Why yes, yes it is.
I don’t know if it’s just me, or just a coincidence, but it seems like there have been a rash of tweets, Facebook comments, etc. challenging me on the very idea that survivors could ever really heal. These comments are coming from survivors too, which just saddens me. Most of them seem to follow along the pattern of “these survivors will never live without the damage caused by this, and are doomed to misery for the rest of their sad existences”.
That is just not true. Yes, survivors never forget what has happened, and the past will forever be a part of us. But let’s talk about what that does not mean. It does not mean we are doomed to a miserable existence for all of our adult lives. It does not mean that we can never have happy, dare I say, joyful, lives. It does not mean that we will never be able to develop meaningful relationships. That simply isn’t true. I, and many others survivors, have managed to accomplish those things. Yes, it’s challenging. Yes it takes a lot of work, and a lot of time. Yes, it can be a struggle to overcome the effects of our abuse, but to say that it cannot be done is an outright lie.
Here’s the thing. As I engage this response I have found a few common themes that seem to come along with this attitude about survivors.
1. Many of the comments are shrouded in the theme of justice, basically that healing is impossible because justice will never be served. While I am all for justice being served, healing is not, and can not be, tied to whether or not your abuser ever gets punished. That is not healing, that is vengeance. I’m not saying you shouldn’t pursue justice, but recognize that pursuit will not, by itself, bring you healing.
2. Another common thread I’ve seen is that the comments generally come from male survivors. This shows me two things, one, that far too many male survivors are still taking the path of “leave me alone in my misery” instead of reaching out to the broader survivor community, and that the broader survivor community does not do an effective job of getting the word out and making male survivors feel welcome.
3. Unfortunately, I fear that this attitude of giving up is a response to the fact that healing is hard work! It’s not easy. If it were easy, abuse wouldn’t really be a big deal. would it? It is a big deal because the damage done is real, but it is only a life sentence if you give up trying to heal. Taking the easy way out only allows your abusers to continue to damage you long after they had any control.
So yes, healing is hard, and it takes time. After all you didn’t get the way you are overnight. It takes everyone their entire childhood, and then some, to become the adult they later are. When that childhood development is robbed from you by abuse, you are simply getting a later start. It can be challenging to learn all the skills that make for a happy adult live, and to overcome the fear that plagues us from our previous experiences.
Just because something is a challenge though, doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Nor does it make it not worth doing. If you are a survivor who has convinced themselves that healing isn’t possible or worth the effort, than I truly feel sorry for you, but you won’t find any agreement on that point here.