Let’s Journey Together

Kitty Support

To My Survivor Friends,

We talk often about how our recovery partners, friends and family may not always say the right thing. We know they mean well, but it is difficult for them to understand our painful situation. They may trigger us with what appears to be invalidating or dismissive comments.

“If you just forgive, everything will be better.”

“Maybe you should just forget about the past and move on. It happened a long time ago.”

“Everyone is dealing with pain in their life.”

Even with these setbacks, you keep moving forward in recovery. And I am so proud of you for the work that you do. I personally know how hard it is to do this work every day. The emotional processing is devastating. The physical processing can be debilitating. We are left moving through the world with about half the energy and physical ability of a non-traumatized person, and that is on a good day. I get it. It sucks.

And it is easy to ignore it. We have been taught from a young age that we need to wear our masks. Our masks will protect us from others who won’t understand our reality, or worse, will blame us for it. Our masks will keep us safe from judgment and safe from our abusers who don’t want us to tell the secret. And dissociation helps with that. We can take all that abuse and shove it in a nice little corner of our minds. We can continue to live our lives with the emotional and physical ramifications of our unprocessed abuse, which seem so much easier than facing the other type of pain.

And yet, the mask doesn’t just hurt us. It hurts everyone else. Sure, it hurts the people in your life on a daily basis because you are still acting out your unconscious pain. But more importantly, it hurts other survivors.

If you are a survivor who loves to tell other survivors how you have “left your past behind”, “forgiven and forgotten” or “moved on”, please don’t. And for goodness sake, don’t tell other survivors “the past is in the past”. Don’t get me wrong, I know that living in the past gets us nowhere. But ignoring our past can be worse.
People don’t just flip a switch. It doesn’t work that way. There are too many belief systems that need to shift. There are too many emotions that need processing.

That being said, I know it has happened. Eckhart Tolle had a moment of enlightenment and then spent two years homeless on a park bench integrating it. He did. And I am grateful for his insights.

For the rest of us, there is a journey, a lifelong journey. It is a cyclical experience that can bring us back to our pain over and over again throughout our lives, each time making us a bit stronger than we were. And when you tell other survivors that you have “put the past behind you and moved on”, you are indicating that their pain is not necessary. You are invalidating their need to explore their past and come to an understanding. You are giving them the impression that they are not as good as you are because they can’t find that simple switch to flip. Worst of all, you are encouraging them to put their mask back on and pretend they are not in pain. And nobody ever heals that way. That only delays the healing.

So, if you don’t want to lay your cards down in the game of vulnerability, please keep your comments to yourself. You are not benefitting the recovery movement. You are not taking our society to the next level. You are not breaking the cycle. You are still a part of the problem.

I get that this is harsh. I know that I am triggered by survivors who wear the “completely recovered and enlightened” mask. But survivors can very easily trigger each other because there is a camaraderie between us. We have been to war. In some cases, it feels like we fought together. We have a closeness that is a special bond. And when one invalidates the others, it stings. It stings more than normal. And that’s why I felt the need to write this article. And I hope you will keep it in mind as you interact with your family of survivors.

And if someone vulnerably describes their pain to you, here are some examples of how you can respond:

“I remember feeling just like that … yesterday.”

“I know those emotions. I know them well. When they come around for me, I feel them in the pit of my stomach.”

“I can sense your strength when you tell me about your pain. You are an inspiration.”

“Thank you for trusting me to hold this space for you. I feel honored.”

Because if we can learn to validate each other, we can heal each other.

Love From Your Survivor Sister in Recovery

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22 thoughts on “Let’s Journey Together

    • Dear Warrior Sister,
      Thank you for writing this blog! Your message touched us deeply. As one with multiplicity, so many people, yes even survivors have told us where we need to be in recovery and it rocked us to my core. I think why can’t we have that kind of healing, but you know what? We may not be where we want to be in this life in recovery, but we are ok where we are at I tell them! There is no compass, no handy manual one can whip out and say oh yes, you suffered ritual abuse at the hands of your father, uncle cousin and other men and women as well as being trafficked out to all men…you must do 20 sit-ups, read 5 books and POOF! Recovery is a lifetime and survivors are a lifeline, so it does sting more! ITS LUDICROUS what we have all been through at one point as warriors with those that simply don’t understand and survivors who do understand! They desire you to be automatically healed at all costs which can be a serious set back..They rob of us our processes in healing trying to either mold us to theirs or dismiss your pain with how healed they have become.

      Thank you for bringing this issue to light. We don the masks so that others are comfortable, but what would it be like if we could take them down and safely walk this journey of healing without moving backward? I love your examples of dealing with someone’s pain! It’s as simple as saying, “Can I sit with you and hold your hand as you share?” I can’t count how many times on hands and feet how people have told us, “I just want you to have the healing I did.” What a failure I feel when we don’t! This walk is wrought with pitfalls, heartache and pain beyond belief! Thank you for walking with us in spirit, because we feel less alone in this battle.

      Here’s to journeying with you, your an inspiration! 🙂
      ~K

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      • Thank you so much! I am happy to know you and journey with you. I am sure your recovery is phenomenal. I am always inspired by those with DID because you are overcoming so much. And thank you for that last quote. I will add that to my list of what should never be said. Ugh.

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  1. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately- thank you for writing this. Specifically, I was thinking about how I’m doing well lately and how long it’s taken me to get to a functional state… and I realized that, if I start counting from when I first realized I was being abused, it’s been ten years. And if I start counting from when I went no contact with my abusers, it’s been 5 years. And I’ve only really started feeling consistently okay in the last 6 months. 5-10 years is a LONG time- and my recovery process was relatively “easy.” And I still deal with triggers and nightmares. You really can’t rush recovery- that’s counter to everything recovery is!

    This post reminded me of a poem Stacey Ann Chin wrote about this topic- maybe you’ll like it: https://www.facebook.com/notes/staceyann-chin/f

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    • Thank you. That exactly it. I have been on this journey for more than 7 years with 5 years of memory recovery and I am currently retrieving brand new memories. I have many more coping mechanisms but it is still a difficult process. I cannot get to the link, so it may be a security issue. Feel free to post the poem here with credit given to her.

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      • Oh, I didn’t notice it was broken. Here’s the poem, by Stacey Ann Chin:

        Feelings are not Fatal

        I’m so fucking tired 
        of people telling me to buck-up
        to move on/to stop wallowing in feelings
        about that which has happened already

        fuck you 
        for thinking you can decide/what emotions
        I should have
        for how long/in response 
        to what scenarios
        I have lived through/without your input

        after so many decades of sorrows
        I am mostly aware of when/to cave
        when to fight/when the fuck
        to follow through
        or admit failure

        without denying
        there may lie some insight
        lodged in the corners
        of the sometimes dim light
        you attempt to blaze through my sorrows
        the reality is
        I wish to feel what I feel when I feel it
        committed as I am 
        to sitting inside
        the awkward silence of remembering

        I want to glean all the benefits
        that can be derived
        from the dimwitted actuality 
        of my own human stumbling

        I want fuck and regret
        to collide with an embarrassment 
        and be unable to forget
        to remember each detail
        and ache
        to rake the coals of my own/if onlys
        and what ifs

        I want to ruminate for hours
        remain pensive/for days
        consider the carnal/for as long as it takes
        to come to terms with what the fuck
        I happen to be feeling/right now

        and I still reserve the right
        to change my outlook
        to look at things differently 
        be in complete turnabout/about it
        tomorrow 

        I want to arrive
        at my own conclusion
        without your hands 
        reaching in
        well intentioned
        to try to pull me from my process

        mourning is human
        it is time-consuming
        and I have no desire 
        to spring up from it
        puppet
        responding to your timeline
        my meter is internal
        calibrated to cure the cancers
        inside my own heart

        I want to take as long as I need
        to brood
        to eat foods/in excess
        to regress
        to spend more than I should
        waxing poetic in pathetic rhyme schemes
        to dream 
        of alternatives/to my experiences
        to experience in full
        the tragedy of my hurt
        the intensity of my anger
        the complex coloring 
        of my incongruent ruminations

        even while I am reeling from it
        I know I will eventually land
        broken/pieces/held together 
        elastic bands holding my hair
        my hands
        my hopes returning
        lessons learned/cliche
         
        for now
        I want the freedom
        to lay upon floors
        breathing in
        exhaling
        free/falling
        feeling my way 
        to the other side

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  2. I just want to say that I am one of probably many, many, many people who read and value your writings but never leave a comment. There are surely lots of us who need your validation, understanding, respect and empathy. I thank you so much for all of this. Your words are never in vain. And because of the content of your post today, I finally felt the need to respond.

    Today I cried to my therapist, lamenting how I am forty years old, have had fifteen years of intense therapy and still feel stuck — all of my childhood dreams having been buried under this mountain of pain, anguish, unanswered questions, intense fear and others’ denial. My progress is agonizingly slow.

    But then I returned home to find your email and immediately read the post and cried again, this time because I felt validated. Maybe it’s okay that my progress is slow. I do sometimes wish I could flip a switch and instantly feel worthy and let go of the past, but since it’s clear that I can’t, I will accept that it’s going to take as long as it takes. And I won’t give up.

    Thank you for your honesty and openness. It means a tremendous amount to me.

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    • Wow! This is such an incredibly kind and validating comment. I just want you to know I know how much it stinks. And it probably seems slower than it is. I believe that on some level, those of us who choose recovery are flying at warp speed. It only feels slow to us. And I am so proud of you, just as I am proud of all survivors who keep going despite the pain.

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  3. Thank you so much for this… I needed to hear it and be reminded of it. We abandon each other and ourselves far too much on this journey and it is the most harmful thing. I am honored to journey with you and so glad I found your blog.

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  4. Thanks Elisabeth and all of you. I find so much courage and hope in your words. Mostly, I feel like I am not alone – That there are other people doing this incredibly challenging and painful yet ultimately healing work. It can be a lonely road!
    Very grateful for each of you and all that have gone before.

    Like

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