Understanding Leads to Empathy
What got me thinking about what surviving looks like is that I do actually forget that there are people who, luckily, never went through what I went through. I certainly don’t want someone to go through childhood abuse so that they can experience it. For those people who don’t know what it is like, the only way they can empathize is to hear the stories and try to understand what it is like to grow up like that.
I can’t take people back in time to show them, and I don’t think I would if I could. But I can show them what it is like being me as a survivor. Because I also realized that people don’t know what it is like to be a survivor either. And because they don’t know, there is a lack of empathy and awareness. From what I see, that leads to a general malaise when it comes to helping an abused child.
Fear of Survivors
Being a survivor means a lot of different things. And it means other things to different people. It is all about how each individual person processes their traumatic experience(s). Whatever that was that led them to be a survivor. It is not just one feeling or thought. It is many, many things.
Which I think is why it is hard for people to comprehend what it really means to have survived traumatic experiences. Well, I think it is also that people are afraid to realize that their world is not a safe place. That fear is what leads to victim shaming or denying others their truth. It is also what leads to a lack of empathy for the victim and survivor.
Sadly, I think there are more people out there who are in abusive situations and who are survivors who don’t know it because it is so different for each of us. We tend to compare ourselves to others and their experiences. If our experiences don’t match someone else’s, we tend to dismiss our own. That leads to denying ourselves our truth.
Survival Feels Like
There is a wrongness about you. You never fit in with other people. You are always an outsider. The carrier of a dark secret. Perhaps even a deadly disease. Always taking responsibility. Always apologizing. Always looking over your shoulder. Thinking about what you say. Over thinking about you what you just said. Scared to feel the pain and humiliation again. Afraid to trust. Never being good enough. Never doing enough. Hypervigilance.
The previous paragraph is what goes through my mind every day all day. I specifically did not edit that section because that is how my mind flows with those thoughts. It is exhausting. No wonder I drank a lot. Not only was I trying to shut out the noise in my head, but trying to deal with everything else in life.
One of the things that stands out to me the most is that I don’t remember. No, this isn’t the same as forgetting where you put your keys (which I do quite often). What I mean by not remembering is that the whole period of time in my childhood is gone. I know that I was there, I can remember the events leading up to or after, but the actual moment is a blank space.
I don’t know which is worse, not remembering or remembering. The things that I remember I would like to forget, but I can’t. Most of those memories are on continuous replay in my brain, always in the background. It’s like always having music playing in the background, but you can’t turn it off or choose the artist you are listening to. It is something that I know is there, but I don’t have to focus on it. But I can’t stop it, as much as I have tried.
What Got Me Thinking
I was listening to Brené Brown’s podcast, Unlocking Us. It was the March 23, 2020 episode on Being Heard and Seen with Tarana Burke. Ms. Burke is the founder of the me too. movement. I am not going to do that episode any disservice by trying to summarize. It is way too fantastic for just a summary. Just listen to it. Trust me.