I am continuously in awe of all the brave souls who find their way to this website. The members here have endured atrocities beyond belief, experienced the very worst of human nature. Many of their stories have moved me to tears. Stories of heartlessness, cruelty and devastating betrayal, often at the hands of family members entrusted to care for them – parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings. Stories of secondary betrayals as adult survivors speaking their truth to families who, in the majority of cases, refuse to hear, refuse to see, would rather risk losing their child than take responsibility for their crimes.
It is no wonder survivors of child abuse can be fearful of, or find it difficult to trust people. We humans can, and do, truly horrible things to each other. When the world has repeatedly taught you that trusting others leads to pain, why on earth would you want to continue doing so? Why wouldn’t you just give up, hide from others, not try anymore? When connecting with others feels so dangerous it brings on panic attacks if someone gets remotely close to you, where’s the incentive to keep trying?
If you’re a survivor of child abuse, you may not believe that you’re very brave. Should you be called, your answer may involve something along these lines:
“Me? Brave?! I’m not brave. Are you kidding? I’m terrified all the freaking time, of everyone and everything. I don’t want to come out of my house. I don’t trust anyone. I hate dealing with people. I get scared going to the corner shop sometimes, for heaven’s sake, in case someone talks to me. Every now and then I want to shut myself away in my room forever and never come out. I’m the last person on earth someone would ever call brave.”
I’m here to tell you, in the kindest possible way, that you’re wrong.
In fact, I would hazard a guess that, even if you don’t feel it, you are much braver than you give yourself credit for.
For starters, you are alive. As a child you survived the abuse, and you are choosing to remain alive now, even though you may be in a hell of a lot of emotional pain. You don’t know when or how this pain will end, yet you are still choosing to be here. That in itself is pretty huge.
Moreover, you are visiting isurvive and reading this blog post. Which probably means you are searching for answers, comfort, reassurance, hope, and support. The fact you are searching for these things means that part of you refuses to give up hope they are possible to find.
Given your past experiences, your willingness to keep trying is nothing short of incredible.
I sincerely hope you can believe that.
You see, some people may not understand how things like opening up to a new friend could be so scary. They would scoff, or laugh, or say “for heaven’s sake, just do it. It’s not that hard.”
They’re right. It’s not that hard. For them.
That doesn’t mean it’s not that hard for everyone.
People who don’t understand the fear you may feel are likely coming from a different, separate context to you. Perhaps they have not experienced as much trauma, hence their worldview is different; they view the world as a safe place and feel little fear of others. But courage is relative. It is not present where there is no fear, but rather, in those instances where fear must be overcome.
Give yourself more credit. If, for example, you happen to be terrified of people, and you then go and join a book club or meetup group with the specific aim of making new friends; that, in my eyes, is far more of an achievement than someone who has no fear of people doing the same thing.
Why? Because you had to jump over a lot of scary extra hurdles to get to that same point. If that makes sense. Once bitten, twice shy.
The fact that you are here, hoping for something better, wanting to believe in the goodness of people and the possibility of connection; looking for help, reaching out, perhaps sharing your story with others when past experience has taught you that you have no reason to trust anyone or believe things could be different in future…. that right there, my friends, is bravery. That is resilience, hope, and sheer determination. That is your abusers failing to crush your spirit. That is you refusing to let your pain consume you. That is your determination to live a life of your choosing, free of the chains of your past.
And you have every right in this world to do that.-Maree August 25, 2014