Getting in my last minute submission for this month’s Carnival Against Child Abuse, on the subject of memorials.
Memory is a weird subject for abuse survivors. Some of us struggle to even remember the details of what happened, while others remain obsessed and haunted by every little detail. The one thing that all of us have in common though, is that we survived all the things that happened, and that they are, in fact, only a memory.
That doesn’t mean that the events don’t still impact us, and that we don’t need to do a lot of work to learn how to cope with those memories. Rather, as time goes on, the memories simply become part of who we are. This is an area of much stress among survivors. All too often I see many trying to overcome the memories and go back to being the person they are without the abuse, or the person they were before the abuse. I don’t think that’s a realistic goal. Our memories are our memories, and they are part of who were are today. That goes for good and bad memories. We all can agree that memories of happy moments, days spent at a beach, lake or other vacation spot, time spent with loved ones, etc. become part of us and are carried into our lives going forward. The same goes for the bad memories. They become areas of growth, lessons learned, warnings about how to keep ourselve safe, etc.
As survivors of abuse, those memories become part of who we are just the same way. They may appear to be a burden, and may even be something we long to remove from our current lives, but they are what they are. It’s the memories of our past that drive us to be protective of children, that help us be empathetic to fellow survivors, etc. I couldn’t run this site, or the Survivors Network if it wasn’t for those memories. It’s those memories that drive me to continue to talk about being a survivor, and to help other survivors by reaching out online and letting them know that they aren’t alone in their struggles with healing. They drive me to continue my own healing, and to continue to improve myself. They are the pain that has sharpened me into the person I am today. The work and struggle that was put into my healing journey is not something to be forgotten, but something that shows me how strong I can be, indeed how strong I always have been. They are there to let me know, in the midst of trying circumstances, just how much I have overcome already, much worse than anything thrown at me in day to day life.
Indeed, the memories are painful and ful of sorrow, and I don’t wish what happened to me on anyone. But I don’t want to simply wish them away. They are me, and I am a survivor. I don’t want to forget that.