I found myself identifying quite a bit with a recent post by Faith Allen, Risk of Identifying Too Strongly with Being a Child Abuse Survivor.
Not necessarily because I have a fear any longer of leaving the online survivor community, I’ve always been loosely associated as opposed to an overly active member of it anyway. On the other hand, I believe keeping the communities, forums, online relationships, etc. at arm’s distance has always been part of not wanting to be identified as “just” a survivor of child abuse. As much as I’ve dedicated my time and energy into this site, it’s never been my only website. I’ve always had something else online, and always linked the two very clearly, while also adapting them for different audiences. I believe there are a couple of reasons for this choice, and I think, for me, they are quite valid reasons as well.
First, and foremost is the reality that learning how to build a life of my own, by necessity, means that I cannot spend all of my time focused on being a survivor. Yes, I am a survivor, and yes that healing has taken a large chunk of my time and energy, and still continues to take some. But I am also many other things. I have relationships, hobbies and professional interests that have nothing to do with being a survivor, and I have never wanted to sacrifice those things for time spent on the larger community. It’s not that I don’t care about the larger online community of survivors, but I know my limitations, and what I need to do for my own health.
Which brings me to my second reason, the risk of burnout. I see it all too often in this community, actually. I’m sure you have seen the person who comes into a forum site, a new blog, your own blog comments etc, like a whirlwind, commenting on everything, sharing every detail of their struggle, devoting every extra minute of every single day to speaking out about abuse, and spending all night chatting with other survivors. After a few months, they then disappear, never to be seen again. It’s all well-intentioned, this desire to be the ultimate, tireless advocate, but it’s also completely unsustainable for 99% of the world. There are those who can be tirelessly driven to advocate for survivors, and they have my admiration. I’m not one of them. I firmly believe that one of the biggest reasons I have been able to keep this blog going for 9 years is the fact that I’ve not striven to be that. I’ve paced myself, allowed myself to write when I want, to experiment with new features when I want, interact with other bloggers at my own pace and never seen myself as “responsible” for the health of anyone who happens to be a part of things here. I write, and if I can help you through that writing, or help you find resources more in line with what you might need, I’m glad to help. I care about each and every person who reads this site, and interacts with me in some way online, but I’m also going to live my life, and let you live yours. In fact, I have to, or run the risk of harming my own health.
So, as much as I belong with this community, loose-knit as it may be, I belong elsewhere too. Being a survivor, and an online advocate, is one of the roles I play in my life. In my efforts to continue to play that role, I sometimes let it take a backseat to other roles. Not because it’s any less important, but because it’s equally important and I need the balance of other roles in order to keep it up. I hope that you can find your own balance, and contribute as part of your overall life as you continue to heal!