So I asked peoples on Twitter what I should write about, and my friend Ben asked me to write a post about how to help survivors heal.
The truth is initially there is absolutely nothing you can do. There is a lot of work that has to get done for us to be able to even begin tearing at the layers of PTSD that comes with being abused.
Initially, the best thing for survivors is to be left the hell alone, and to let them know that when they are ready you are there to help them through the dark times.
Survivors of abuse are a bit like feral cats, we’ve been traumatized, and it’s going to take time for us to trust people again.
The thing you have to understand about abuse is that it changes the way you look at the world. It changes everything about the way you see the world. Suddenly old behaviors that were mildly annoying become so irritating that they trigger drastic responses in us.
I remember once I threatened to call social services on someone, just to end our friendship because it was that fucking toxic of a relationship. I never did make that phone call, thankfully someone else did not long after, and rightfully so.
But releasing myself from that friendship, such as it was, was exhilarating. It was the first time that I had really set a boundary in my life and told someone that the way they treated me, and the other people in their lives wasn’t okay.
The thing is though, unlike feral cats, survivors cannot be tamed after abuse. No matter how much you think that’s what we need, that is never what we need.
We as survivors feel a responsibility to those who are still living in the victim stage. We feel the need, a strong irresistible pull actually, that tells us we have to share our stories so that we can help them avoid similar situations.
Allow us the space that we need to speak to our pain. It’s a vital part of our healing, and it’s a great way to build trust with people. If you genuinely want someone in your life then you’re going to have to accept that some of our parts are not in perfect condition.
Abuse affects every single thing about ourselves, and it changes how we react to things.
Like I said before, things that used to mildly irritate us, suddenly piss us off to no end.
Touching people is a no no, never touch someone without permission, not even if it’s your partner. Ask them if they feel comfortable with your touch, because touch is a huge trigger for some people, for me specifically. It always has been.
I’ve never liked being hugged, kissed or touched, and yet men have always found a way to do all three without my permission for years. Which inevitably triggered a negative response every. Single. Time.
Understand that what happened to us is not our fault. And yes, I can hear you saying “well no of course not,” but some part of you will inevitably wonder if we had done something to invite the abuse. It happens all the time, and not because you mean to, but because we’re trained to believe that humans are not innately evil.
Humans are capable of doing great and wonderful things, but they are also capable of doing great and terrible things. It comes down to choices, some of us choose to abuse.
Those of us at the hand of that abuse then have to choose what we’re going to do about it. Please do not pressure us into calling the Police or going to the hospital during an anxiety attack.
I went to the hospital during a particularly brutal anxiety attack and I honestly think that it was the best choice for me. Not because I was in danger of committing suicide, but because I needed to be in a space where I could be removed from my life for a little while.
Don’t judge us for the way that we ask for help. Going to the hospital, more than once in the last three years was absolutely needed, I needed to be there around Doctors who could give me meditation to help me manage the anxiety and PTSD.
Now that I am here in this place, I am learning how best to deal with my triggers, and I still have bouts of tears and exhaustion, but I work through it now instead of avoiding it. I let myself cry when I need to cry, even when what I really want is for someone to have a little sympathy for me.
I am fully aware that I use my tears to manipulate, even on myself, so call us on our bullshit when it gets to be too much for you. Sometimes we’re not even aware that we’re being manipulative, it’s a side effect of being abused.
The pain feels good, and we want to be taken care of, and I don’t care what anyone says, feeling the pain is a lot better than being fucking numb. At least for me. It lets me know that I am still alive, that I still have some fight in me. That I haven’t really given up, even when I say I give up.
Accept that we are not always so forgiving of our abusers, no matter how much we may want to try. Understand that we will probably lash out, and while we don’t mean to hurt you, we fully will if we have to because our survival is the most important thing to us.
When you become a survivor, you go through this period where the only thing you’re trying to do is get from one day to the next. That can be incredibly draining if you don’t find ways to make your time here matter. It can start to feel like you’ve been imprisoned by your own mind.
So if we need space to create, let us have that space. If we need to have conversations that you are not privy to, understand that it’s because it’s not about you.
I don’t say any of this because I am trying to make anyone feel bad, I am saying it because I was asked what helped me during my recovery process, and these are the things that helped me.
Finally but not really, remember that recovery from anything is a life long process, I will always be a recovering victim, survivor. I will always be the girl who was raped as a child and a teenager and as a young woman, who had to learn how to survive that, before I was able to learn to thrive.
So some days I am going to be a fucking rock star and on other days I am going to be a miserable wailing mess. I can’t control which days are good and which days are bad, I can only hope that the bad days don’t scare you away.
If you want to “be” with a survivor, then recognize that you have a lot of research to do, but the one person you need to check in with the most is your partner.
Some of the things I’ve said here might resonate with them, and none of the things I’ve said here will resonate with them. Each of us is different, the one thing that we have in common is that we are in fact Survivors.
That must be respected at all times, because at the end of the day, being a survivor is precisely who we were meant to be, whether we like it or not.
Sending all my love,
Devon J Hall