Turning Vulnerability Into a Source of Strength When Sharing My Story as an Abuse Survivor
Recently, I spoke out against the abuse I faced in a previous relationship. The people I had told before publishing this piece reacted with respect and love. I had not faced any backlash regarding my post either. I nervously checked comments every day, bracing myself to see someone comment that it was my fault or I am making a bigger deal out of this than I should be. It never came.
A few weeks after I posted it, I could finally relax and begin to feel confident and comfortable in my work. I pushed through the negative self-talk, self-doubt and irrational fears surrounding my writing to post it. I felt proud and supported by everyone who commented or read it and personally reached out to me. I felt like I was helping people realize they were not alone in their experiences.
I continued to feel like that until last week, when in a heated argument, that very article I had spent weeks crying and stricken with anxiety over was used against me. It was used as an insult as though me coming forward about my experience was something to be ashamed of. It was my biggest fear coming true. I knew it was possible because I had published something so personal to the world, I expected the backlash to come from the person who I was in an abusive relationship with or a random comment. I was not expecting it to happen in this setting, with this person, or used like this.
It took the steady ground out from underneath me and brought me back into the headspace of blaming myself. I found myself thinking what they had said was true, maybe I did deserve it, maybe it was my fault. I stayed in that headspace for about a week. As a highly sensitive person, words stick with me a lot more and are not as easy to brush off. Since this happened, I have moments where I keep repeating those statements to myself, thinking maybe it is true. Because hearing the people who say they love you the most talk about you in ways that cut deepest is a different pain. People using your vulnerable side and most painful experiences as bait to get you upset is the hardest pill to swallow.
Sometimes you will be in a situation when only you are in your corner fighting for you. Sometimes nobody else will be there to stand up for you or support you. Just know being vulnerable is one of the hardest things you can do in life. If that is seen as one of the worst things about you, that it can be used against as if it is a defect, you are doing pretty good. If being vulnerable and opening up about the painful experiences considered taboo is a flaw, then I wish all survivors the ability to harness their inner flaw.
If my coming forward about the abuse I experienced scares you, then you must doubt the kind of woman and survivor I am. If my vulnerability is a flaw, it is the best damn flaw anyone could have. The strength and pain it takes to be vulnerable with yourself and others is a struggle for so many people, including myself. Looking back and having that thrown in my face is laughable. Yes, it hurt and it hurt bad. But for vulnerability to be seen as a negative quality requires so much illogical reasoning, it is not even worth the mental gymnastics.
Even though during this moment, nobody who was present was in my corner, I still have so many people who are on my side. The most important person on my side is me. I know the truth in my story, and I know my vulnerability scares people. I know the strength and courage it took to tell my story to the world for anyone to see. Helping people by talking about taboo subjects is never shameful. I showed the world my darkest secret and made others feel less alone.
If your vulnerability was used against you, please know that even if it feels like nobody is on your side when you feel the strength to tell your story, whatever and however that may be, you always have two people there: yourself and me cheering you on. I hope anyone who uses your braveness and vulnerability against you never has to feel what you went through. Do not doubt yourself and your story for a second. Gaslighting is a very good manipulator, but stand firm in your truth. Lean on the community of survivors around you and try to ignore those who belittle you. Standing from the other side: trust me it is worth it.
Getty image by julief514