Sunday, November 02, 2008

Who Am I Now?

For a while now, I've been asking myself the question: Who am I now? By what labels will I define myself? Which old labels am I ready to let go of? And as I ask myself those questions, I keep coming back to the biggie: Do I want to still define myself as a survivor of abuse?

It doesn't impact my life on a daily basis any more. It doesn't trigger shame or guilt—any more. It doesn't determine my self image or expectations for what I can do—any more. And yet....there is a part of me that says it's important so that I can stand for how far we survivors can come. So that I can speak to how deep the scars can go in children who are abused. That part of me says that if I stop seeing myself as a survivor, I'm abandoning other survivors.

So why not just keep calling myself a survivor? I'm not sure. On some level I worry that despite my denials, I am limiting myself in some ways by seeing myself in those terms—as a survivor who was deeply scarred even if those scars have pretty much healed now.

So I don't know. Do we ever stop calling ourselves survivors? Why or why not? I'd really like to hear all your thoughts on this.

There was a time I thought I'd write a book about surviving abuse. Now I'm not so sure it matters—that what I have to say would be of enough interest to anyone. There was a time I thought I could be a positive example for other survivors—now I wonder if that's just hubris because each of us has to find our own way out of the pain and past. I used to wonder if I had to make my experience mean something and now I wonder if it's enough just to be happy and discover where life takes me if I don't see myself in terms of being a survivor.

Note; There was a time when I would have been denying my experience if I had said I wasn't a survivor of abuse and it would have been because I didn't want to face all the memories and emotions and shame and guilt and despair. This is different. I'm at peace with who I am and my life relative to the abuse.

I'm not usually this confused. I don't know where I'm going with all of this. No doubt I'll explore it here as I explore it within myself.

I'd really like to hear your thoughts and how YOU look at this issue.

Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),
April_optimist

10 comments:

Tamara said...

I can completely relate to many of these questions and I am still trying to figure out exactly how I feel about it all. Even though I am healed, I do think that I will always refer to myself as a survivor. It is just a point of fact. However, I may say it less and less and only mention it when the situation is right and it can help someone.

There was a time that I also thought about writing a book. I don't believe I will because I just don't have the desire that I did before. I do think that I can (and so can you) continue to be a positive example for others. We have traveled this road and we know the potholes. Sure someone else is going to have to find their own way but if we point out even one pothole for them to avoid or help them climb out more quickly that is worth it.

When I began this online journey of healing, which has been amazing. I first stumbled onto the blog of someone who is healed but still writing about the process and her abuse. That was such a huge help to me that I can never thank her enough. Therefore I do believe that it is not hubris but truth that we continue to help others along this journey as others have helped us.

I am at peace with who I am relative to the abuse also. So, I find myself reaching out and writing about different topics and not always abuse. But, I do find that I relate many things that I write to abuse because you can't be a survivor and not have it color the way you see things - healed or not.

I don't know if this rambling helps at all and it is just my opinions. I think it is confusing coming out the other end of the tunnel and suddenly having all of this clear open space to move around in. We may always be learning how to move in this new space. After all, we were in the tunnel for many, many years.

Hugs,
Tamara

Colleen said...

I too have struggled with labels. I finally came to the conclusion that I am an incest survivor and it is who I am. It is not ALL of who I am. But I can finally say it in a way of honoring that part of me. A survivor.
I actually did write a book. It has just been published. The clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church threw me into a crisis. I could relate to the victims, and, being a Christian writer, I began to write to help me deal with the pain.
I discovered that I am not healed. Or maybe I can say I am healed but not "fixed." There is always something that comes up and triggers things. But it helps me to know that my story has helped others.
There are different ways for us to share our story. Writing is one way.
Hope this helps you.
Blessings, Colleen

Karma said...

I find myself asking those same questions -- especially since I'm on the job market and trying to define what my career will be. We'll always be survivors, but as time goes on, it isn't as central to our identities. But I think that IT DOES MATTER.

Amy said...

i think every time a story is shared it helps...yres we all have to find our own way out, but each time we hear someone has made it out it gives someone else that much more hope...so much of the journey is about having just a little piece of hope...thanks for blessing me with some of yours...

Enola said...

What a thought provoking post. I haven't refered to myself as a survivor in public much. Not sure I'm looking to change that. I have lots of excuses, but really I just don't want to deal with it.

I too thought of writing a book. But I just can't get motivated. Writing on my blog has sort of taken the place of that.

I intend to continue to blog. I think that will link me to survivors and I can continue to help. I feel a sense of duty in helping others along the path, just as so many have helped me.

Lynntaketwo said...

Actually, you don't really sound that confused to me. I wonder what would happen if maybe you could list all the other lables that might apply to you. Sure, since you survived, you are a survivor. But what else are you? There is more than just that.

gypsy-heart said...

I think this was a very wise post! I have watched your healing evolve through your words here.
You know, there are all kinds of survivors..some have survived through many things.

You know one of my survivals, getting out of what I now know is a cult.

When I first "escaped" I went through stages..fear, depression, bitterness, anger, etc. I was passionate about speaking out about it..including speaking before groups. As time passed, my energies started changing. I realized though I was out of it, my energies were still consumed with it. I finally, released those emotions and my energies changed. It was as if I stopped fighting the past. I put down my sword, allowing love and peace to dwell in the places once consumed by all the negative emotions.
Do I still speak up about it..yes, in passing or if someone asks me about it. BUT "it" no longer defines me. After that, all kinds of wonderful and amazing things started unfolding.

I think where you are now is perfectly normal..it is, as it should be. I also think it is a beautiful thing to see...this unfolding of yours!

I hope this makes a little sense.:)

Good energies and peace of heart to you!

jumpinginpuddles said...

you se i see myself as a overcomer because survivor means just that youve survived but it doesnt seem to give wya to a future.

April_optimist said...

Everyone, Thank you for your thoughts! I can't tell you how much they mean to me.

Tamara, I love the image of coming out of the tunnel and having the clear space and finding it a bit overwhelming.

Colleen, I wish you much success with your book--and in all areas of your life. Thank you for your thoughts.

Karma, Good luck with your job search. I think we redefine ourselves many times over a lifetime and that's probably a good thing--for all of us, survivor or not.

Amy, Thank you. That is one reason part of me wants very much to speak out even more than I have before.

Enola, Thank heavens for the internet! It is a wonderful way to connect with people we would otherwise never know. And a chance to share how we cope with the challenges of our lives.

Lynntaketwo, Interesting point. One of the things I realized as I started writing my latest post is that over the past few years I've "rewritten" so to speak my beliefs that surround some of the other major labels in sense of self-identity. Maybe that's why it's now time for me to tackle this one.

Gypsy-Heart, Yes, that's exactly it!

Jumping in Puddles, Yes, survivor doesn't say enough. Which is why I've used thriver since I started this blog. What I'm finding is that there's still a part of me that feels survivor and since I seem to be holding onto that, I think I need to redefine it.

April_optimist said...

Everyone, Thank you for your thoughts! I can't tell you how much they mean to me.

Tamara, I love the image of coming out of the tunnel and having the clear space and finding it a bit overwhelming.

Colleen, I wish you much success with your book--and in all areas of your life. Thank you for your thoughts.

Karma, Good luck with your job search. I think we redefine ourselves many times over a lifetime and that's probably a good thing--for all of us, survivor or not.

Amy, Thank you. That is one reason part of me wants very much to speak out even more than I have before.

Enola, Thank heavens for the internet! It is a wonderful way to connect with people we would otherwise never know. And a chance to share how we cope with the challenges of our lives.

Lynntaketwo, Interesting point. One of the things I realized as I started writing my latest post is that over the past few years I've "rewritten" so to speak my beliefs that surround some of the other major labels in sense of self-identity. Maybe that's why it's now time for me to tackle this one.

Gypsy-Heart, Yes, that's exactly it!

Jumping in Puddles, Yes, survivor doesn't say enough. Which is why I've used thriver since I started this blog. What I'm finding is that there's still a part of me that feels survivor and since I seem to be holding onto that, I think I need to redefine it.