For most of my life, I had a lot of things “wrong” with me. I had no idea that these things were interrelated. My life was screaming the profile of an abuse survivor, but I had no idea. I just believed I was fundamentally f@#$ed in the head but did not understand why.
One telltale sign of an abuse survivor is extremism. Many people are aware that a person whose life is spinning out of control might be an abuse survivor, but few realize that the exact opposite – the overachiever – can also be an abuse survivor.
When I was in college, I took a “by invitation only” honors psychology class. One assignment was to write a secret on a piece of paper – something you had never told another person – and turn it in for the professor to read. One-third of those slips of paper said that the student was an abuse survivor, and that did not even include mine!
What does the profile of an abuse survivor look like? The best description I have found is The Incest Survivor’s After Effects Checklist. Reading this checklist was like looking into a mirror. For the first time in my life, I was not alone! My life finally made sense.
Notice how many of the items on the checklist are extremes. For example, one abuse survivor might become a prostitute or porn star while another abuse survivor might become asexual. One abuse survivor might have difficulty expressing anger while another abuse survivor is constantly angry. Both of these survivors might have suffered the same abuses, but their reactions were polar opposite. Both fit the profile for an abuse survivor. The telltale sign is in the extremes.
My sister and I suffered the same abuses, but our reactions were polar opposites. I tried to be “perfectly” good while she tried to be “perfectly” bad. Both of us were in the same amount of extreme pain: We just expressed that pain in very different ways.
For the next several days, I am going to talk about common aftereffects of childhood abuse. As you can see from the checklist, there are numerous aftereffects that I could discuss. However, I want to focus on those that are the most common ones for abuse survivors. Feel free to post comments or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like for me to discuss any specific aftereffect in more detail.
Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt