I admire the survivors who are peaceful, not at odds with themselves or the world. I admire the survivors who can forgive the person or people who hurt them. I admire the survivors who can put their lives back together so gracefully that you’d never know they’d been hurt at all.
But I don’t want to be that kind of survivor.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely want to move beyond the trauma symptoms that get in the way of living the life I want. I could do without the hypervigilance, the panic, the fear of people, the difficulties with trust and relationships, the flashbacks and intrusive memories, the urges to destroy myself, the guilt, and the shame. I don’t want to hang onto those parts of the experience of being a survivor.
But I don’t want my survival to be invisible and quiet. I want people to know I survived abuse, and I don’t want to feel ashamed or embarrassed about it. Most of all, I don’t want to lose my anger.
This is how old I was when the abuse started. I couldn’t be angry then, for my own survival, and for 16 years after that, I couldn’t be angry. I couldn’t feel anything except depression I didn’t know how to explain: aside from my parents’ divorce, my life was pretty good, so what right did I have to be sad? To keep myself from knowing why I was sad, I self-destructed–started starving myself, cutting, binging and purging. I got very good at not knowing my own mind.
I look at pictures of me as a child now, knowing what I know, and I’m filled with anger. I want people to know what was done to that child. I want them to be forced to confront it because so many ignored the signs that child was being abused. I want them to know how it tore that little girl up so much that she started tearing herself up. I want to make them see what they wouldn’t see then.
And I want to be able to confront the man who did this. I want him to have to face me with no excuses or denials. I want to make him admit to what he did. I want everyone to know that he’s a perverted psychopath who tortured his own children for 16 years and still put on his badge and gun every morning. I want all of this because maybe it will spare some other child.
I’ve read a lot of things that say you should forgive the people who hurt you and let go of the anger. Maybe that works for some people, and I’m certainly not going to go around telling them they’re wrong. But that doesn’t work for me. I need to feel because that was taken away from me. I need the anger because it’s what keeps me going; it’s what keeps me from giving in and believing that it’s useless to try to stop abuse. No, I can’t undo what was done to me, but other kids can be saved before it happens to them, or someone can stop what’s happening to them and take care of them.
So I’ll hold onto my anger if you don’t mind.