How resiliency screwed me over

She’s a strong girl. She’s got this under control.

No, no I don’t.

Please stop calling me strong. Please stop saying I’m resilient.

You know what resiliency got me? Nearly 30 years of abuse. Why? Because even though I lived in hell, I managed to appear quite normal on the outside. I got excellent grades. I stayed out of trouble. What did that get me? It got me a longer sentence in hell.

Maybe I could have been saved a lot sooner had I done so poorly, had I acted out in school. Those are the types of kids that get the attention. No one worries about the bright girl excelling in her classes. They just assume she’s got it all together; they assume her parents are teaching her well. The only thing my parents taught me was how to hurt.

No one noticed that I never wanted to go home. No one questioned why I would wander the halls after school was over, looking for something, anything to do so I wouldn’t have to go home. No one questioned why I was constantly wetting my pants, why I was always so on edge. No one questioned anything. They only saw my academic skill set and put blinders on for all the rest.

She’s going to be something some day.

Yea. I’m going to be dead. I wanted to be dead. Why didn’t anyone hear me? I couldn’t speak, but I tried so hard to tell them. And no one heard me. All they saw was a bright girl with a bright future. All I saw was a life of intolerable pain that I wanted to end ever since I was a child.

Resilient children don’t want to die. Resilient children don’t try to kill themselves. I was a hopeless child, going through the motions and waiting for the day she would kill me or I would kill myself. That’s not resilience. That’s not strength.

I was a broken child, who grew into a broken teenager, and then into a shattered adult. I have not survived my childhood. I’m still reliving it.

 

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Change the world

It’s been emotional these last few days.

I think the reality of everything has finally started to sink in.

I realized that I have people here that really care about me. My team at work congratulated me when they found out the news of my grad school acceptance. My work buddy kept saying how proud of me he was and I had to tell him to shut up before I started crying. Fortunately, he doesn’t take my (at times) harsh responses personally.

My roommate took me out to dinner last night to celebrate. I tried some new foods and stepped out of my comfort zone a little. She started to say all these good things about me and I tried to get her to shut up. I need to work on accepting compliments more. I’m improving in some ways because I’m no longer countering every compliment with an excuse as to why it’s wrong, but I’m still uncomfortable receiving positive feedback in general.

I had my usual Thursday therapy session today. When I arrived, I set my bag down and the other therapist came out to see me. She asked if she could talk to me for a few minutes. I was scared and anxious but I followed her into her office and sat down. My therapist came in and sat down on a chair next to me, and the other therapist on the opposite side of me.

She reached for something on her desk and handed it to me. It was a bag filled with makeup. While that may seem random, I was stressing out last week because I realized that I didn’t own any makeup to wear for the interview (the few products I had were ruined months ago when a bottle of acetone leaked). Now I might actually wear makeup once in awhile.

Then she handed me a book: What Do You Do With an Idea. It’s a book that I read once before after a particularly difficult therapy session months ago. She told me that her and my therapist had written some things on the back page. I turned the book around and opened up to the last page to see what was written. One message stood out to me the most:

“With your brave and tender heart and your exceptional mind, I know that you will change the world. I believe in you.”

I’m going to change the world? This was written by the very woman who played such a huge role in changing my world, and in changing the lives of so many survivors. For her to think so highly of my ability to do anything is mind-blowing to me.

I started to cry. They both told me how proud of me they were, how amazed they were at how far I’ve come in the five months I’ve been away. I was trying to take it all in, but I was also so focused on trying to stop crying. I can’t even identify all of how I felt in that moment. I felt safe, appreciated, and cared for. I felt like I was really at home (and not in a physical building sense). We had a group hug, and at that moment, I knew everything was going to be okay.

I don’t think I can change the world. I wish I could. All I can do is try my best to effect change in others, and hopefully somewhere down the line the world will change for the better.

Resilience

Some would say it’s a contradiction for someone with PTSD to refer to themselves as resilient, since PTSD itself contradicts healthy adaptation to stress.  But you know what, I am resilient.  I don’t care who agrees or disagrees with me.  It doesn’t matter.  I’ve made up my mind.

With less than a day of being released from the hospital, I started my job.  I called them as soon as a got out of the hospital to find out if I even still had a job.  Luckily my roommate called them while I was in the hospital so they were somewhat aware (though they do not know the circumstances).  I woke up at 4:45 in the morning so I would be able to shower and get ready in time to make it to the 6:00 bus.  I was tired and in pain, but I managed.  There were a couple of times when I just had to go to the bathroom to decompress for a few minutes.  I also lost myself for I don’t know how long.  When I came back to reality, it took me a few seconds to even realize where I was and what I was doing.  I don’t think anyone noticed, thankfully.  It’s not something I wanted to happen on the first day, though.  I’m so scared of someone not understanding what’s going on.  Why can’t I just be normal and not dissociate and not have flashbacks and not have breakdowns?

Regardless of all that, you know what?  I still went to work.  I functioned like a normal human being.  I would bet my savings that a good portion of the other patients that were discharged either went right back to drugs or right back to another hospital (most of them admitted that they would).  I’m not about that life.  I want to function.  I’m fighting my hardest to be normal despite all this bullshit I have to deal with.  How is that not being resilient?

Even in childhood, I managed to adapt quite well despite everything that was going on.  I received excellent grades.  I rarely got into trouble (except the rare instances when I was tremendously bored out of my mind).  I wasn’t a complete social outcast, though I was definitely socially inept.  Perhaps being resilient hurt me in a way, because no one suspects anything bad is going on when a child is acting relatively normal.  Maybe if I did act out, someone would have noticed something was wrong.  Resiliency seems to have been a double-edged sword for me.  While it got me through to adulthood alive, it also quite possibly prolonged the abuse and trauma I experienced for so long.  But I can’t do anything about that now.

I know a lot of people think I am weak for not being able to handle myself all of the time.  My strengths far outweigh my moments of weakness.  Maybe that is my fault for not talking as much about my strengths as I do about my faults.  I believe people can learn more from me if I talk about the things that so many others don’t want to talk about.  No matter what people say, no matter what people think…I am strong.  I am resilient.  I am me.