This post is dedicated to my Budsistas, my friends Jen, Anya, and Wendy, and to all the people who have allowed me to be a mess the last four years as I figure out where I am on my healing journey.
Yesterday I got into a conversation about “what about me ism”, and I confessed that to a certain extent I have been living with that mentality for a very long time. I’ve allowed this kind of thought process to be a hindrance to my ability to bond to those in the Indigenous community, and after a very open and honest discussion with my sista’s, I realized that for far too long I’ve been living in survival mode.
I’ve been stuck in survival mode for so damned long, that I’ve been sitting here thinking “what about me?” instead of paying attention to the very genuine struggle of other human beings, and I didn’t used to be that way.
In my formative years I survived a lot of sexual abuse, without ever having a single adult tell me that what happened to me wasn’t my fault. I will never forget the day that my mom’s long long ago former boyfriend made a joke about all “the sex you’re having,” he was talking about me…I was seven years old and being raped by a neighbor boy. It wasn’t sex, it was rape, but no one called it that back then.
For a lot of years I dealt with what happened to me alone, and then in a very real way my brain closed me off from those memories to protect me, and I emotionally shut down from what happened, what was happening.
In my 20s I spent almost every day of my life helping other people get access to the services that they needed to get their lives back, whether it was a nurse or into recovery programs, again without dealing with my own stuff, because no one had ever taught me how.
In the last four years I have had time to focus on myself, and just myself. This is the first time in my life I’ve had time to really recognize that I genuinely need help healing, and in that process I’ve learned that I’ve been stuck.
Survival mode is a really scary place to be, because you’re so busy trying to survive you aren’t thinking about the effect that you have on other people, you’re not thinking about other people’s trauma or what their issues might be, you’re just trying to make it from one day to the next.
When I came out and told the world what happened to me, I made a video and I detailed some of the things that were done to me and I named names, and since that day I have been absolutely terrified that my rapists were going to kick down my door, and rape and kill me…in that order. This is a very real fear that I’ve been living with for four years, and it’s been nothing short of exhausting.
I am afraid all the time. I am afraid to leave my house, I am afraid to go out to take the garbage, I am afraid to take a walk, I am afraid to go the store, and every time I come back to my front door I take a moment to pause and to pray that no one is waiting for me on the other side except my mom.
This is a really stressful way to exist in the world, being afraid all the time, and I didn’t realize how much of that I was carrying with me on my shoulders. I knew it, but I wasn’t able to fully acknowledge it, and not being able to acknowledge these fears out loud, means that I’ve been looking at others and pointing at them while saying “you don’t have it as bad as I do.”
Which is a really terrible way to exist in this world. About a year ago I had a fight with a friend I’d come to trust over Twitter, and she said to me “how dare you say that your trauma is worse than mine…” and while that hadn’t been my intention, I realize now that this is exactly what I was doing.
I ended that friendship because in the midst of trying to explain that for me my trauma is debilitating, I had inadvertently done that, and I wasn’t prepared for the visceral reaction that I’d received. I hadnt meant to say that my trauma was “worse”, but when you’re in the middle of the storm without an anchor, you don’t often recognize how your behavior is affecting others.
It’s not that I think or did think that I am or was perfect, it’s that in my 20s I focused on everything but myself, and in my 30s I’ve been focusing on only myself….I haven’t had that sense of balance that you’re supposed to be able to find when you are healing.
A good portion of these realizations come from the fact that for the most part I’ve been doing a lot of this internal work alone. I have a psychiatrist, but I don’t have a therapist, I have a psych nurse, but I don’t have a counselor. I try to talk to my mom about what I am going through, but for her own reasons, she tends to shut down and just hope that my issues will majickally go away.
I thank God every single day for my BudSista’s, because not only are they willing to listen to me, but they are also willing to educate me and show me other sides of the issues that I am dealing with, in a way that reminds me that I still have a lot to learn about who I am and who I want to be.
They don’t shame me for making mistakes, or stumbling, instead they give me a gentle hand and ask me to think about things from a different perspective, and I have in my entire life never had that kind of support before. Last night during our meeting I cried a lot because yesterday was incredibly emotionally difficult. I screamed a lot yesterday, and I ugly cried, I have been holding onto a lot of anger and bitterness.
Justified as my emotions might be, I realize now that I’ve gotten into that recovery thinking where I was starting to think that it had to be all about me.
From the beginning of this website I’ve said that I wasn’t doing this to help other people, I was and am doing this to help myself, but here’s the rub. I used to be the kind of person who liked to help other people, and in this process of isolation I’ve lost that part of myself.
Yesterday I deliberately checked in with my friends Jen, Wendy, and my BudSista’s because I needed their support. I needed Jen to help distract me from my own emotions, I needed Wendy to commiserate with, I needed my Budsista’s to give me a reality check, and that’s the first time that I have ever deliberately reached out to my friends to say “I need help today.”
I don’t say those words often, because I am afraid. I am so used to shouldering all of this stuff alone, I am so used to not being honest with how I am feeling, and with hiding the realities of the pain that I am holding onto, and yesterday I realized that I don’t have to do that anymore….and I am afraid.
I couldn’t help but reach out to my budsista’s yesterday, almost as soon as the meeting started I started to cry, I have been living with survivors guilt for so long and yesterday it all came to a head, and thankfully they were there to cushion the blow. In the past I have used cannabis to cushion, to ignore what I am feeling, but yesterday it was actual human beings who stepped up to support me. That’s so new for me, and when I was talking to Wendy she asked a question that threw me on my head.
“Who am I going to be when I get through this stage of healing?” I look back to the girl in my 20s who never asked for help, who shouldered the pain of abuse and trauma without saying a word and I see a strength in that that I don’t feel I have currently and part of me wants to get back to that…but after talking with my friends and sistas yesterday, there is another part of me that realizes that I don’t want to go back to being alone again.
I don’t want to have to shoulder all this trauma by myself. I am going to make an active effort to find a support group, where I can talk honestly and openly about what I am going through, with other women who are survivors of the kind of trauma that I have been through. I love my budsistas, but I cannot and I will not expect them to be the sole system of support that I have in my life. It’s not fair to expect that of them, and if I am ever going to heal then I need to get seriously honest about the fact that I need to really, honestly, talk about what I’ve been through.
To all the Budsistas who showed up last night, who educated me, who supported me, who let me cry, I thank you. I love you…God sent you to me, and you accepted me into your world. I don’t have enough gratitude.
Sending all my love,
Devon J Hall