Dear fellow survivor of abuse,
I’ve been thinking about this for a while. Wasn't sure when to bring it up or when we’d meet but I'd rather we had this on the table beforehand. Let's face it. We're both dealing with different triggers, yet to understand them fully and that means we may not always hear what is intended when talking in person. This could mean arguments and fights even. It may not always be the case. But even if it is, that doesn't make me wary or less keen on being around you. Doesn't mean I won’t be as honest with you as I was before either. But I do worry about hurting you. As I type this out, I hold on to my faith that we will always orbit back to each other. I'm writing this email from two places - one of concern and the other of familiarity.
I’m trying to find the right balance - such that I don’t sound like I’m making this about my experiences. Because I know what you’re going through and I know how an experience like that alters a mind. Throughout this message, you’ll probably have voices saying variations of "everything isn't like it is for you” or "do you not think I already know these things" or “I cannot burden others with my grief”. I know where these voices come from. If this pisses you off, I'm willing to deal with that. I'm not going anywhere. I just want to push you to start healing - before it becomes more difficult - and in time it does because more time means more to unpack.
I want to share some things that therapy has allowed me to see. And in turn, helped me a lot. Whether you agree or not, is your call. If you feel this is a sort of imposition by me - you can ignore it too.
I will never be the person to force a timeline on how someone deals with their trauma and when. But I know signs of anxiety based on trauma well. The first step is to truly accept it happened. You know it did and you are angry about it when triggered. This isn’t the same as accepting that it has inflicted trauma. And you are aware of this too. I see you feeling ashamed about it has affected you - emotionally and otherwise. I see you being unable to talk about it in a normal conversational setting - because you feel it is something you can/should only deal with alone or that it would "spoil" the day for others. I see you bring up how it's affected your equation with men but not actually acknowledge it such that you're gentle with yourself - you either brush it away or get mad at yourself. I could be horribly wrong if so, correct me.
What happened with you was not your fault
What happened with you was not anything you could have been prepared for or avoided or handled better on the day of it happening
What happened with you was the result of a soulless, vile animal taking without caring for how and from whom he took.
You are still the most loving, resilient, strong person that you can be. What happened with you does not, will not define all of you. But it will affect you and it will take conscious work to move out of that lens. There will be some behavioral changes that you cannot immediately have control on. This is what trauma does. Accepting this does not make you weaker. It only makes you stronger for seeing it and pushing through life. If you don't accept that you have been affected in small and big ways - all help, well-intentioned ones even, will feel like an attack and lead you to spiral. But more importantly, acceptance is the actual start of healing (cliches are true what can I say). I hope you know none of the people in your life that you have trusted with this - see you as weaker. Our actions of wanting to be there is a response to seeing a loved one in pain - and not because we feel “you can't handle things alone anymore'. We may get it wrong a few times - what to say, how to be - but we will keep trying.
Abuse, when it happens, puts on this invisible filter that survivors can only feel during panic attacks but is always on. It's there when we hear someone's concerns as an attack on us. It's there when we find ourselves questioning why we deserve someone's support or time or why anyone should make the effort to stand by and support us when we know we're going to have many, many more breakdowns. It's there when we feel more abandoned by our people than usual. It's there when we decide to delve into work - look at work as the one thing that defines us and champions us because it's the one space that is unaffected. But what happens then is we don't cut ourselves slack - we hold ourselves to impossible standards and don't allow for humanity with ourselves. Our sense of validation depends solely on these benchmarks we've set for ourselves. Seeking validation isn't something to be ashamed of - it's human nature. But when it’s coming from a place of trauma - it is very, very important that you're gentle with yourself in the process.
I just want to let you know - that when you are ready, and whenever that is - we can talk about the options for action. If you want to take any. But as of right now, I need you to take care of yourself. I feel that seeing a therapist will be immensely helpful for you. It will help you navigate your experience in healthy and safe ways. And be it the guilt, the shame or the anger - a professional will help you handle it better.
This is all I wanted to say. We don’t need to go through a one-on-one conversation that may put you in discomfort. We don’t need to speak of any of this at all. I mean it when I say - I will be there for you when you need me to. To the best of my abilities - and in whatever capacity you need me to.
Written by Neelima Sadanand
Picture Credit: Pinterest