A few weeks back, Patricia wrote about being an advocate, and being accused of being “stuck in victim mode” because she continued to talk about child abuse.
It’s something that I’ve been thinking about too. Part of that thought process had to do with some cleaning up of old links that I’ve been doing on the blog, and seeing how many survivors have simply stopped blogging and dropped out of the online community, as well as thinking about some of the things I see online about healing in general.
First, before I even get into my thoughts, let’s make one thing clear. All survivors are individuals, and what works for some, may not work for others. Whether you feel lead to continue being an advocate, or sharing information like I do here, or Patricia does, or if you’d rather spend your time with other interests and put this behind you, is totally your choice. Part of being healed is giving yourself the ability to make your own decisions and have control over those decisions. Far be it for me, or anyone else, to demand otherwise.
On the other hand, part of being healed is being more than “just” a child abuse survivor. That can be a tricky line to walk. I’ve been at this blog for 12+ years now, and it’s still tricky. In fact, maybe it gets trickier the longer I go on, because it would be easy for someone who doesn’t know me to look at this site and come to the conclusion that I’ve been going on and on for almost 13 years about being a survivor of child abuse. Wow, talk about someone who is stuck!
I was dismayed, though not surprised at all, when I saw a number of Facebook users and pages link to an article about an inmate convicted of child molestation being murdered in prison.
The posts were, for the most part, followed by near unanimous comments celebrating the death of a pedophile.
Look, I get it. I don’t have sympathy for the guy either. But we have to seriously think about what we want to accomplish when it comes to dealing with pedophiles, and the message we are sending to kids. Here are some facts:
- We know children are most likely to be abused by someone they know and trust, someone who is either part of their family or a close friend of the family.
- We know the abuser is more than likely going to groom the child, and the family, in order to create a bond with the child.
- We know abusers are manipulative, and use that bond to convince children not to tell, because it would cause bad things to happen.
- We know Stockholm syndrome is a very real thing.
- We know these kids have been traumatized and the only way to encourage more children to speak up about what is happening to them is for them to feel safe in telling.
- We know most abused children do not tell anyone because they don’t feel safe.
So how is running around talking about how anyone who abuses a child deserves to be killed in horrible ways going to help a child feel safe and secure about telling? Are we not handing an abuser a manipulation tool to be used against our own kids? (“Look if you tell, your parents will kill me, and you don’t want to be the cause of someone’s death, do you?”)
Lastly, wouldn’t that death just be adding more trauma onto kids who have already been traumatized enough?
Hey we know you were abused and you’re going to have a hell of a time dealing with everything that goes along with that, so in the name of “justice”, we’re going to go out and kill the sicko and then let you go ahead and add the guilt of someone’s death to your therapy bill, cool?
I’m not going to get into a disagreement over what is “just” and “fair”. That’s not my concern, and it shouldn’t be yours. Our concern should be what is the best way to help this child get help and heal. Adding more trauma doesn’t do that!
In my quest to try every new piece of social media tech that exists, (that might be a bit of hyperbole, but not by much!) I have penned a piece with some career advice called The Appreciation File over on LinkedIn.
It did not escape my notice, however, that this same bit of helpful advice could also apply to healing from abuse, or helping with depression, or whatever else you might be struggling with.
So, fellow survivors, start hanging on to cards, notes and emails thanking you for something. Then on the rough days, go back through the stack and remind yourself of all the good you have done, and continue to do, all the worth you have and all the value you bring to others. Also, make sure you’re letting people know the value they have, so they can start building their own file!
If you’re so inclined, I’d appreciate it if you went over to LinkedIn and shared the plan with your own contacts! Thanks!
Dr. Robert K. Ross giving a Tedx Talk at Ironwood State Prison. In it he talks about the long lasting effects, physical and emotional, of repeated childhood trauma. He also talks about courage and resiliency that can not only overcome the trauma, but better ourselves through it.
I have to admit, some survivors are some of the most courageous and resilient people I know. Others are the most self-destructive people I know, and some of those turn into the former category. This helps explain what is really going on.
I really liked Natasha Tracy’s description of depression when I read it.
I have problems with lots of the little things. Opening mail, for example. You would think that tearing tiny pieces of paper and reading letters would be relatively simple, but it’s not – at least, not for me. For me, I just think about the mail and I get overwhelmed. I actually have to talk myself into actually opening little envelopes.
And while this could be driven by, say, an inability to pay bills, for me, it’s not. For me it’s just mail, in and of itself. For whatever reason, I just can’t do it.
And I know I need to do things like shower and open the mail. These are normal, everyday activities that need doing. But so often, at the end of the day I find that I haven’t done them – again. And this knowledge of failing at the little things is so depressing. I tend to beat myself up about it.
I think anyone who has ever suffered from depression can recall those days. The days where you really just get overwhelmed doing the smallest little thing, and then feel like a failure because you couldn’t even do that little thing without getting overwhelmed, thus leading to feeling more overwhelmed, and so on and so on.
I don’t think people who’ve never had, or were close to someone who had depression, understand this. You go to the mailbox and get the mail without a second thought. You get up in the morning, shower, make some coffee and so on. When you have depression, nothing is that easy. There aren’t any activities that you can do without a second thought. Everything is a struggle, everything requires monumental effort just to even attempt to do it.
I can remember, for example, trying to boil water after I was released from the hospital. Granted, I was both depressed and physically unwell, recovering from a 9 day hospital stay for a virus. Anyway, I tried to just boil some water to make some pasta for myself, and wound up spilling it. The only thing I could do was sit on the kitchen floor and cry. It was at that point that I realized that was about as low as I could get, and much like Natasha’s advice, if I saw someone else suffering in this same way, I’d help them up and walk them through doing what they were trying to do, all the while telling them it was ok, they could accomplish this, and then they could accomplish the next thing, and so on until they were doing amazing things. Needless to say, while I thought that, actually putting that thought into practice was hardly an overnight thing. Overcoming depression doesn’t happen all at once. You don’t suddenly snap out of it, for the most part. You start to build yourself from the ground up. You hit bottom, and then you figure out what you need to do to get the mail and showered today. Once you’ve started accomplishing that, you move on to the next thing, and before you know it, you’re living life and doing the little things again.
So, feel some compassion for yourself, find the correct treatment, and start with one accomplishment today. Then go from there. At least, that’s what worked for me!
Going back over 10 years ago to when I first started this blog, the goal has always been to help survivors feel less alone. Last week I was reminded, yet again, of the importance of talking about it.
There was a time in my life when it seemed like I was somehow attracting other survivors to myself. Every time I mentioned being a survivor, or someone found out about this site, they started talking to me about their past and their childhood experiences. I chalked it up to being some sort of secret radar that attracted survivors to one another even when they just happened to know each other through circumstances more than anything else.
Last week, I was working at our annual user’s conference in Vegas, and once again, found myself talking to one of the people that I had previously trained about this and that and whatever. I mentioned having been a survivor of child molestation, and wouldn’t you know it, the response I got was that she was as well.
I realized, this was not just some magic radar that was bringing me to other survivors. I am, literally, surrounded by other survivors, and so are you. We just don’t talk about it, so we don’t even realize how many survivors are in our midst every day. We stay silent, and hide our “secret”, and miss out on the benefits of seeing other survivors.
Those of you who follow my other blog may already know this, but we are moving again! To Oregon of all places!
As I look ahead to the challenges of moving to a new location, and dealing with living across the country from my wife for a couple of months, it occurs to me that I feel pretty confidant about the whole situation, because we’ve done it before.
When we moved to South Carolina just about 3 years ago, I moved down for my job, and Angela stayed behind to pack up the house and fulfill some work commitments. We lived apart for more than 6 months. This time it’ll be under 3 months, and since I work from home when I’m not traveling, I don’t even need to switch jobs, just locations.
Anyway, to the broader point. Child abuse survivors, many times, do not have the experience of dealing with change and challenges to fall back on when faced with this sort of challenge. We have spent so much of our lives trying to survive, and protect ourselves, that the confidence that comes from making our own decisions, or overcoming new challenges is a foreign concept. We want nothing less than to have anything change, and yet life is all about change. We can’t avoid change, we can only learn to deal with it. The quicker you can learn to deal with it, by taking on some small challenges, and gaining confidence, the more you can make positive changes in your life, and take advantage of new opportunities.
Self confidence is like any muscle in your body, it only grows stronger by exercising it.
What are you waiting for? What small challenge can you accept, and face, today?