On my blog entry entitled Grieving Loss of Dysfunctional Friendship, a reader posted the following comment:
In your blogs, and what I have heard from other survivors you often describe healing as a fight. And I have never understood this. To me, fighting is how I got through the abuse as and when it happened, to me healing is a process of stopping fighting (even retreating) which can be really hard and scary when you have fought for so long and you think the ‘enemy’ might still be close but is none the less stopping not starting the fight. I would be really interested in your thoughts on this, and wether you feel that survivng your childhood also involved some degree of a fight or not! ~ Sophie
Sophie makes a good point, so perhaps a different word than “fighting” is more appropriate. I think the word I might be looking for “adapting.” As a child, I had to adapt to being abused. I had to be the obedient child abuse victim as well as pretend to be a “normal” child in public. I had to do all of this while never giving voice to any of my emotions. This took an enormous amount of adapting, but through dissociative identity disorder (DID), I managed to adapt quite nicely. I was fully suited for living a life as an abused child.
Then, I grew up and moved away from the abuse. Safety was a completely different environment from abuse. People might expect safety being an “easier” environment, but it wasn’t because I had to adapt all over again. I spent my entire childhood adapting to trauma, and most of my adaptations were completely out of place in the new, safe environment.
I think that is where the struggle comes in. I have not had to “fight” so much as “adapt” to an environment that is very different from the environment I grew up in. While I am (obviously) grateful no longer being abused, I was ill-equipped for survival in this new environment. I did not know about basic social graces … or how to interact without someone who wasn’t trying to hurt me … or what was expected of me in this new environment. It was like being beamed to Mars and being expected to act like a Martian without having a “Martians for Dummies” books at my disposal.
My therapist is very good about pointing out that many of my struggles come from being a survivor of child abuse. I adapted very well as a survivor, but I no longer have to live that way. So, I am having to relearn everything I ever learned about interacting with the world around me. My therapist says that I have been having to “parent myself” as I learn how to adapt to life without abuse.
Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt