The work of surviving sexual abuse

I am surviving sexual abuse. And when I say “survive”, I don’t mean this triumphant fists-in-the-air, kiss-the-ground thing with Chariots of Fire playing in the background.

Surviving sexual abuse is doing the work.

It is slogging through the mud of your everyday anxieties and fighting through the deluge of thoughts that threaten to drag you down to the bottom of the river.

This work includes seeking out people you know will support you, and love you just as you are. Ironically, you end up resisting these people, because you feel you don’t deserve them. It’s a negative mantra that is often repeated:

I don’t ever deserve anything good.

It is a mantra that takes work to eradicate from your lexicon.

* * *

Surviving sexual abuse means constantly curating the people you allow to walk into the darkest, most vulnerable side of you. Individuals you let in will be dichotomously placed in two categories: those who have also experienced sexual abuse, and those who haven’t.

Those who have, you immediately feel a kinship with; a sisterhood formed in the crucible of heartbreak, self-doubt, and isolation. It is with these individuals that you share the traumas, the flashbacks, and other tiny pinpricks that become almost routine, when you are a survivor of sexual abuse. With them, you share little wisdoms derived from self-help books, song lyrics, articles, and all other sources of aid. With them, you learn more about what it is to be human. With them, you experience their beauty, like  a road trip… and feel their pain as your own.

Those who haven’t, you are moving constantly between caution, hesitancy, and even suspicion. With every misstep and communication breakdown, you lose trust in them little by little. You become saddened with the distance you have to traverse in order to reach them. And yet, sometimes you see a hopeful little light at the end of the tunnel, and try to give them second, third, umpteenth chances. With these individuals, you always stand the risk of getting hurt, taken advantage of, and/or manipulated. All you can hope for is that you have curated them carefully enough, and that you have judged well.

* * *

Healing is done at your own pace, no matter how much or how quickly these well-intentioned people in category two want you to recover.

I will take the liberty of giving out advice voluntarily, which I rarely do, because I hate telling people what think they should do. But I feel strongly about this when I say:

Telling a sexual abuse survivor to get better is like pushing a glacier faster down a hill — I know you want it to happen faster, but what you’re doing ain’t. gonna. do. nothin’. You will only drive them away the more you tell them to get better. The best things you can do are listen and reflect.

* * *

Healing is a patient force, but asks — quite unapologetically sometimes — that others around you be patient as well. It asks you to forever be mindful of your heart and mind, and to self-care liberally. If it asks you to take a walk, you better put on some comfy shoes. If it asks you to wake up at 3am and write, whip out that pen. If it asks you to cut off a person from your life, cry those tears and pull out those scissors.

Healing is demanding, with good reason. It cannot be hurried or arm-twisted out of you or counterfeited. When held up to the light, it has to show that you have done the work, in and around yourself.

If you’re wondering why I say I am surviving sexual abuse, like it’s present tense, that is the truth. It is ongoing and it is here to stay.


Daily Post prompt: Heal

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Refuge

She unlocked the door, peeled off her layers, and removed her bra. It’s 6:30, and the might of the day has placed itself on the other side of those hinges. She wasn’t a champion of anything anymore, no — in that space of stucco and stains, she was just herself, reclaiming herself. On her naked floor, she walked around unclothed. The only face she saw was her own in the mirror, pensive and undemanding of her time and energy. In fact, nothing in this world was demanding anything of her right now. Even her newly treated apartment windows dappled the hazy evening light, as if the very building itself understood — she needed things diluted at this very moment.

Bare-bodied, skin left raw to the air, just free to close her eyes, close her thighs, close her mind, she slips on her gratitude. Thank you, she thinks. Thank you for surviving this day.


Daily Post prompt: Champion

Comedy of errors: Google searches at work

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I work on a tech support team of sorts.

One day recently, I was “doing research” for a gal up in Finance who accidentally deleted a file, and acting out on my Google search reflex, I started typing into the search bar “accidentally…”

And lo and behold, treasures appeared! All my “research” efforts I have conducted for other people… and myself. Mostly myself. Below are some gems.

Note: Please excuse the brevity, spelling, and punctuation errors. Sent from my moments of panic. […]

Netflix, work, and boring cooking: How I stay sane

To stay refreshed and come back here night after night …

I Netflix when I can. I’m just going to take the liberty of making that into a verb, because it’s quicker to say that than “I watch Netflix for a ridiculous amount of time.”

I also work. Weird, I do feel refreshed after particularly well-rounded and productive days. A well-rounded and productive day for me is when I’ve done actual desk work, talked with some folks, helped some people out, and crossed things off my list. Luckily, being on a technology team, many of my days are like this.

I do yoga and volleyball sometimes, too. That release of endorphins is refreshing and satisfying – sort of like a Coke, but healthier!

I cook – but not like, crazy, improvised, Ratatouille-rat-on-drugs-style cooking where compatible ingredients just make their way from my head to the stove.

This is not how I cook. Although it would be extremely cool if I did.

No, I am indeed not blessed creatively like that. I follow actual recipe books, quaintly chop up my vegetables, and group them in nice, little bowls. Boring cooking, that’s my style.

I’ll go right ahead and actually answer the alternative questions, too! If I could step into a time machine that gave me more time, how would I structure my day? What would I write with this extra time?

If the U.S. suddenly decided to structure their workforce like Sweden and work only 6 hours a day, I would love that. I would love that so hard, go home at 2pm, do yoga in the afternoon, practice on my guitar, and write song lyrics. I would have the bandwidth in my brain needed to create songs of sentiment and tangibility. Actual full-bodied songs. It would be like this blog! Except with a melody!

What about you? If you had a few more hours of time, what would you write more about? I’d love to know!


DAY 9 ASSIGNMENT: Writing and Not Writing

What do you do when you’re not writing? How do you reset and return to this dashboard, refreshed? What do you need in your day-to-day life to maintain balance: Running? Yoga? Gardening? Painting? Cooking?

If you’re not a full-time writer, or if your day is so full of other tasks that you have little time to write, consider these alternative questions: if you could step into a machine that gave you more time, how would you structure your day? What would you write with this extra time?