Last night I stumbled into the #sexabusechat on Twitter, mostly by happening to be looking at twitter when it started up more than by design, I have to admit. The topic of the evening was on generational abuse, and how it carries down from one generation to the next. In response to the question of why we should care to examine the family history of the abuser, I had this to say:
— Child Abuse Survivor (@SurvivorNetwork) January 28, 2015
Now I know what you’re about to say. I’ve seen it said over and over again by survivors and others. The person who abused you is evil and you shouldn’t spend any time thinking about them or trying to understand what they did, there is no explanation for it!
OK, yeah, that is true, in a very shortsighted way. The reason I think it’s shortsighted is because if we don’t let survivors examine the reality and history of the person who abused them, they are still going to wonder why. Why me? Why was I abused? That’s the wrong question and leaves us only looking for answers that lead to a conclusion that I did something to attract, or even deserve the abuse. Instead of seeing the truth of the abuser, we are left with figuring out why they chose me.
By allowing survivors to examine that history, maybe, just maybe, they can begin to get a clearer picture of what happened. They can look at the larger picture, that the abuser was going to abuse due to reasons that had nothing to do with the survivor at all, the only thing they “did” to attract this abuse was exist in the path of the abuser. In essence, this was a storm that was coming, and it was going to hit someone. It wasn’t your fault it hit you.
That doesn’t mean the abuser isn’t to blame, regardless of how traumatic their own life has been, but understanding that this person was going to inflict pain on someone, can help survivors stop trying to figure out what they did to attract it. They didn’t do anything, and isn’t that a better understanding of childhood abuse?
I think it’s a healthier place to start healing myself, even if you don’t have any background on your abuser, it can help to understand, in general, that abusers are a storm waiting for a victim, you weren’t a victim waiting to be abused.
What do you think? Do you know what kind of history your abuser(s) had before they abused you? Do you even want to?
Found an interesting list the other day on this subject. 20 Things to Remember If Your Loved Ones Suffer from Depression.
Most of them are things that are good to be reminded of, but one really stood out for me:
10. They should be treated like anyone else
No need for eggshells, or tiptoes. Go about your business and assume your depressed loved one is 100% healthy. Sometimes just living a routine, but a predictable, purposeful routine, can bring such a boost and be a remedy for depression.
When I was suffering from depression, and even as I was medicated and beginning to climb out of it, the one thing that was far too rare in my life was friends who could interact with me the same way they did before I got sick. Instead of having a few laughs and catching up, their actions towards me served as a constant reminder that something was wrong with me, that I was so broken and beyond repair that no one dared speak an ill word about anything for fear of breaking me even further.
Like I needed help with that.
When you are suffering from depression, it is a constant battle to see yourself as normal. The illness is always telling you how useless, worthless, and abnormal you are. It tells you that nothing is worth the effort, that no one really likes you, and no one wants to be around you. And then, when you do convince yourself to push past that, and be social, your friends simply prove the point by being uncomfortable around you. (See? No one wants to be around you, you make them uncomfortable, there’s something wrong with you…)
So please, if you know someone suffering from depression, keep all 20 things in mind, but for me, also remember that they are the same person they were before the depression started, and treat them accordingly, OK?
Cross posted from my professional blog.
A funny thing happened the other day. I went back and read everything I wrote at the beginning of 2014. It made me laugh, because it was all about how the previous year had been dominated by big events, taking on a big new challenge at work, and spending 10 days on a European vacation, but 2014 would be more about the small day to day opportunities for learning and improvement.
Instead, I finished up 2014 starting a completely new job and living in Oregon. Ha!
That’s why the phrase to describe 2014 for me, and the thing I’m taking with me into 2015 and beyond is to “embrace the adventure.”
Obviously, the new job, and new location, are both situations where we decided to take on new challenges. We’re here because of a professional opportunity for my wife, and I’m at a new company for my own professional opportunity, but it’s not just about work. There’s a lot to embrace about living in a different part of the country, and some of the places I’ll get to travel to for my new job. A lot of it is new, unfamiliar, and maybe a bit scary, but that’s how we grow as individuals, by pushing the limits of our comfort.
We also grow by being open to new opportunities. It would have been easy to say that we didn’t want to move this far away, or to say that I wasn’t really looking for a new job when someone approached me about it. There wouldn’t have been anything wrong with either of those responses, by the way. But instead, here we are, and we are committed to making the most of it. Who knows how long we’ll be here, or where the next opportunity will come from? Obviously, being open to possibilities sometimes means saying yes to something that wasn’t exactly the plan you’ve drawn out for yourself. It’s a chance. Maybe it won’t work out all that well, maybe it will. Either way, I plan on embracing the adventure in 2015, and taking advantage of what is currently available to me.
Besides, doing more interesting things give me more to blog about, right?
I hope you can find your own adventure, and take full advantage of what life has to offer, this year. Who knows how many more we have?
If you’re looking for the annual photo round up of 2014, that is over on the photo blog!
I was bemused when I saw the title of a recent article on Psych Central:
The Power of a Simple Hug as a Natural Anti-Depressant
Not that the content of the article surprised me, I’ve long known, and written about, the power of touch, and the ability of a hug to calm the boy and mind. There is plenty of research out there that shows this. No, what bemused me in thinking about it was this concept of a “simple” hug. Survivors of sexual abuse, especially those who are very early on their path to healing from abuse, don’t have simple hugs. The act of being hugged by someone is anything but simple! It’s fraught with all sorts of things that are going on in our heads.
In fact, it reminded me of a saying that a group of us used to share about romantic relationships and survivors. “To a sexual abuse survivor, there is no such thing as non-sexual touching.” We grew up without boundaries when it came to touching, and equating being touched with sexual violence. To suddenly say that the best thing for our depression would be to be hugged, is completely ridiculous. And yet, if we could reach a point where we can experience a simple hug as a simple hug, it would be so beneficial to us in our struggles with depression, sadness, and all of the other day to day mental health struggles that we have as a result of being abused.
In other words:
- I struggle with depression because of my childhood experiences.
- One of the best ways to cope with that struggle is being able to accept support, and even hugs, from those close to me.
- My childhood experiences taught me not to trust anyone who acted kindly toward me, especially those who want to touch me.
We can’t win for losing.
On the other hand, I am at a point in my life where I do understand, and even appreciate, simple touching. A hug from a friend is a fabulous thing to me, not the beginning of a panic and worry about what they really want from me. It took some time and work to get there, but it was well worth it. I hope all of you can start to experience that same connection with other people that touch, and hugs, can bring.
Do you have issues with touch, or have you found that overcoming those issues has opened a door to healing from depression? Share your story in the comments!