Survivor

As I had mentioned mid-April, this month is dedicated to victims and survivors of abuse. Many wonderful people have committed to sharing a part of their story here and I appreciate their willingness to take a stand, spread the word, and help educate others.

I read a commentary recently on the word survivor and the author spoke negatively about using the word. She seemed to think it gave the impression of a victim leaving an abusive situation, but remaining in a holding pattern of brokenness. I’ve never seen it in that light. We use the term survivor to define people who have overcome terminal disease because they beat it, it has no hold on them, and they are free from it — it has nothing to do with them subsisting at a level one step up from fighting for their lives.

When I searched for a definition of survivor, I found similar meanings everywhere I looked. Dictionary.com defines survivor as: a person or thing that survives; a person who continues to function or prosper in spite of opposition, hardship, or setbacks.

I don’t think a person who, “…continues to function or prosper…” can be considered stuck in a holding pattern of brokenness. We prosper in our healing. We grow and learn to be ourselves in our freedom. It doesn’t mean that we are ‘over it’ or that we are whole, it means that we chose to stand up, remove ourselves from a hellish situation, and take a better path.

I’ve enjoyed three-and-a-half years away from my abuser. I survived him. I survived a living nightmare. It still affects me and how I see and do things. I know the areas I’ve found healing and I’m still discovering regularly the areas that still need help. They sometimes materialize in painful ways.

When I was married to Rail, he expected immediate obedience from everyone. If we didn’t jump to do his bidding, we were punished. It became the norm for all of us. I’ve continued that, thinking that’s the way it should be, never stopping to think why I believe that way. It has been causing me extreme frustration because my kids no longer see the need to respond immediately and my step-kids don’t even understand the concept. It’s causing unnecessary arguments. A few days ago, Atticus suggested that the immediate obedience thing probably came from Rail and that he (Atticus) has never expected his kids to do it now or else. Then he explained that I know my kids and if I stop and think about it, I know which of my kids is not doing something because they legitimately forgot and which of them is making an excuse to get out of work. The moment he said that, I realized it was the truth. It’s such an easy concept and I could beat myself up endlessly for not seeing it, or I could choose to change my thinking and start getting it right. I choose to get it right because I don’t want to be at odds with my kids. When I’m doing it wrong, I want to get it right.

So I don’t see myself stuck at a level just above being abused and staying there as a ‘survivor’. I see how I fought for my freedom and gained it. I see how I chose to better myself and did — and still do. I see how I still have parts of me that need healing — and they are. What this all equates to is positive, forward motion. Some of this baggage is heavy and difficult to unpack, but it’s worth it. I love my family and my life — and not a day goes by that I don’t appreciate the fact that I’m one of the few who made it out alive.

All-in-all, and every day, I’m thankful to call myself a survivor when so many victims end up being only called a statistic.

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