“Someone once asked me how I hold my head up so high after all I’ve been through. I said, it’s because no matter what I am a survivor – NOT A VICTIM.”
There are many traits about myself that I am not crazy about. I am exactly five feet tall – no more, no less. I have the shortest legs of anyone I know. I cannot run to save my life, literally. My heart physically fails me many times. I have physical scars and bruises that aren’t that attractive. My posture is atrocious. My mouth gets me into trouble more than I’d care to share. My upper body strength is shameful. But all of these pale in comparison to this undeniable, unfathomable fact: I am a childhood trauma victim.
For the longest time I thought this label – this yoke around my neck – was nothing more than a delineation between me and other kids growing up. Heck, I didn’t even think that for years. I honestly believed that my life was a variant of normal – that all the girls experienced what I did; this was how Daddys showed their daughters love, and I was so very special and so very loved.
In my teen years, I didn’t want to be different, special in any way. I wanted to be loved the right way, by the right guy…but at that point I was simply powerless to stop the momentum that had existed for so long. So instead I made a decision: I wasn’t special; I wasn’t different; and I certainly wasn’t a victim.
Once everything was exposed, and the ugliness began – the circles of blame and hurt feelings and raw emotions and bitterness – I sealed off that section of myself; blow-torched the edges and didn’t look back. And it was settled…there was no damage, there was no problem, and there was no discussion necessary, period. But I was so very wrong, for just because I had issued forgiveness for my Father, I had never ever forgiven myself, and it never once occurred to me that I was in far more need than he would ever be.
Since I had sealed off that portion of my life, I had never truly walked through how that experience changed me, formed me into the adult I became. I entered a marriage still broken but functioning, in complete denial that the events of my trauma would ever touch another relationship. In the early years of our marriage, my husband did make a valiant attempt to reach me, but he never possessed that capacity to fix what I had no cognitive knowledge was so vastly distorted – no one man could have taken on that task without my support and professional assistance – of this I am now keenly aware.
Also, because I had not examined how I was impacted by my trauma, my choices of relationships continued to be impacted, as our marriage stumbled and ultimately faltered, from a combination of both of our shortcomings. I sincerely believe it took this event – the destruction of my marriage – to bring me to my knees, emotionally, spiritually, physically – before God and finally seek the answers within myself that had always been there, but that I had not been prepared before then to reveal.
As I’ve spoken of before, this heart work is the hardest work I’ve ever done, but it is the most critical work I will ever do – for the health of myself and those around me. I cannot be the best me I can be without finding the cause of my pain, identified or not, and choosing to walk through that. Simply identifying the issues, past and present, but refusing to make the necessary changes is not going to bring about the healthiest version of you. It is in the walking it out that you find who you really are, who you were meant to be, and the you that God desired for you to become. This is the critical piece.
I also believe I’ve discovered there is no completion to this work; it is a process we must continue daily. Though I have come a long way in deciphering why I make the choices I make, and where some of those bad choices have taken me, there are still choices to be made – each and every day. Though I can now recognize behaviors that seem familiar and safe and remember that those aren’t working for me any longer that takes a conscious decision each and every time, choosing the better path laid out before me.
I would still contend that I am not a victim, but rather a survivor. In fact, I loathe the word ‘victim.’ The implication is helplessness, hopelessness, and weakness. I am certainly none of these things. I am strong, wise, and loved. I have a pep in my step that has been missing probably forever. I walk with my head up instead of looking down because of unworthiness. I am a Princess, and I won’t be diminished by titles lobbed at me by this world. And while I can’t grow any taller, I can lengthen my gait by keeping on this new path, this healthy path, and realizing that when I stumble, I can reflect on where I’ve come from to get me on track again.