Our trauma taught us how to react during childhood in ways that are, in fact, not at all appropriate to the reality of adult life. Things that remind us of our abuse can set off a panic in us, causing us to do, and say, things that are not appropriate to the current situation, and people on the receiving end of that communication can have a difficult time understanding what has happened. Interactions between survivors can be rife with underlying messages and reactions that have nothing to do with the current situation because we are all bringing our own trauma into the conversation.
It’s grounding. It doesn’t solve the thing I’m anxious about, but it stops the cycling, and allows me to focus on the reality of the situation, which is usually not nearly as bad as I’ve made it out to be.
But, it also assumes that I have someone to talk to about it. This is really the challenge for far too many people, who don’t have anyone to talk to.
Can you be the person who just listens? I’m willing to bet someone in your life could really use that.
Look, I get it, you tried something and it helped you, or you’ve seen it help someone else. Clearly, you are excited about the possibility of helping others, but you’re forgetting something. You’re forgetting that the person you are sharing this advice with, isn’t you.
When you come walking into a conversation with friends, or especially into online communities with statements like the ones above, the message you are actually sending is “Gee, fixing this is easy, you’re just doing it wrong”.
Imagine using those actual words towards someone you barely know. You wouldn’t, would you? At least if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t. But you are totally willing to take your beliefs, your own experience, and completely railroad another person’s current reality with it, you are doing something awfully similar. In a moment of emotional vulnerability, you have come in, guns blazing, with the suggestion that all of this pain they are in, and all of this struggling they are going through, should have been easy to avoid.
Behavioral issues in school, getting in trouble, and wham! Instead of mental health care, you’re a criminal case. We do it to adults all the time, why would we not see it the same way with kids? Especially kids without the family means to get private care and assistance?
This is what we do, and we need to figure out something else. The criminal justice system is not mental health care.
As I have written before, being an advocate online for me means writing, sharing information and insights, interacting with other survivors, etc. but sometimes I just can’t. Not because I’ve lost interest or don’t want to do it, but because I’m just tired of the pushback. I’m tired of having stories about male victims challenged or dismissed, tired of people in the mental health space telling me that everyone should just do what worked for them, tired of dealing with other people’s definitions of what healing looks like, or how long it should take, and on and on.
It’s all stigma, it’s all the stigma that I want to fight against, but some days it’s just exhausting. So I’d rather not talk about it.