If you find the pieces of the mosaic that is me too bold, too bright, and too brash – put on your rose-colored glasses and do us both a favor and just walk away. Don’t come close to me if you cannot handle what each piece of me reflects back at you. There isn’t one piece of that mosaic that isn’t in its proper place. It took a lifetime of raw emotion, endurance and determination to assemble and I’m not rearranging the pieces for anyone.
If you knew me well, you would know that the most beautiful part of the mosaic is not the multi-colored stones but the dusky, gritty grout that holds all the pieces together and makes me unbreakable. I love all the broken pieces of me and how strong and beautiful they are all mixed together – sharp edges, soft curves, rough surfaces, smooth stones – beautifully imperfect.
I owe you nothing. If you believe my truth to be a lie, why would you want me as a friend? I have found in life that the weak are people who usually perceive themselves as strong. They will methodically chip away at your armor in an effort to weaken your resolve. Sometimes they break through.
They derive pleasure seeing one of your wounds temporarily open and bleeding. They circle like vultures under the banners of love, kindness and worst of all, religion. They revel in your times of sorrow, your slips back into the abyss and happily exploit the exposed vulnerability you mistakenly entrusted them with.
I’m done with the judgement. I’m done explaining my past. I’m done with the questions. I’m done with the doubt. I’m done with the narrow-minded attitude that I made up my history of abuse to garner attention.
I will share with you something only a survivor can tell you truthfully. Nothing you could ever conjure up could properly convey something so horrific, so life-changing, so evil, so dark, and so debilitating.
I have never understood what anyone would gain from making up stories of abuse. If I were going to make up a story for attention, I could think of far better tales to tell that would certainly land me in a better position to win sympathy. So why, pray tell, would I or anyone make up or embellish any form of abuse?
Easy answer. We don’t.
I am happy and grateful. I am kind. I believe in helping others even if it means sacrifice on my part. I will lend a helping hand to anyone. Bite that hand once, you’ll never get the chance to do it again.
Never forget I am a survivor.
Survivors are a different breed. You don’t survive by being kind to those with a hidden agenda. They have a very distinct scent about them and are usually easy to flush out. You don’t survive by handing trust out like a business card to those that want to hurt you. You survive by protecting yourself.
Make no mistake, I protect myself.
If you insist on challenging me, come prepared. I don’t lose, surrender, submit or retreat. If you find that threatening or “angry” perhaps it would be best for us to part company now before someone, and by someone I mean you, gets hurt.
Why do people insist on testing my resolve? Why do some people like to torment innocent animals? They do it to feel powerful, in control and they do it because they derive pleasure in how it makes them feel to see the animal bend and bleed at their mercy. Of course restraints are used to keep the animal from instinctively defending itself. It’s never a fair fight.
We may be friends from long ago or just newly acquainted. Don’t presume you know me well. I will never let you close enough to slap physical, verbal or emotional restraints on me.
Try and I assure you it will be a fair fight but it isn’t one I recommend. Some just insist on it with their insinuations that you have anger issues or wear your abuse like a badge of glory. They are secretly hoping to incite your defense mechanisms so they can exclaim, “See! I told you she had anger issues, look how mad she is!” Wisely, these cowards run knowing full well they deserve a proper response. They are the ones I have mistakenly let a little too close. I granted them an undeserved level of comfort because I relaxed my guard. I know better. It never ends well.
Survivors aren’t herd animals. We try and sometimes even convince ourselves we can do it but it isn’t long before the rattle of chains or the sound of a steel trap jangling somewhere close by brings us back to our reality and our need for isolation. Trust was taken from us and we are, after all, animals. We are capable of forgiveness but we don’t forget. Ever.
Forgetting can be deadly.
I live in love. I live in gratitude. I have so much to be thankful for, so much. I want peace and happiness in my life and I have it – at least as much as I can ever know of it. Survivors never recover these feelings and emotions at least not in the way we once knew them, if we ever did know them. We only know our perception of them which is greatly distorted compared to ‘normal’ people. How could we know?
We only knew the reality of those emotions until that first fist rammed our gut or that sweaty hand clenched our throat or covered our mouths to silence us. In that very moment, that very second when the adrenaline pumps through our body at the speed of light telling us to do whatever we must to survive, we are forever changed. There is no more childhood. There is no more happily-ever-after. There is no more trust. Not in the way others know it.
Once we escape our abuser’s chains, we are reborn. We don’t realize it but we start the process of our rebirth during the days/years of abuse. We were already learning to survive. We were already survivors.
Our wounds close and scar over, our instincts heighten and our senses elevate. We don’t hunt but know we are hunted, not always by another abuser but by another equally perverse predator – the doubter, the judge, the intolerant, the sadist, the politician, the zealot and myriad others we know to be a threat. We stand vigilant. We have no choice.
We’ve been to therapy, we’ve taken anti-depressants, we’ve toughed it out on our own and probably everything else you think would help us ‘through it’. The truth is, there is no getting through it. There is a no magic tunnel we can walk through and come out unscathed on the other side now free of the torment we endured. We are simply a different person.
We still retain much of our former selves although I am never sure how real this is.
We use the disguise of our former selves as a survival skill to walk through the herd when we need to. Husbands, wives, siblings, friends, parties, reunions, work and even our own children rarely see through the veil. We’re that good.
We can co-exist, we can project ourselves as one of the herd when we have to but in reality, our real selves trust only solitude. It is there we replenish ourselves, continue to heal ourselves, recharge our spirit and build our strength to venture back out and walk within the herd again, hopefully undiscovered and unprovoked.
We know each other right away. It’s easy with the skills we’ve honed. It can be a look, a posture, a vibe, a touch, a heartbeat, a scent but we know our own kind. We can take some comfort within each other’s company.
There is a reverence and communion in the presence of other survivors. An unspoken language, a respect already earned, an acknowledgement of strength and skill that can only be given and received by our own. While we know we can never truly bond with anyone other than our children, for me, this is the strongest connection.
All parents are instinctively protective of their young, particularly mothers but it is something much more with us. There is an added level of vehemence and my children were always somehow aware of it.
Survivors know the pain we must protect our children from. Their survival is crucial, as necessary as our own, perhaps more so, which presents its own set of unique challenges.
Our conundrum lies in that we cannot isolate our children from the herd and yet don’t want them being part of it. We don’t want to frighten them, we don’t want to burden them with the heavy weight of isolation; we want them to thrive as a herd member and therein lies the conundrum.
How do you let your child be part of what you fear most without instilling that same fear in them? Somehow we manage, some better than others. We all handle it in different ways but like everything involving our children, we put them first and do what is necessary to ensure their happiness and safety. This always goes against every instinct we now possess.
Our minds are never quiet; we constantly play out dangerous scenarios and how we would defend against them. We rarely sleep soundly, it’s a luxury we can’t afford. We know what lurks in the darkness. We rest with one eye open and one ear perked and a maintenance dose of adrenaline pumps through our veins even at rest.
We are always prepared for battle – it is part of who we are now. There is no flight or fight. We stand and fight. We were taught early on by our abuser that flight was never an option. Always the restraints, invisible or otherwise.
I’m aware some people will find this post offensive, provocative and perhaps presumptuous. But I can tell you, without a doubt, this post will be a call in the wild heard loudly by those like me. There is no mistaking it. I hear it often.
To my fellow survivors struggling at this moment I say this: Whatever stage you are in right now, whether you are suffering abuse, have just escaped your abuser’s shackles or have been free of your abuser’s clutches for a long time, know that just because we live in isolation doesn’t mean you are alone.
You aren’t. We see you, feel you, know you and if you reach out we will take your hand. We may even be the one offering a hand to you. Reach out and grab it. It’s your lifeline.
We may not be herd animals but we are a group and we walk amongst each other every day. You’ll be able to pick us out in a crowd and feel the bond that connects us. We are all here for each other when support and understanding is needed. If you find yourself in trouble, look around. We’ll be the one’s stepping quietly toward you to extend that hand for you to grab on to once again.
Don’t let what you have read here confuse you. You will be happy. You will thrive. You can and will be strong again, stronger than you ever knew you could be. You will own yourself again. You will be a caretaker and advocate and walk with a confidence only this hard fought battle can grant you.
You are a work in progress and your mosaic is a lifelong project. Each memory, each victory is a beautiful stone you put in precisely the right place. Your strength, resolve and forgiveness are the ingredients needed for the dusky grout that will make you unbreakable.
To those of you rolling your eyes or shaking your head, know I couldn’t be happier. It means you have no clue of what I speak and for that I am grateful. You should be too.
To those of you who doubt, know your dubiety does not entitle you to be cruel. Voicing your doubt in a demeaning or hateful way is its own form of abuse and stings as badly as the first slap across the face. Know too that it is often met with a fury you do not want to unleash. Acknowledge their pain and leave it at that. “I’m so sorry for your pain”, works well and in no way declares you a believer.
Remember, we know and protect our own. The one you choose to stalk may not be strong enough yet to stand alone but we are there. You won’t know us, you can’t feel us like we feel each other.
We were that weak person once. We still feel that, it opens a wound and once the scent of blood is in the air you may want to be mindful of who has quietly moved closer to you.
This might be the time to take off those rose-colored glasses.
Sounds crazy right? Reads like a bad vampire novel, I know.
I also know every word I have written to be true.
Just Doubt Me One More Time (poem)
I published this poem once before. I didn’t know then why I wrote it. The truth behind our words sometimes reveals itself to us at a later time, allowing us the answer as to why it was written. I publish it now with full awareness.