Since writing more about the abuse I experienced and its subsequent long-term effects, friends and acquaintances tend to respond in a couple of ways. Some will comment on my “braveness.” Speaking up is a life-changing milestone in my healing and recovery. It requires a lot of courage to do so, for a wide range of reasons. But I don’t feel courage. I feel terror. Yes, I chose to make the leap, but I also knew that I had to. I leapt from a collapsing building.
Out of necessity, I am doing this grand experiment of deprogramming everything I learned from my abusers and reprogramming my subconscious thoughts. I can no longer live with those old thoughts. They’ve infested me for too long. Now that I am committed to the task, I make new daily discoveries of the extensive damage. The more progress I make, the more I realize how much farther I have to go. Yaaay.
It’s like living with termites. Your house can go infested for years, until one day, poof! The support beams crumble into dust. No one wants to spend thousands of dollars on fumigating their house, but when the damage gets to a certain point, there is no choice but to make the investment. It’s this way with me and trauma. Eventually, I got to a point where total fumigation was my only option.
Like termite fumigation, I feel like I’m tented in some giant, attention-grabbing clown suit. I don’t blend in any more. Not only can I no longer hide what’s eating away at me, I am branded with this garish, tacky victim label that contrasts with my former style. It draws the attention of ignorant people who are so threatened by perceived conflict, they bury it with unsolicited advice. It makes me a target for the inevitable cacophony of victim-shamers, who, like rabid dogs, start barking their motivational bullshit as soon as they hear the word.
I don’t have a victim mentality. I am an actual victim whose only route to health is through feeling her feelings. Unfortunately, there are too many people who don’t recognize the difference. They see the bright, ugly tent, not the progress that’s happening underneath. My neighbor’s opinion is unnecessary. What matters is what the professionals are helping to mitigate on the inside. Yet, I struggle with this. Perhaps, because I am weary, the opinions of others bother me more than they should. All I know is that I don’t need more voices telling me what to do when I am combatting the harsh critic that was planted in my psyche.
Maybe I’ll get used to standing out. Maybe after a while, I won’t seem out of place. After all, the tent will come down eventually. Maybe I’ll learn to embrace this time not as something ugly and awkward, but as a period of intense transformation. Maybe I can look forward to a beautiful, rebuilt, structurally-reinforced future. And maybe, if I can adapt, others will, too.