PTSD, and Why I'll Never Be Able to 'Get Over It'
Editor’s Note: If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
People have told me I shouldn’t keep talking and writing about my past as a survivor — that by doing so, I keep holding on to it. I’m “playing the victim” too much and I’m not letting it go and moving on. But they see this all wrong. I write and talk about my experiences because I can’t let it go, not when I can still see the impact my past has on my present day life.
I wouldn’t want anything more than to be able to keep the past in the past. I’ve had so many instances in which I thought, “I’ve finally reached the finish line. Now I’ve done this, talked about that, accepted this part of it, I can let it go. Now I can move on.” Sometimes it does feel like that’s the case, but it keeps coming back. It keeps affecting me; how I feel, how I react to things and what choices I make.
This is hard to admit because it’s not what people want to hear. People want stories of victories and strength. People love it when survivors decide to put the past behind them and move on without any problems. What they don’t see as strength is a survivor who keeps “whining” about something that happened years ago. I could decide not to talk about it and this would be much more comfortable for everyone. This way, I would create the illusion of a strong woman who put everything behind her and looks towards the future. I wouldn’t make people uncomfortable anymore and wouldn’t bother them with all those difficult subjects nobody wants to think about anyway.
That my past keeps affecting me is also hard to admit because it’s not something I want for myself. I don’t want to walk around with this sadness and grief, just below the surface, waiting to appear. I don’t want to be depressed time and time again. I don’t want to fear unexpected sounds in the streets, or be afraid someone’s manipulating me. I don’t want to have a negative world view. I don’t want to tense up when I am touched a certain way. I don’t want to be triggered for days, after hearing a rape joke. I don’t want to have to try to suppress feelings of guilt. I don’t want to feel like I lost a part of myself. I don’t want this to be a daily reality for me. If I were able to let it all go, I would.
I’ve decided to stop expecting I will “get over it.” This will only bring disappointment and a negative self-image. It is a part of me and I need to accept that, even when others don’t. This isn’t their healing journey, but mine. Of course I’ll keep moving forward and I’ve already achieved so much. I don’t see myself as a victim. Everybody has had events in their life that changed them. It’s “normal” for the past to still play a part in your present day life. To look at this with honesty — now that’s strength.
If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.
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Thinkstock photo via anyaberkut