Today is the 4th and second hardest anniversary in May. As I think about getting ready for bed and how I can face the nightmares hovering at the edge of my awareness, I remember what the hotline counselor told me earlier – you are strong, strong enough to cope with this – in different words and different ways throughout the conversation.
I called because I had some chores to do that I had been putting off and was scared because I felt unsafe and frustrated. Unsafe because doing those chores triggered memories of my mother and aunts. Frustrated because those triggers also brought back memories of more recent experiences that made me feel unsafe too. As I shared my feelings and the experiences behind them, the connections were revealed.
This (experience or event) reminded me of that (seemingly unrelated experience or event) because I felt the same way both times and reacted instinctively even if I used different coping strategies to work through each experience. And each experience or event past or present brought out emotions and memories of similar ones. Together, the counselor and I untangled the connections enough for me to understand why I was scared and make 2 plans, one for tonight and one for later this week.
Why am I sharing this?
I am sharing because that conversation reminded me that every survivor of trauma, no matter what kind, has invisible strength.
By invisible, I mean not always apparent, recognizable, or appreciated by “normal” people, but always recognized and valued by others with shared experiences or on the recovery path.
What does Invisible Strength mean?
Invisible strength is getting up every morning and doing one act of self care in spite of the previous night’s setbacks.
Invisible strength is talking about the scary secrets and acknowledging what happened in spite of fear and possible rejection and accusations of being a liar or worse.
Invisible strength is relapsing and getting up to start recovery again no matter how much time has passed.
Invisible strength is knowing that you have to make difficult choices and choosing the best ones for yourself even if that means breaking away from everything familiar.
Invisible strength means using whatever coping strategies you have to in order to get through the moment and forgiving yourself for doing something that induces shame.
Invisible strength means accepting that you can’t change other people, your environment, or their thoughts about you while also knowing that their thoughts and choices and failures and problems are not your fault.
Invisible strength comes from doing what you know is right for you even if no one else accepts or approves of your choices.
For me right now, invisible strength means:
- I can love and accept and forgive my parents, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins, and relatives in spite of their abuse and still not want them in my life.
- I can let other aunts, uncles, and cousins who are willing to meet me part way and develop new relationships based on who we are now slowly back into my life as long as we respect each others’ boundaries.
- I can feel compassion for my parents, brother, relatives, and other abusers and the experiences that made them who they are without shame or guilt
- I can accept that part of what they did was not their choice or within their control, but other parts of it were and hold them responsible for their past words and actions without blaming them.
- I can learn to accept that my feelings of shame and guilt come from fear and learned behaviors that are not my responsibility
- I can finally recognize that connecting with “normal” people will always be difficult because I am not willing to settle for shallow or insincere relationships – whether friendship, familial relationship, intimate relationship, etc. – with people who I cannot trust or respect on a basic level.
- I can face the fact that not many people are as “strong” as I am and that my “strength” can feel intimidating to others whose values and ethics do not align with mine.
- I am not willing to settle for an intimate relationship with a man who is not my equal in values or invisible strength – someone I feel safe and comfortable with, respect, like, and trust not to hurt me on purpose or use his knowledge about me to manipulate or control me; someone who feels safe and comfortable, respects, likes, and trusts me not to hurt him on purpose or use my knowledge about him to manipulate or control him.
- I may never find my dream man in this life time.
- I could find my dream man in this life time.
- I may never have sex or sexual experiences again in this life time.
- I could have sex or sexual experiences again in this life time.
- I hope and dream that my next life will be different from this one – free from abuse and trauma, but not the ups and downs of sadness, joy, pain, serenity, good health, and freedom that come from living.
- I am grateful for this second chance at life in spite of all the challenges that slow me down
Thanks for reading.