How You Overcome Adversity Is What Defines You

Before I get into this topic, let me first apologize for being absent from this page. Survivors have been front of mind, as always, and in front of me, as always, but in my spare time I have had so little emotional bandwidth that I have to just focus on self-care and happy, nurturing things. Like everyone else in this raw, fraught time, I’m struggling. The struggle means I’m alive and grappling with my present conditions, which I accept as the background to life. I write from a position of relative privilege. I’m safe, I have work, I have resources. And with that privilege, I believe it’s my responsibility to use it to help as many others as I reasonably can. That’s my commitment to the cause, and it always will be. Every day, I think of survivors trapped in homes where domestic violence is occurring, trapped by the measures meant to keep us safe from the pandemic. It truly pains me, and I want to remind everyone that the National Domestic Violence hotline will get you help in your area: 1-800-799-7233.

Coronavirus has taken over our lives. Inequities and injustice have taken over our lives. This time, no one is really spared. As a trauma survivor, I’ve found that my nervous system is particularly vulnerable right now, and like many of you, I’m hypervigilant. But I’ve also done enough work to know that turning the world into a black and white binary shrinks my world until it only fits into the palm of my hand. I’ve learned that judgement demands punishment. When I refuse to judge myself or others (holding yourself or someone else accountable is not judgement, FYI), the world opens up to me. My heart opens up to others. Suddenly, everything feels possible again. I’m trying to judge less and understand more. I’m trying to understand the people I disagree with, or who frighten me. I’m trying to stand tall and not shrink back from confrontation, but face it with equanimity, like the grown-ass woman that I am.

I’ve been asked more times than I care to recall, or told rather, that continuing to talk about my abuse means that my abuse defines me, that I am stuck in a place of victimhood. And truth be told, I’ve asked myself many times over if that were true. I didn’t think so, but I lacked the words or phrasing to express how I view my work and sharing my story, how that is different from identifying as a permanent victim. And I’ve finally found it, stumbled upon it, really. That is: What happens to you, doesn’t define you. What you did to overcome it, does define you. I’m okay with that. I’m more than okay with that. In fact, I’m really proud of myself, and no longer experience the misplaced shame I used to feel in being part of this tribe.

There isn’t a line we cross into healing, a demarcation of, there was our losses and pain, and here is our healing and happiness. It bears out in the commitments and choices we make every day. It shows up in the company we keep. Every day presents the option of hurt vs. healing. Sometimes we aren’t given a choice, and that’s okay. That’s not on us. Sometimes the work we do to heal ourselves doesn’t feel good at all. And that also has to be okay.

Survivors, hang on. I’m holding you in my heart every day.

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