Am I So Different?

Am I So Different
One of the most devastating feelings during recovery is the deep sense of isolation and separateness. There are days when I feel like the only person on the planet who has suffered such horrible trauma and pain despite knowing many survivors of abuse and trafficking. There are days when I feel like I don’t belong here, even wondering if I may have landed on the wrong planet at the wrong time. I have caught myself wondering when I get to go home. And home isn’t heaven. It isn’t some perfect family homestead where everyone is loving and kind. It is a nebulous place where I will feel like I belong.

I hear about this same feeling of isolation and separateness from other survivors. And I know where it comes from. It comes from our internal belief systems. We feel so different from the rest of the world. And it is much easier to isolate from the rest of the world to avoid further harm from others. It seems like the safe option. But we weren’t born feeling that way. Our abusers had their strategies. They made sure we felt unworthy of love from others and different from the rest of the world with their not-so-subtle insults. “You deserve this.” “You aren’t as special as other people.” “Nobody will save you because you aren’t worth it.” They kept us away from those who might help by teaching us we weren’t good enough to be with them.

So lately, I have been asking myself some tough questions. I know I am not alone because I interact with survivors on a regular basis. But I have been wondering if I am different from everyone else on the planet. Am I really in this survivor category that separates me from others? Of course, I understand that not everyone has been through sex abuse and trafficking. But are there people in the world who were spared trauma completely? Did anyone make it through childhood without feeling inadequate? Is there anyone alive who doesn’t wonder if they are doing the right thing, living the right life? Is there anyone who doesn’t question their worth?

I often receive emails which start with, “My trauma was nothing like yours” or “I was never abused”. But the email ends by expressing a clear understanding of my internal processing as I explain it on my blog. I often wonder how that can be. Sometimes I wonder if they, like me, are repressing something horrible from their childhood. And maybe they are. Of maybe it doesn’t have to be that horrible.

Maybe something completely innocuous left our little child brains reeling with questions about our worth. Maybe we are predestined to believe that we can’t. Maybe we are supposed to see ourselves as less worthy than others. Maybe insecurity is inevitable.

Maybe our greater purpose is transcending these internal struggles.

And this brings me back to this feeling of separateness. Are we all feeling that nobody can relate to our struggles when in reality, everyone can? Maybe it isn’t that we have such differences, but that we refuse to talk about our struggles with others. Maybe it is the vulnerability which is at the heart of the issue.

In some cases, we might be ready to be vulnerable, but we aren’t sure where the other vulnerable people are. This certainly can be a logistical problem. How do we find the others who want to stop living in that place of loneliness? Are they at dinner parties, clubs or mommy-and-me events? Are they current friends, but we never brought it up?

How do we start the conversation?

“I’m scared. Do you ever feel scared?”

“I feel like such an outcast sometimes. Do you ever feel like you don’t belong?”

Some might not want to have that discussion. Some might want to continue in their loneliness because they don’t want to explore the pain behind the feeling. And that’s ok. But some might have the conversation. Some might say they feel the same. And that inkling of loneliness might dissipate for a little while. We might feel a little more connection. We might feel a little lighter.

And if we’ve experienced trauma, maybe there will be a glimmer of hope that life can get better now, that it won’t always be so painful. Maybe we can find some courage in understanding that we are not alone, not that different at all. Maybe we can feel connected to something or someone, even for a brief moment. And that will keep us going a little longer.

Because after all, it is that connection which brings us back to who we are.

*I usually write my articles in the first person. I do that on purpose because I don’t want to give the impression that my experience is universal. However, this article is written using the pronoun of “we”. That is also on purpose because while our journeys are different, they are also the same.

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10 thoughts on “Am I So Different?

  1. Pingback: Am I So Different? -

  2. Dear Elizabeth,
    Oh My… Your not that different in thinking this! We write you many times from this very feeling of devastation you speak of deep in the pit of our stomach as both an RA and sex abuse trafficking survivor with dissociative identity disorder. We’re scared! Scared to never find peace or “unconditional” love. Scared that everyone who gets to know us in the end dumps us, so we remain isolated. We feel so defective! We find BEAUTIFUL hope in reaching out to others through my art. As you shared, “we’re all connected” in one way or another… I believe it’s through our various pages of pain and circumstance. When we reach out (in my case) online rending the veil to our own loneliness and healing journey as you said people find that were “not all that different” and it helps them find their way.

    Your right in saying we are not born with intense loneliness and separateness! This was raped and beaten into us and we were tricked out to the highest bidder. Our trust became an emblem of shame. “You will see that you’re only good for one thing only” abusers say. I long for a family that doesn’t use me like that. To see other families out in a store both breaks my heart and causes intense joy. I/we see that there is something “different” but the child longing grieves the child I never was and never got to be.
    There are days we come home from working with a team of people I have longed for my whole life and I am empty. The feeling as you mentioned of not being worthy of love or to be helped and for us we have nothing but these Dr’s appointments. The deep longing to need and the conflict and inner duality inside of wanting love but fleeing it for fear of being hurt, because we never mattered, we would be killed for sharing or another thing we never discuss, that everyone wants us for sex.
    You are not alone sadly, and my heart breaks because we share a common bond in this battle over our lives Elizabeth, but your farther than I/we could ever be! Your blog and vision born from pain speak to the humanness in all of us, whether you have been abused or not. It’s the soul of the matter! People identify with loneliness and isolation because we process different traumas both big and small in such similar ways, the same goes for stress. I think you hit the nail on the head, “we transcend internal struggles” and we do so rather than compartmentalize trauma.
    People tell us, “I can’t bother you with that, you’ve been through so much in your life, this is nothing compared to that.” I tell them, “There is no gauge to trauma, we all process it in similar ways and you would be robbing me of the opportunity to share with you.
    Despite our abuses and our sense to hide in isolation that we all as survivors press on and share light through the dark places and hope. When have connection despite all the pain and internal messages, we have and hold on to hope. We hold hands in this journey.

    You are an inspiration always!
    ~K

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  3. I’ve certainly known what it’s like to feel different. Most recently I was in a group that gathers for singing and creative arts and I experienced that ‘alone’ feeling like never before, it was extremely strong and it was all I could do to stop myself from breaking down. I do believe that most people have a degree of trauma, and I do believe from the few people I know that it can often be too painful to open it all up. I also sometimes believe that sexual abuse and/or trafficking makes the nature of the pain extremely complex and unlike anything else.
    I think people can display a huge amount of empathy without having the same past, but I’ve found recently that the more deep healing and release of trauma I do, the lonelier I feel, gradually stronger but lonelier with a greater capacity to feel the pain. I’m trying to trust that this is what happens and the pain will ease. What I find hard is that the more I find the truth of who I am, and the courage to be it, the more separate I feel from some people I know. I suppose this is a healing transition. My spirit guides are coming through so on that level, I am certain of many helping beings. I can feel the beauty more, as well as the pain. This has been some comfort to me.
    Thanks for this brave post, it’s true connection is so important and I’m grateful to be connecting with you.

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    • I am grateful for your connection Jane. I have felt similarly. I wonder if there is a period during recovery where we have separated from the past but have not yet connected to the future. Maybe it is that limbo that creates some of that pain and isolation. I don’t know.

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  4. I think the sense of isolation is in its way a memory. At the moment of the traumatic experience, we are separated from others around us because no one is able to see or help us in our pain. The perpetrators don’t care and the others either don’t see or can’t help. We are removed from the normal human experience of empathy. And so being abused is in itself an intense experience of aloneness and separateness from others. Over time, we create a mental structure that explains this feeling, but I think it is primarily a memory that continues into the present. It is part of what needs to be heard and understood by others in order to feel we have returned to humanity. “I felt so alone at the time. I feel so alone in coping with the aftermath. It hurts and I must deal with in most ways alone. No one can help me. It’s difficult to be this way and it’s lonely.” I think we feel a need to say that, and to have it acknowledged.

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  5. I think for me some of the loneliness comes from knowing others don’t want to hear about the pain of abuse, etc. I feel very aware even in the depths of such pain, that I don’t want to burden others with it. That to share it somehow would contaminate them as I am.

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    • I know it feels like that. Consider the possibility that there are others who can hold the space for your pain without feeling burdened or contaminated. I have found some who can do just that, but it took a while to find them.

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