Thursday, July 1, 2010

Survivor?

Survivor. It is a term that doesn’t sit well with me. Rape survivor. I suppose in very basic biological terms, I did survive. My body gets up every day and performs the basic functions necessary to get through each day. I am an attentive partner, a loving parent, a productive employee and a caring friend. Yet the “I” that survived is only a part of the “I” that was once me. And that was the topic of my recent therapy, and my ‘homework’ assignment - to name the parts that did not survive.


Feeling safe. I grew up in the cocoon of a wonderful loving family, a friendly neighborhood and a caring faith community. I never remember not feeling safe. I could go anywhere and do anything, anytime. And did. Now, I don’t think a day goes by when I feel safe. It is a difficult sensation to describe - the always looking over my shoulder, the always sitting with my back to a wall, the sweat that beads up when I hear strange voices, the sense of shadows, the mistrust when I meet a man for the first time. I don’t think you really notice feeling safe. But you definitely notice when it is missing. I have learned to manage it.

Joy. I can no longer feel joy. I can be happy. I can be moved to tears. But that totally letting go kind of happiness is gone.

My inner child died. Dancing with abandon. Giggling for no reason. All those child like, uninhibited things are unimaginable for me now. The lighthearted girl ran away terrified, and never came back.

But the worst thing is something I still can’t put a name to. That feeling of not only being violated, but having a cheering, leering, laughing audience to it. That killed something so fundamental in me, some critical part of my identity, I can’t describe what it is that died. Yet, sometimes when I look in a mirror, I don’t recognize the person looking back. There is a hollowness there that frightens me.


Still, not all was lost. I am proud that I have been able to rebuild a productive and loving life. I have mourned some of those parts and I have managed to work around them. Much, I imagine, like a person with an amputated limb. You find ways to live productively with what you have left. I was slowly able to allow people to touch me again. I have allowed myself to trust people. And fortunately I have rarely been hurt (except ironically by religious people) I force myself to go out in the world and live in it. I love. And I am loved. I have an abundant life.

I do not feel like a victim. Yet I do not feel like a survivor. Mostly I feel like a stranger. Even to myself.

8 comments:

  1. This post was so powerful and you painted such a vivid picture.

    It moved me to tears.

    You are so unbelievably strong it's staggering.

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  2. I have no words.

    Just love.

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  3. I just feel an intense anger at what you have lost. I wish them pain and suffering for their entire collective lifetimes so that they are also incapable of experiencing joy. I wish for them all that they have forced upon you but most of all, I wish them to feel the fear you have had to live with for all these years. I have a hard time feeling anything but hatred and rage for all the ugly things you had to learn about life when yours was just about to begin.

    You have my heart.

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  4. "Yet the “I” that survived is only a part of the “I” that was once me."

    Yes. We lose so much and so much of what we lose is indefinable. I think your therapist must be pretty darn good, and I devoutly hope so, to have helped you come so far. These issues are so F*CKING huge and the ripples last for-F*CKING-ever... or so it seems at this point.

    I am amazed at your strength. I am praying for a rebirth of joy for you.

    Love, and the strongest of hugs,
    e

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  5. AnonymousJuly 01, 2010

    You have put into words feelings I could nver own. Thank you for your courage.

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  6. I have trouble with the word "survivor" too. It implies a resilience that I just can't find in me. It's what I want to write about in my "sexual violence, part II" post that I haven't been able to write yet because I feel so defeated by it.

    Maybe I should do this same writing exercise.

    Thank you for waking up a little part of me that still feels so alone and lost. Even though it made me cry, it's good to know it's there.

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  7. I've been meaning to stop by and read your blog for ages now, having seen you comment on various other ones I frequent.

    What an amazing post for me to stumble upon...wow. Just wow.

    It sounds like you have done a lot of healing and are on your way towards more. I wish only the best for you going forward.

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  8. Thank you all for your comments although I do not feel strong nor do I feel angry. But I do feel your love and support.

    alphafemme - I sincerely hope you are able to and do write about it. And I will be there with you the whole way. I am finding it a very difficult exercise yet somehow calming at the same time.

    Kalisis Rising - Thank you for stumbling in and saying hi.

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