You will not find pictures of me next to my blogs; I don’t even own a cell phone and this is the first social media I have used this decade. (Let that sink in for a bit)
Privacy concerns stemming from escaping domestic violence have prevented me from joining the electronic world we now live in. The ironic thing is that despite all the trauma I have been through, some of the most crippling effects of partner family member abuse have actually come from labeling myself as a victim of it. To start, every time I identified myself as a victim, I become one all over again. I continued my suffering when I held onto those events as being an integral part of my history. People then suggested I look at the Brightside of my misfortunes and acknowledge their role in shaping who I am as a person. I am not so sure that popular convention has it right. By coming forward today, I hope to inspire you to let go of your pain and embrace the real source of your strength.
I am a victim of domestic violence. At least that’s the verbiage you tend to hear. There is no question that those unspeakable acts victimized me. But in calling myself a victim I reinforce the negative hold it has on my life. Every time you say that title out loud you give it power and cement it as part of your identity. Like my husband says, “If you believe it, it is true.” So why do we choose to define ourselves by our afflictions? Hi I am so and so and I am an alcoholic, a divorce, a procrastinator. You rarely hear someone say hi I am an extrovert, a lover, an adventurer. By identifying ourselves disproportionately with our negative experiences, we fail to present an authentic image of who we are. You are a now a victim of your own self talk; long after the initial perpetrator has fled. When you were growing up, I’m sure your parents told you that you could be anything you want to be. So why not choose to be one of the positive experiences of your life. A dancer, a sun-bather, a ridiculously amazing peanut butter and jelly maker.
Another way we prevent healing is by holding onto our experiences. Personally, I held onto those memories so tightly, afraid if I loosened my grip, it would be like it never happened at all. There was no way I was letting go. This was a part of my history, evidence to the life that I have lived and the battles that I have had to face. So now, I am claiming them as both identifiers and memories, giving them double power. Imagine if you will that each hardship you’ve experienced is a solid object. As the years go by, you find yourself supporting more and more things. Just to stand up begins to wear at you. It takes all of your strength not to be crushed by the weight of it all. When something good comes along, you can’t reach out and grab it, if you can even see it, your arms are full. This idea of holding emotions as physical objects is not simply some cartoon I draw for illustrative purposes. Doctors will tell you that when we do not let go of our emotional pain it actually presents as physical pain, like migraines, ulcers, IBS. So now, not only is the weight of our experiences crushing us over and over again, it is actually manifesting into physical harm. The good news is all you have to do is let go. Just drop it. You will not be weak because you refuse to hold it all. You will still be who you are when you quit carrying such a heavy load.
Conventional wisdom has been teaching us a very different lesson, however. I’m sure you have all heard someone say, “I wouldn’t take it back, because this has made me who I am.” I’m calling B.S. I’m supposed to look at this horrific experience and say thank you for making me who I am today, credit it for being the source of my courage and my strength. There is no justice or truth to that. Being beaten did not make me stronger. The real truth is these terrible experiences break us down little by little, make us afraid to do things or to be ourselves. I am not saying that you do not learn from your hardships. When you look back at how you overcame those struggles, you can grow stronger. But it is not the difficult experience that empowers you. The true source of your inspiration is coming by examining how strong you were and your ability to get through. Even when you felt you’re lowest, like you couldn’t get up, you did. That is where the power comes from, within you. That is where it always was. The stuff that happens to us doesn’t always make us who we are; sometimes it is just stuff that happens to us.
These things that happened to me, they were a pretty big part of my life. I have had to make sacrifices that no person should ever have to make, including the ability to take credit for the words I write or speak openly to my family on social media. But I am not a victim. By labeling ourselves with our afflictions, we personify that terror and take on an identity of pain. By holding onto our worst experiences, we prevent ourselves from grabbing new, rewarding ones. Lastly, it is not our trials that deserve the credit for creating our strength, but our strength that deserves the credit for getting us through our tribulations. When we stop defining ourselves as the sum of our struggles, we open our eyes to see the real source of our strength.
Header artwork by: Kyle’s Art, can be found at: @KyleandFriendspt.2