Thursday, November 23, 2006

full of thanks

Boy, is it raining here in Seattle! The rain is pounding against my windows.

I have survived another Thanksgiving. I had fun, actually. A friend from my Survivors of Suicide group invited me to Thanksgiving with her and her husband and some friends. The food was excellent, and the conversation was even better. It was a relief to be around people and still be able to acknowledge that the holidays are difficult because of Jeff's suicide and my family history.

I have been thinking about how I have changed or been affected by experiencing suicide and abuse. That is one of the questions for my first writing exercise in The Courage to Heal. This is an extremely challenging question for me, one that is hard for me to write about because of the implications I see. That is, when I ask myself how the abuse has affected me, I question whether I can ever be the person I should be, if the abuse has irreparably damaged me and twisted my personality and outlook on life in a negative way.

I see my core personality as fun loving, social, enthusiastic, inquisitive, thoughtful, and open-minded. Some of the qualities I have learned or strengthened in response to my experiences, such as compassion, self-sufficiency, and faith in myself, support my core personality. Other emotions feel threatening to the way I want to live my life, such as resentment, bitterness, and distrust. It is especially hard to see myself as open-minded when I am distrustful of other people. I want to believe the best about other people, but find myself suspecting the worst.

I have realized in the last year that denying my emotions doesn't make them go away, so telling myself I am not bitter doesn't mean I don't feel bitter. I just don't want to be a bitter person, because that doesn't seem like me. In some sense I don't want to see myself as a survivor because I don't want to give up my identity to the people who abused me and the painful things that happened to me. I worry that personality is passive, reactionary, while the personality I define myself with is actively engaged with life.

It just started snowing. (I am sitting in front of my living room window while I work on my laptop.)
One of the things I have realized lately is that I have been in survival mode pretty much my whole life, which means I have been focused on trying to survive other people and survive my life (reactionary) instead of focusing on living my life and experiencing my relationships with other people (rather than trying to protect myself from the potential threats they represented to me). I probably won't be able to get out of that mindset until I deal with all the feelings I have about the abuse. I need to face that fear that my experiences have changed me, but that doesn't make me a passive victim (I hope).

I need to get out of this defensive mode, and accept who I am, changes and bitterness and all. I can apply what I learned about grief- you can fight it all you want but then you are stuck it one place, or you can let yourself move through it and experience how you are feeling, and come out the other side. It changes you, but there's not much use fighting it because it happened, whether you like it or not. That acceptance is really the sticking point. It all happened, and there's nothing I can do to change that. I can't really change how I feel about it either. I can choose to accept it, and accept myself for who I am now, and see where that takes me.


quacks like a duck said...

I know this post is 2 years old... I just found your blog and have been reading your archives.
This post really struck a chord with me.
I have a knee-jerk negative reaction to identifying myself as either a "victim" or a "survivor"... neither title seems like the right fit to me...
I've been fighting myself and consequently the whole healing process for a long, long time.
I'm tired... so very, very tired.
Hopefully I am ready to give in to the process and ready to move forward rather than stay stuck.

Tealrat said...

I know what you mean. Personally, I was very resistant because I was angry I even needed to deal with this crap, and I just wanted to move on and forget it never happened. But it did, and I'm not hurting anyone but myself by not dealing with it. Certainly not the abusers, who could care less how I am feeling. Jerks. :) Good luck to you. Hope you find a process that works for you.