**Warning: This blog post contains triggers regarding self-harm and abuse. If you are sensitive to these topics, please be aware.
The railroad tracks are starting to fade, not as angry looking, no pain, just the ugly red lines that remind me of the blood and the violent clash of emotions. I see them differently today, I do not see the usual rage and anger. Nor do I see the sadness that I normally see. Today I see the raw reminder of punishment and pain mingling with a desperate desire to cut out the dark places.
I am a cutter. The first time I cut I was about nine years old, when I was twelve it became a more regular habit. I do not share this proudly, there is nothing to be proud of when you have self inflected wounds that scream out on your body.
I have been asked recently what makes me cut, my answer has always been – relief and release. This morning when I woke up I saw things differently, maybe it was because I fell out of bed (yes, yes, laugh, get it out of your system, I fell out of bed at 4am). Punishment. When I see the cuts on my arm there is a sense of satisfaction, it is like the Scarlett A – it reminds me that I am guilty. I deserve the slashes.
As I lay in bed this morning after I woke up I was aware of an internal shift. For months I have been told “It was not your fault”. “You were a little person. It was not your fault; you must have been so confused.” I heard the words, sometimes they would sink in but they never took root until this morning. When I woke up I heard my mind whispering, “It is not your responsibility. Take ownership of self and let go of the rest.” Those words coming from my own internal critic were astounding and amazing.
Victims, survivors, of all kinds of abuse have a tendency to take on the shame, guilt, responsibility and blame that solely belongs to the abuser. Many of us walk around carrying a heavy bag of ‘stones’ so labeled. Unfortunately, those labels do not just stay stained on the rocks they also stain our spirit, our soul, our psyche and sometimes even our physical bodies.
I am one of the lucky ones, I was fortunate enough to be paired up with what for me has been the perfect therapist. The last thing I needed was more judgement and he made certain that judgement was not a part of our therapy relationship. Instead I found kindness, gentleness, humour and a tonne of wisdom. I also found in him someone who could cut through the distrust and the crap and see the person not the behaviour.
I have been working hard for two years now to tame my overwhelming emotions, release the inappropriate guilt. Shame and sense of responsibility. For me what triggered this journey was a battle with breast cancer. When I found the lump my first thought was “What did I do?” Right away I assumed I deserved it. Right away I attributed it to the fact that I was sexually abused and raped. Faulty belief system, just as deadly as the cancer.
One by one I have been taking the stones out of my bag, holding them, touching them, observing them and being with them until I am able to discard them. Shame, sadness, grief, guilt, anger, one by one lightening the load. The one stone I have been grasping tightly and unable to let go of up to this point is the sense of responsibility. The little girl in me wants to keep the peace and make everyone happy. She cannot stand the thought of disappointing, hurting or angering those in her life. Somehow she has not been able to let go of the sense of personal responsibility to those in her world. Protect, defend, shield even if it means hurting and denying herself.
Going through the process of reporting historical abuse is traumatizing because you relive it every time you tell the story and when you have not healed that is brutal. Coming out of the shadows with it opens up new wounds because it rattles the people you love and opens wounds for them and suddenly that responsibility stone is so much heavier and hard to bear.
This morning I felt that stone, I took a deep breath and exhaled that responsibility. It is not my responsibility to shoulder the blame. It is not about preserving the emotions, perceptions and image of others. It is about healing, justice, validating my own emotions and finally being able to let go of the bag of stones I have been carrying. It is about letting the little girl and the teenager heal and integrate with the woman I am now becoming. A strong, courageous, creative and unflappable woman.
It is about continuing my journey. When I was going through chemotherapy one of the Internists encouraged me to use the medications available to me for the pain from treatment. I was hesitant because I knew they were strong, powerful and I have struggled with addiction and self medicating. He very wisely explained to me that we needed to “tear up the tracks” by using the tools that were available to me so that I did not get run over by the pain.
In the same manner, I am tearing up the tracks with the tools in front of me: therapy, EMDR, equine therapy, self-care, medication, faith, the CICB, and my own inner strength and determination. It is not easy. It is not pain free but it is also not impossible.
Others will need to deal with their own part and responsibility, I am no longer going to do it for them. It is their responsibility not mine. Just like I am responsible for my own words, actions, inaction in my own life. I know how to change and what needs to change now and for that I am responsible and I am working hard. I have my toolbox full of tools and skills and I am using them and learning to adapt and cope.
My intention in this journey has been to heal and find some sort of justice and closure so that I can move forward and be who I am with dignity and pride. I have been a prisoner and freedom has been my dream. And what I have learned through this journey is that for me justice is becoming whole. Reintegrating every part of who and what I am and being who I am – Just being. Being whole is indeed my freedom and my justice.