One year ago today, I created my very first post, I Have Something To Say. This was a huge milestone in my recovery for a few reasons. Because of the type of abuse I experienced, I had a huge mental and physical block about speaking up publicly. The knots in my stomach, lumps in my throat and overall panic came from a very real history and experience of being punished for telling the truth. When someone has been silenced and de-humanized from a time before they could even speak, it creates seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
Ironically, I have spent much of my adult life learning how to write and express myself in creative ways. And yet, giving a voice to the parts of me that were abused were so blocked, I couldn’t admit out loud what happened, let alone write about it directly. Too much misplaced guilt and shame prevented me from integrating my identity as an abuse survivor into my professional life. Sure, bits and pieces leaked out. I would casually mention to friends I trusted one or two details of my childhood and then wait for the awkward pause. Before this blog, I had not allowed more than one or two of those details to exist in the same space for very long. A few people knew a few things about my story, but no one knew everything. I think I did this because to know everything is overwhelming, especially to me.
When I started this blog, I sought accountability. I needed to honor to my experiences, and I also needed to validate them as being real. Because of the brainwashing and gaslighting that comes with psychological abuse, validating my own experience was harder than it sounds. I had to let go of a lifetime habit of minimizing what happened. I had to admit that yeah, actually it was pretty bad. I had to acknowledge that I have experienced a lot of physical, emotional, and psychological damage as a result of it. Coping by pushing it away and pretending to be a strong person was so much easier than owning the sad reality of my brokenness. But I did it. It was awkward and I felt like a freak, but I embraced my vulnerabilities so that I could become a better self-advocate for what I really need.
Here’s what I learned about what I really need. Avoiding toxic people is a must. I’m not being selfish for removing them, I am being healthy. I now treat toxic behaviors like a concerned mom advocating for her kid with a peanut allergy. Not only is there to be no toxic people in my diet, I require everyone around me do the same.
I also learned that what I really need is time and space to grieve. I am not “losing it” even if I spend a week weeping over some new insight, rendering me useless in all other ways. I am finally allowing the child in me who was abused to be seen, heard, and validated. Simply acknowledging the pain can be enough to help this young part of me reintegrate. I can, will, and do recover, usually just in time to move on to some other repressed memory. I am making time to re-parent myself even when it’s inconvenient. Being a mom has helped me do this. As a mom, I would drop everything if my kid really needed me, so I am applying the same principle to own wounded self.
I have also learned, and embraced, that I have a disability. With that, my view of disabilities has changed drastically. A year ago, I would have been terrified to acknowledge depression, anxiety, or PTSD on a job application. I still held to the mis-formed belief that I would be automatically disqualified for not being “perfect.” But by embracing complex trauma, I now see that by asking for a few accommodations here and there, I don’t have to pretend I’m someone else to have value and I can still get a lot done. (Hypervigilance ensures it.) Not only that, but embracing my disability adds value- in my own unique perspectives, in allowing other people to learn more about me, and in understanding others with disabilities.
All of this progress is rooted in going public with my story. Surviving psychological abuse is an extremely isolating experience, and with this blog, I have found those who can relate. Slowly, I am integrating this once shut-down part of me with the rest of my identity. I think I can truly, finally say with confidence that this generational cycle of abuse is broken.
And I have much more to say.