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On How It Feels To Be a Survivor

June 6, 2013

I have seen some shit in my life. I’ve experienced things – rape, domestic violence, suicide, mental illness – that no one should have to ever deal with. I’ve been through hell and back, with a smile. I am strong. I am powerful. I am inspiring. I’m a survivor.

Dear Well-Intentioned Supporters: Please shut the fuck up.

Being a survivor doesn’t grant us some magical superhuman strength of will, emotion or physical capability. It is exactly as the term says – we survived. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is probably my least favorite cliché thrown at survivors. As if, somehow, the hell we have been through has refined us like when metal is tempered with fire.

Being a survivor means sometimes I can stand in front of a room full of hundreds of people, raise my chin and tell my story without my voice wavering.

Being a survivor means sometimes even alluding to the event will cause me to have a complete emotional and mental meltdown.

Being a survivor means I may not get to choose which of the above reaction I’m going to have, or when.

Being a survivor means that, if my aggressor is in jail, I get to go into hysterics every time he/she/they is up for parole, gets transferred, or has any change in their status.

Being a survivor means that if my aggressor isn’t in jail, I have to very carefully monitor what I say and do around any mutual friends we might have; I have to live with the fear that our paths might cross; and I have to deal with everyone who knows us both and doesn’t believe what happened is real.

Being a survivor means I will eternally judge myself for the things I could have, should have done to change the situation.

Being a survivor means that sometimes I want your comfort and sometimes I want you to leave me the fuck alone to deal with my demons.

Being a survivor means I’m weary of your sympathy. Stop telling me you’re sorry. Just stop.

Being a survivor means there are some things I might never say to anyone who isn’t also a survivor, my counselor or hell, I may just never share them at all.

Being a survivor doesn’t mean I’m going to “get over it”. let go, move on, “forgive and forget”, or go back to being the person I was before. If you don’t like it, you can leave.

Being a survivor means I get to try to explain how small trigger like a scent, a phrase, how someone looks, a bit of “normal” human interaction, etc. can throw me right back to the trauma that happened.

Being a survivor means I’m going to react to situations like what happened to me with overwhelming passion and emotions. I may become an advocate. I may be irrationally angry. I may lock myself in my room and refuse to watch the news until it’s over.

Being a survivor means wondering if people who know you believe you.

Being a survivor means feeling completely alone in your struggles.

Being a survivor is complicated. Some days are better than others. I reserve the right to not be okay and to not want to talk about it.

Loving a survivor means having endless patience. It means not taking it personally when I’m triggered, shut down or shut you out. Some days it means holding me while I cry, while others it means doing things to help me forget. Loving a survivor means a willingness to do or not do things, regardless if you understand why, because it helps me manage my triggers.

Being a survivor comes with a lot of self-doubt. All the endless advocacy, cheering and support in the world doesn’t make what happened and its lasting effects go away. It is an every day battle. It doesn’t mean life can’t be lived well. It does mean that it sometimes takes a little more than average to make things okay.

Until Next Time,


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