light that what I was saying was the truth. They could no longer hide in the shadows of my mind and strike.

My perpetrators can write me off as a liar and/or crazy, but that doesn’t have any effect on me. I know my truth, and being called crazy is just sticks and stones.

So yes, I was a victim, Now I am definitely a survivor!

Excerpt from my new book If I Could Tell You How It Feels, available in both ebook and paperback from Amazon.

Photo by Matthew Smith on Unsplash

 

 

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The Crystalline Tree

What will happen to the crystalline tree
that sits under the streetlight?

She is glistening confidence
standing beautifully alone
as the cars drive past
not noticing, not caring, not seeing.

When the ice melts do the fairies that live
in the branches come out of winter’s hibernation?
Is that when the crystalline tree will go to sleep?

Does she rest after months of protecting
her roots, branches and all those who use her
as a place of refuge?

Or does she bloom bright flowers
and release her seeds when the wind blows
across the parking lot
creating a dynasty of crystalline trees that take root across the land?

Do the ice fairies light the night sky as fireflies or
do they find their way to the fairy houses in
the gardens in the city?

As we listen to music, talk and laugh the sounds of friendship
I look out the window and wonder
when the touch of mother nature’s hand melts
her branches winter coat
What will happen to the crystalline tree?

©Alexis Rose, image source: Pixabay

Thank you for reading my new book, If I Could Tell You How It Feels, available in both ebook and paperback from Amazon.

See Me, Hear Me, I am not my PTSD

The other day, my son checked in with me again to understand the difference between my brain getting overwhelmed when shopping and my brain getting overwhelmed while working. He wanted to know if when shopping,  I recover after a couple hours. He understands that if I push it while working, it can take me out of the game for a whole day. I appreciated he asking me because anything that takes the elephant out of the room is wonderful. But, I also understood that he asked me because I became so overwhelmed at the grocery store when we were shopping together, that he was concerned that my plans would be affected later that day.  I’m grateful for his concern and his honest question because he understands how my life is impacted by my symptoms. I felt both seen and heard.

When I describe myself I don’t use adjectives that describe my illness.  I describe myself as a kind, compassionate, person with a great (sometimes dark) sense of humor who tries to live an authentic life. I have strong friendships and solid family support from my husband and children. That’s how I would define myself. My PTSD doesn’t define me, but it does impact me every day of my life.

The effects of my trauma and the resulting PTSD has changed my life. It prevents me from being able to work,  hopping in the car to run errands, enjoying busy or new restaurants, traveling without a companion. I have to consciously work with the triggers that cause flashbacks, and other assorted symptoms. While that doesn’t define who I am, it does have an effect my life. If you ask me about that, I will tell you.

I’m in a position, as perhaps most people who deal with a chronic or debilitating illness to find a way to live with my symptoms and try to have an illness free identity. It’s hard.  I spent years minimizing my feelings, being angry at my PTSD, thinking that I’m weak; after all, I survived unimaginable circumstances, why can’t I just get over this thing. That thinking wasn’t helping my trajectory of healing and it certainly didn’t honor my past, my feelings, or the fact that I did survive.

While I am not my PTSD, it certainly impacts my life. I am more than my past, more than my trauma, more than my illness. And the truth is that my terrible past includes significant trauma that resulted in an illness. I have found that often when people hear, read, and understand that there are some really awful people in the world, it makes them uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable information, and it should be. We shouldn’t feel comfortable, complacent and unfazed when hearing about abuse. It’s something that can be stopped, abuse is something that is done by one person to another.

To understand what and who we are at our core, our intentions, and how we want to connect with others can define us. We aren’t defined by our circumstances, illness, or professions, but they often dictate how we have to live day-to-day. My illness has been a struggle to accept this in my life. But it has also changed what I’m passionate about. I no longer hide in the shadow of shame and stigma. I choose to speak and write about what it’s like to live with a mental illness. To live with PTSD.  I want to be seen and heard for who I am as a person. I am not my PTSD, but I do live with this mental illness. Ask me about it, I will be glad to tell you what it’s like, the same way I would tell how what it’s like to live with a physical illness.

 

image source: pexels

Thank you for reading my new book, If I Could Tell You How It Feels, available in both ebook and paperback from Amazon.

Thank You to the Never Give Up Institute

A Huge Thank You to NEVERGIVEUPINSTITUTE.ORG for including both Untangled, and If I Could Tell You How It Feels on their resources page.

Never Give Up Institute is a fabulous organization, founded by Alexis Acker-Halbur that helps people understand how unresolved stress and trauma can cause illness, increase financial difficulty, and keep you from living a meaningful life.

Alexis Acker-Halbur’s book titled Never Give Up is incredibly powerful and validating for anyone who has faced devastating physical illness, trauma, and loss. More than a self-help book, Alexis brings her own experiences and vulnerability into each chapter. Never Give Up is both relatable and validating for people who have been through trauma and/or serious illness. Part spiritual, part self-help, part memoir, Never Give Up is very inspiring.

Check out and give a follow to the nevergiveupinstitute.org blog at http://nevergiveupinstitute.org/my-blog/

http://nevergiveupinstitute.org/2018/03/resources-trauma-healing/#comment-2613

She Becomes A Lotus

Rising from the mud
Shaken by the moon that shines behind the shadow trees
She tenses and listens.

Hearing the leaves rustle in the wind
the cicadas hum, and the birds
flapping their goodnight wings
her mind feels tricked by the sounds of the night.

The humidity in the air creates
a slow-motion dance of fog
circling the dark shapes on the ground.
A chill, a shudder, and it’s over.
The night is over.

Now the sun hits her face, drying the mud.
Slowly, she turns around and walks away
knowing that without the mud
a lotus would never rise.

©Alexis Rose, Photo by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

Thank you for reading my new book, If I Could Tell You How It Feels, available in both ebook and paperback from Amazon.