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.