I’ve got lots more followers now and as I look at their avatars and wonder about their experiences of abuse and how they are now, I want to talk again about the three most helpful things I think we need to do as survivors.
Abuse stories can range from one extreme to the other (what is in your snow globe?) and dragging it all behind us can be a struggle. What do you have to do to ‘get over it’, what does that really mean? What helps on a daily basis? How do you ‘do’ healing??
As a survivor myself, ticking through the little living days with my burden on my back, and as a professional seeing case after case of horrific abuse, I have come to see ‘feeling better’ and ‘getting through the days’ as things you can affect.
Being a survivor is a big deal and we should approach it so. I am in favour of survivors thinking ‘Hey so it was pretty serious and maybe I could sort of stop my life for a while as I dig into it…..’
If people are thinking that way, these are the three little things I think we should do.
Firstly, we have to deal with what happened. If it goes round and round your head, then it needs to come out of your mouth. If you are wanting to talk to people about it and it is hurting you, waking you up at night, upsetting you, then find a way to talk about it. For me I use my journal, but you can also arrange counselling through work, your doctor or college. There are self help books with exercises in. If you are at all dealing with what happened to you, I really encourage you to find a way to get it out. You deserve to do this, you should have been able to do it at the time. If you have no-one to write to, you can write to me here.
So that’s the bad bit.
Then survivors need to learn to make themselves feel better. This comes in the form of belief and backing you up – I believe you, I see it the same way you see it, I cannot believe they did and said what they did, yes it was wrong, no you are not wrong, yes I would say this to their face.
Many survivors are surrounded by nay sayers – either the ‘you will shut up about this NOW!! / you were the one at fault / it wasn’t really that bad’ variety or the more well-meaning ‘stop talking about it, don’t upset yourself’ variety. None of these are right for you – you need a professional looking at a globally sanctioned list of abusive actions, pointing at each one where you say ‘yes that happened to me,’ on your side. Imagine having one, imagine them saying this to the abuser, sticking up for you and everyone cheering.
Learn to make yourself feel better – to feel validated and believed, to feel supported and protected, to be listened to and heard in full.
Learn to self-comfort after an upset, learn not to go off the cliff edge, learn skills and use them. We would want you to.
This is the first of the three little things – to get it out and bandage it up.
Often working with adults who wanted to go deep, I’d come across people who’d say ‘But I am screwed up now; I have XY and Z problems’ and this is where number two comes from – looking at our wounds and working out how to sort them out. A survivor might be overly shy or lacking confidence. They might be under achieving, bored and scared. They might have problems forming lasting relationships, or with jobs and authority, or sleep problems or weight problems. Whatever it is, it is not good enough and not fair on us. When much of the story telling, believing and comfort has taken place, it is good to look around our lives and see what we want to fix or change.
This is healing in action – it is something you can do, today – something you can grab onto. ‘I’m not going to take on extra work anymore.’ ‘I’m not going to stand for people treating me like shit.’ ‘I’m going to look at my fitness.’ ‘I’m going to pay off all this bloody debt.’ ‘I’m going to stop doing X and start doing Y.’
I love to see a survivor doing this work. How many people have criticised us for our shortcomings? I hate it. I love to see people saying ‘I’m going to sort myself out come hell or high water.’ I love it because it takes power away from people and gives it to the survivor and because they start coming in saying ‘I got the funding and got on the course.’ ‘I started divorce proceedings and I’m going back to work.’ ‘I’ve made a new friend and I’m going to keep in touch with them this time.’
Number two, doing something about the wrongs that are present in your life, the strangling debris of the abuse, is where we get growth in healing from. No matter your depressed mood, you can always go for a walk or run, get cross and think ‘No! I’m not wasting another day because I KNOW what was done to me was wrong, no matter what anyone says.’
Number three is similar to number two really, but it deals with the future. What will we be? Healing, while deep and at times arduous, does end and then we move on. If we attend to what that ‘moving on’ picture looks like as part of healing, then guess what? We get there.
What does your ideal future look like? Where do you live, with whom? What do you do? Dream it all up and start to believe in it as your right, as something you can achieve. When you are sad, attend to it and comfort it like it should have been comforted and then get back on with becoming who you want to be.
This to me is in a nutshell, the basics of healing – a practical thing that you can have and do, about thinking as much as doing and always surrounded in belief and care. I believe that children cannot ever deserve abuse and don’t deserve to grow up unloved and unsafe, and that adults don’t have to drag the ramifications of that around forever, and I work to stop that from happening.