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I Survived Childhood Trauma, but I Don’t Feel Like a Survivor

One of my favorite characters in childhood literature was Amelia Bedelia, the bumbling maid who made lots of mistakes but always managed to come out on the right side of them. I loved Pippi Longstocking, who lived an adventurous life in spite of having no parents. Jo from “Little Women” and Laura Ingalls from the “Little House” books were my heroes. I admired all those spirited girls.

As an adult, I love to read books about real people and their enduring human spirit: people who defy the odds to live a life of fullness and promise. I recently read about a holocaust survivor and marveled at her resiliency in spite of facing evil imprisonment and torture. Last week, on a plane ride, I watched a story of a survivor of slavery and how he overcame unimaginable cruelty and unevenly stacked odds to become a free man. I love survivors.

A trauma therapist told me once: “Jill, I don’t know what primordial pool your ancestors crawled out from, but you were made to survive.”

I was taken back by the comment, not feeling much like a survivor.

I didn’t always want to survive. I wanted to live the perfect life that I perceived other people had. I considered my friends and their wonderful families and felt like I was getting the ass end of the deal, living in an abusive and controlling household. I longed for a life not lived in fear and drama. I was suicidal as a teenager because I couldn’t imagine a way out of the life I was living.

At many stages of my life, I have wondered why I had to bear the brunt of others’ cruelty. As an adult, I have had many days when I simply didn’t want to live or walk the roads laid out before me. I have wanted to be “normal,” for life to be simple and for the pain to stop.

But the fact is, life offers all of us circumstances that challenge our spirit and resiliency. There is no x-factor in survival. It is a personal journey for which I have few answers and many questions. Our challenges come in varying degrees of difficulty that we cannot compare those to one another. What causes one person to survive feels like a roll of the dice, a luck of the draw. All I know is the singular factor that has given me strength and courage is my faith. All that I am is upheld by that. Often, people ask me how I could still have faith when so many people have let me down. Faith in something bigger than myself gives me purpose and this fills me with the understanding that I exist for more than myself.

This is my road; my journey and faith is what has kept me alive until now.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash