“Looking at it now, face on, I am not ashamed of carrying it around my neck. It may not match my face, but I will carry around that young boy with me for all time. He is hurt but recovering, small but enduring, and loved. Most of all he is loved. He has someone to take his picture and feed him sandwiches cut into triangles and lay him to rest. Not everyone has such loving assistance. To help heal the men who have been ashamed to carry around their childhood, we must show them it is a badge of honor, not a scarlet letter. We must love them, no matter what the sign around their neck says.”
Abuse survivors tend to struggle mightily with how to see ourselves. Old photographs can be especially troubling because we are forced not only to see ourselves, but many times, see ourselves during the time we were being abused. I know, for example, that there are many photographs from my own childhood that I feel absolutely no connection to. It’s as if I’m looking at a photo of a stranger, when in fact, it’s a photo of me. I now know why that is, because I was spending so much of my childhood dissociated from my own mental state. But it took time before I could understand that.
What Landry writes though, is very true. When you survive abuse, one of the hardest things to learn as an adult is how to view yourself. Am I a victim? Am I “damaged”, did I do something that caused this? Was it really because I am bad, and so on.
We spend so much time trying to figure out what we did to cause this, or deserve this, and thus trying to hide it, instead of understanding that surviving and overcoming is truly “a badge of honor”.
The why of our abuse lies in the abusers choices and actions, not ours. We deserve not shame, but credit for surviving it.
You’re still here, in spite of what happened. That’s something to be proud of.