Do What You Gotta Do For You!

This has been a common refrain with the economy lately, and frankly, it’s pretty good career advice any time! Regardless of what else may be going on, and what other pressures you may face, make career decisions based on what you need to do and what will benefit you and your family, not anyone else. I’m beginning to see that it applies to survivors as well, though. A couple of recent discussions over at the Survivor Network, and offline with friends have convinced me of this.

When I saw that the theme for this months Blog Carnival was “telling the secret“, I knew exactly where this fit in. Telling your story, whether in a public forum like this one, or privately to a close friend, should always be about doing what you need to do, for yourself. As I consider the decision, way back when, to start this blog, or even the decisions I make about who I share my story with, I always come back to the same reasons. Obviously, much of my motivation for starting here was to help other survivors not to feel as alone as I did, but there was also another issue. If it wasn’t going to be safe, and healthy, for me I would not be here. As much as I wanted to help others, it had to also be the right decision for me, and it has to continue to be the right decision for me.

So far, I still think this continues to be the right thing, for me. I don’t really see where that would change, but it is certainly possible. Things change, and I am sure there are some possibilities out there that I haven’t even comprehended yet. I know many folks have quit blogging, and stopped being so public with their stories because of who has read them and the reactions they’ve had to it. I know others who simply couldn’t cope with learning about other survivors and their stories, becoming engulfed in the survivor community and unable to get outside of it. It happens, and they have made their choices based on what was right for them. As much as I enjoy this blog, and love running the Survivor Network, I know that it’s not for everyone. I know there are hard decisions that have to be made, and there are risks. I’ve accepted those risks, and decided to not allow how other people may perceive this site to dictate whether I do it or not. Not everyone can, or should, do the same.

The important thing, though, no matter how you decide to tell your secret, is that you do so in the way you need to. If that’s to one friend, or only a spouse, so be it. If it’s to a group, or to the world through a blog, great! No one else should decide for you, or influence your decision to tell your story. It is your story, and it is your life. It belongs to you alone, and should be told however you want. We are not children anymore, we’re adults and we make our own choices, choose what is best for you, and do what you gotta do, for yourself.

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  1. Great post. I jumped head first into survivor forums when I was first telling. It quickly became overwhelming for me. I focused on helping others and not myself. Now I know that it’s okay to back off sometimes.

  2. Well I’ve heard the catchphrase often but without the last two words and usually in TV dramas set in NY.

    Thankfully I’d already worked this out economy and work-wise but even as a survivor, it’s taken longer to do the same when it came to other relationships. Family seems to have sorted itself out and that’s allowing me time to look at all my friendships and get my own distance from the less healthy ones, or keep that distance if those people have already withdrawn from me.

    Like Enola I might make practical suggestions but no longer try to empathise with every survivor’s situation when that’s impossible. I’m helped by only ever having been on two survivor forums either side of Mike setting up the network, the second way friendlier than the first. Also I only started making posts to my other non-CSA blog within the week, when you’re making time to live in general, you do post less. However, I will likely never stop keeping a diary, I can’t hand a blog down to my descendents if I ever have kids…

  3. As someone who’s been at this for a while, I definitely appreciate the post.

    I went public with my story, as I understood it at the time, many years ago (long ago, in the dinosaur days before blogs and forums), and I told it as best I could. I was very idealistic about what I was doing and assumed everyone would see and understand the value and the necessity of my actions. Well, that hasn’t always been the case, and I’ve certainly experienced my share of backlash and misunderstanding, but for the most part, people do get it.

    I’ve paid a price for the path I’ve taken, but I honestly can’t imagine myself having gone any other way. Telling the truth, in the way I told it, was a matter of life and death for me. Most of all, I’m thankful to have had the chance to give other survivors another point of reference and, hopefully, contribute to their healing in some way.

  4. CBK, that’s funny that you mention TV dramas set in NY, since that is where I grew up! I bet that could be why I resort to using that phrase when talking about making choices for how you are going to act when dealing with abuse. It’s one of many places where I feel like people should just “do what you gotta do”. *L*

    I find it interesting also that a few of you have talked about getting involved on message boards, etc. too much. I think one of the reasons this idea of doing what you need to do for yourself is really difficult for survivors because we don’t generally understand how to set boundaries. We jump right in to dealing with people and don’t really think about how we need to live our own lives first, and do the things we need to do for ourselves before we can be very effective for others. As Rick said, there’s a price to pay for the choices we make, it helps to understand what that price is before choosing any direction. Getting overly involved with other survivors reeks to me of not having thought out the costs in terms of time, energy, and making your own boundaries before hand. Finding the proper balance, and boundaries, for yourself can be a bit of a trial and error process, but as you learn about what you need to do for yourself, it would be a huge mistake to ignore that!

    Thanks for all the comments!

  5. Mike,

    As you know, I have had my own confusion over whether to remain in the survivor community once I felt that I had completed most of my healing myself. My initial reaction was to go out and live a “normal” life. Then, I realized that normal is relative and that healed, or not, child abuse is, and will always be, a part of who I am. When I try to deny that then I am not being genuine. Sure, I have had my nights that I have pleaded “why can’t I just have an easy path to walk.” But, my path is my path. I am not ashamed of who I am or what I have endured getting to where I am today. When I think back over the people (mainly survivors) that lifted me up and supported me when I was in the middle of all of the pain, I realize that I cannot and do not want to walk away. If I can help one other person to reach a place that they feel good about themselves and their life then that is worth a lifetime of “normal” days.

    So, I am here to stay. I am still working out some personal issues around how to organize my time and days but that will be resolved soon. Then I will be back to blogging and working in any way that I can to help others get on their feet and feel good about who they are.

    Thank you for all of your work and commitment in making the Survivor Network available to us all. I have connected with many, many people there who may not have been open to sharing their story in another forum.

    All my best,

  6. Today, one of the reasons that I write about incest on my blog is because when I first wanted information about surviving incest and learning what normal was in the late 1970’s, I could only find 3 books on the public library on the subject of incest. I was pretty much on my own and didn’t do much work on myself other than general self-help until 1989 when I found Al-Anon and an Adult Children of Alcoholics group. Thank God, my dad was also an alcoholic or I still would have been on my own. I used those two groups to talk about incest. Thanks to those groups I learned to feel again. I learned what healthy anger was and started releasing my fears.

    Thanks for supporting the Survivor Network. I will check it out.

  7. I agree with Mike about survivors not knowing about boundaries, especially at the beginning. I think if survivors are getting attention from the telling, while having those boundary issues, they (we…..I know I did) might get off on being the victim and a martyr…just a bit. I’m not discounting the validity of the victimhood, but there is that component of not knowing and understanding healthy ways to get support and help. There can be that addictive component to the telling. It was a big blow, and a great step forward in my growth, when I realized that I was getting a fix out of being the victim. Once I realized that, I held off telling my story for a long while. I later started up again, but then it was purely therapeutic for me. As I told, I achieved new insights to me. I even discovered connections between seemingly unrelated events. I started understanding the whole story much better.

    I got to the point recently that I realized that I didn’t need to tell my story anymore. It no longer served a purpose for me. I felt like I’d been filling up the hole that abuse left when I talked. I had reached the point of filling the hole, only to keep telling the story. I realized I was digging a brand new hole as I kept trying to fill the hole already filled. I stopped. I then realized that I learned some important things that I wanted to share, but that I could do it without the emotional need to tell.

    I kept thinking that I would eventually be completely healed….normal….but what Tamara said has made me think about that some more. I am what I am because of my experiences, good and bod. I’ll never be free from the issue of abuse. Maybe we’ll never be completely normal, but what we are left with after our healing journey isn’t like a gaping hole or a missing limb, but more like eyesight problems that need corrective glasses. Isn’t that what our healing journeys are….clarity of thought, understanding and focus? Corrective lenses?

    What’s so great about soc media is that there is stuff out here for people searching for answers. They don’t have to struggle alone like Patricia did for all those years. I wasn’t involved in the community, but at least I had access to lots of books and experiences that helped me.

    I can see how many people would get to a certain healing point in their journey and decide to focus on living a normal life like Tamara talked about. I’ve thought about it myself. I’ve gotten past that enabling part, the controlling part that wants to ‘help’ others….I realize that my earlier attempts to help were a distraction and part of the diseased system.

    Now, I’m beginning to see that there could be times that telling is appropriate, even if there is no personal need to tell. If it is done to shine a light back on the trail we’ve traveled, giving light and encouragement to those who follow behind. It’s a fine line to walk between being healthy and digging yourself a new hole.

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