Updated: Jun 16
An abuse analogy, because sometimes it’s hard to describe and make sense of our lived experiences. Written by a survivor three years post separation after enduring yet another verbal attack/victim-blaming tirade. Written to understand and dispel the myth that it ends when you leave. This is experienced by far too many, and it is shared with the hope that those who need it will feel witnessed.
It feels as though you were told there will be weekly, sometimes daily, earthquakes for at least the next 19 years of your life. You felt the first “big one” when you were 16, but you stored those memories deep in your subconscious, your body harboring the physical impact. But no, these ones are incessant aftershocks, littered with the occasional medium sized jolts, sprinkled with a few new “big ones” along the way. Like a cardiogram with many shapes and sizes of traumatic peaks and valleys. You’ve now experienced so many of these life altering rumbles, that you’ve learned to expect them. You prepare to the best of your ability, but then they hit. Recover. Hit. Recover. Over and over. You are impacted. Over and over. You think, “Next time, I’ll be stronger against the impact.” How easy it is to slip into the pit of despair that is self-blame. “If only I stood this perfect way when it hit, then I wouldn’t be rocked to my core!” Or: “If only I was better at making myself super-duper small, then the earth would stop coming for me.” And: “If only I pretend they’re not happening, then they’ll stop.”
You get so tired of twisting and contorting yourself, and you start to realize there’s nothing you can do to keep them from happening. That part is out of your control, so you figure out what you can control. You discover ways to climb out of that pit. You do everything you can to distance yourself from the epicenter. You strategically construct a plan, uncover new ways to center your mind and body, and hold onto the roller coaster that is healing. But alas, you’re hit again. Your body, mind, and spirit are all impacted. Again. Maybe a little less, maybe your mind is clearer this time, but deep down in your cells, in your nervous system, there are impacts that are completely out of your control. After years and years, you realize there’s no level of preparation that fully allows you to transcend. You keep standing in your power regardless.
You’ve become amazing at going on with your life after the dust settles. You grow leaps and bounds, despite another one looming. You learn to choose your battles wisely. When to channel the justifiable rage into swift courses of action, when to scream and thrash and move to release the toxic stress from your body, when to be still and engage your senses, so at least for a moment you’re transported into a different relationship with your surroundings. You learn to create pockets of safety. When to stand up and when to curl up in a ball and rest. When to ignore and when to shake your fists to the sky. When to allow the uncontrollable sobs to melt your bones and when to put on the mask and show up for work. When to speak your truth and when to stay silent. Not in the way you were silenced before, oh no, but in an act of love and self-preservation.
No matter how much energy you’ve expended with the mental gymnastics of safety planning, sometimes you are still so utterly and completely caught off guard. You are forced to feel, whether you like it or not.
It’s relentless. All you want is to completely move away from the earthquakes, but you can’t. External forces are telling you this is where you must reside. All you can do is make the best damn home possible within the confines of this landscape.
You turn into a resilience detective. Do I shut myself in a dark closet today? Do I brace myself against a door frame? Do I lie down in an open field and surrender? These experiences get messy and muddled, because of course they do. You learn to deal with it and you learn to love this shook up version of yourself. This strong, powerful, incredibly wise version of you. All you can do is take it one moment at a time.
Now here’s the real kicker. If the daily and weekly earthquakes weren’t bad enough, what if you learned these earthquakes weren’t natural disasters, what if they were MANMADE? Yes, I repeat: MANMADE. This isn’t a beautiful mystery of the universe that we must accept; what if someone with cruel intent and the inability to feel empathy thought, “I am causing these earthquakes in order to make ME feel better! It never makes me feel better for long, so I keep causing more and more destruction to feed my ego’s addiction. Woohooo, my master plan is working!” THAT’S what trauma from ongoing abuse feels like. It’s a calculated plan to try to inflict pain upon the victim. The earth underneath your feet is rocking because someone is making it rock. There is NOTHING natural about that. I’m saying this to myself as much as I am to you. It is not me/you/us, it is THEM. You’ve been forced to survive, and you are not to blame. Not ever. You are fucking amazing for everything you’ve done and everything you continue to do, while someone intentionally shakes the world around you. I stand with you, I rest with you, I speak out with you. Again, there is nothing natural about this.
It is never ok.
It ends with us.