Surviving and Thriving

There exists in American society (and possibly others, I don't know) a common disdain for the recovery movement. People who have been taught to be self-reliant, depending on no one, for generations, seem to have a difficult time understanding why survivors need to talk about and deal with the horrors they've faced. In a society which values the ability to "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" (an act which is impossible, by the way), neediness and emotional pain are not looked upon with much sympathy. Many people simply can't understand how come survivors can't "just get over it", or "snap out of it", or "get on with it". Consequently, a general perception is that survivors -- especially the ones most vocal about dealing with their issues -- are just whiners; and that recovery groups and therapy just encourage survivors to dwell on their problems instead of truly dealing with them.

On behalf of all survivors, let me just say this: if we could "just get over it", we would. If we could snap our fingers and instantly make ourselves whole and healthy once again, we would do it. If we could wake up one morning, and find ourselves completely healed of our abuse, and completely free of the harmful effects the abuse had wrought on our lives, we'd do it. If there was a magic pill to take, or a certain food we could eat, or a spell we could cast, or a prayer we could say which would make it all go away instantly, I can't imagine any survivor who wouldn't at least try it once. The fact is, it's too exhausting to live with the consequences of being abused. Depression, eating disorders, violence, generational abuse, panic attacks, and so on are all potential results of being abused; and why would anyone want to be plagued by such things? Furthermore, the toll abuse takes in terms of survivors' self-esteem is incredibly debilitating. Oftentimes, even survivors who are relatively together are haunted by the nagging belief that they aren't worthwhile human beings. And the supreme irony of it all is that, by and large, the abusers and perpetrators themselves never take responsibility for cleaning up the mess they've left behind in their victims' lives. It is the abusers who rip their victims apart, but the victims who must put themselves back together.

Not only are victims shouldered with the responsibility to deal with the crimes of their abusers, but they must do so in the face of an unsympathetic culture. Miraculously, great strides have been made in the recovery movement, despite general ridicule, and despite the appearance of a vicious backlash (as represented by such organizations as the False Memory Syndrome Foundation). It doesn't seem to me that it's the survivors who don't want to "just get over" their issues -- I think it's the rest of America that doesn't want to deal with it.

People need to wise up and understand that survivors aren't wimpy, cowardly folks who just want to dwell on their problems. On the contrary, survivors have more courage than most people. No one faces memories of abuse without an almost superhuman courage; and no one survives such abuse in the first place without divine strength. Yes, it is possible to get overwhelmed with recovery; and yes, it is possible to get stuck on something. It is equally possible to survive and thrive. It's just not easy. It takes a long time, and a lot of work.

And thrive we do. Sometimes consistently, sometimes in fits and starts, survivors learn how to live, instead of just survive. I've asked survivors what they do to thrive. Here is a list (quoted where necessary). More will be added to this list over time.

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