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Aug 07 2013

Dear Survivors

This is the truth I’d like you to place in front of you right now, where you can see it: you survived. You did what you had to in order to survive the assault or abuse or other horrible thing that happened to you, changing your status from “one of the lucky ones” to “survivor.” You got through a situation that could have completely destroyed you. That alone is a triumph. May not feel like one, but you’re here and breathing because you found a way to survive.

Excellent.

That’s something other people don’t get to take away from you. Not ever.

Now. You may have noticed a contingent of shitwads who think your survival technique is something they get to judge, like this is some kind of Olympic sport where you get a score based on how flawless your performance was. They’ve generally never been there, done that, but they would’ve handled your situation totes different and you should have done x-y-z and not done a-b-c, just like they would. And they’ve never been in a situation like yours or really listened to people who came through similar, but they’re self-appointed experts in what you should have done then and should be doing now; how you, the survivor, should act and behave and feel.

Fuck ‘em.

And there are some survivors who’ve decided Their Way is the True and Only Way™. They went through this one similar thing once, and that has made them The World Experts in Surviving All The Shit®. They’ve got a list, and they tick off what you did wrong, clucking their tongues and murmuring in severe tones that You Are Not a True Survivor™.

Fuck them, too.

Survival isn’t one of Plato’s perfect Ideas, which all should emulate. There’s no one and only way of surviving. This isn’t a fucking contest. There is no standard set by a panel of Expert Survivors that you have to measure up to.

This little tree needs no one's approval, just a place to put down roots and fight to survive.

This little tree needs no one’s approval, just a place to put down roots and fight to survive.

You survived. That’s it. That’s the one fact that matters. The way you did it doesn’t invalidate that fact. No matter how you pulled it off – whether it was fighting like fury or not fighting at all; memorizing every detail or sending your mind to a safe place; screaming, staying silent, or cracking jokes – you made it. You did what you had to do. You did what was right for you, did the best you could, and now you’re here. The shitlords who think their opinions matter can go piss against a stiff wind in winter.

All right, and now you’re taking back your life. How you’re doing it isn’t any of their fucking business. They have zero say in your decisions. They don’t get to set the Gold Standard, no matter how much they think so. Their opinion has as much weight as a warm fart on Pluto. It matters about as much as whether someone had Grey Poupon or French’s mustard on the sandwich they ate before getting squashed by a semi. They don’t get to expect jack shit from you.

Fuck ‘em. Do it your way.

If you need to become a virtual hermit in order to cope, then that’s what you do. Maybe you visit a therapist twice a week. Maybe later, maybe never. Maybe you let yourself scream. Or cry. Or laugh. Or all of the above, simultaneously. Take self defense classes, or learn how to build things in bottles. Only venture out to coffee-shop poetry readings, or go clubbing. Hang out quietly in a back corner, or crowd surf. Never let another human being touch you, or go for all the touching you can get. Spend years working through the sexual issues you were left with by consulting a counselor, or going out and having as much sex as you can. Wear fourteen layers of clothing in summer, or go with virtually none. Take years to recover, or pretty much take it in stride. Treat the subject with utmost seriousness, or unleash every bit of black humor you can conjure. And etc., in any combination, any point(s) in the spectrum, at your own pace.

You get to decide what you need. You decide how you’ll react. You will go about this in a fashion unique to you, because you’re you, and no one has any right to tell you how you should and shouldn’t survive.

There is no Authentic Survivor™ to live up to. Other people may act like there is, but they speak from their sphincter. Those of us who aren’t dumbfuck judgmental assholes will tell them to flush it. Their opinion belongs in a cesspit, not society.

You just get on with the surviving, your way, all the way. Do what you need to do to take back what was stolen, as much as that’s possible. Do what it takes to reclaim your power. Proceed in any fashion necessary to make yourself reasonably whole. No one else gets to dictate the method and means of your survival.

Love,

Your fellow survivor,

Dana

A little tree that is attempting to thrive in very hostile conditions: the Big Obsidian Flow, Newberry Crater, Oregon. It's found its own way to survive.

A little tree that is attempting to thrive in very hostile conditions: the Big Obsidian Flow, Newberry Crater, Oregon. It’s found its own way to survive.

 

P.S. None of the above should be interpreted as deterring you from getting help should you need it. Genuine help is great! And you’ll know it when you see it, even if it takes you a little while to recognize it. Unhelpful arseclowns, on the other hand, should be fairly simple to spot, and you can do safely without their brand of “help.”

14 comments

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  1. 1
    adrian3467

    Thank you.

  2. 2
    B-Lar

    I am not a survivor, but this is powerful. I got all choked up.

    I love you little-tree! Grow where you can, however you can!

  3. 3
    rq

    *read*
    *applause!*
    *read*
    *applause!!*
    *read*
    *applause!!!*
    *finish reading*
    *wipe eyes*
    *ovation!*

    (Love the first little tree, by the way!)

  4. 4
    harenaatria

    Thank you for this. The worst judges in my case are not external but the ever present internal Negvox and as I was reading your post they were saying stuff like, “You weren’t really abused. There was nothing for you to escape from. You didn’t do it for you. Others did it for you. And now you depend on Woozle for everything so you didn’t really escape anything”.

    But when I got to this part:

    No matter how you pulled it off – whether it was fighting like fury or not fighting at all; memorizing every detail or sending your mind to a safe place; screaming, staying silent, or cracking jokes – you made it.

    …especially the bolded part, I remembered how I survived my mother. By becoming, as she referred to me, “Little Sandy Head In The Clouds” (a reference to a Struwwelpeter story if you are familiar). I escaped into my daydreams and that’s how I survived her. And that totally counted.

    There’s more to the story and worse things happened to me, but I suddenly realized that the tucking away of myself as a child created f!Harena who has kept me sane, and a child at heart, and a caring loving person who, when it happened, was ready when Woozle showed up to help me be rescued from the mire I was trapped in. f!Harena who made me able to befriend all the wonderful people I have found since. Who were and continue to be my supporters as I work to untangle myself from the mess “I” got myself into.

    Soyeah, it never occurred to me in the past that my survival story was what it was. That it is neither better or worse than anyone else’s. It’s Mine.

  5. 5
    Gregory in Seattle

    Thank you.

    On a similar topic, might I recommend Barbara Ehrenreich’s book, “Bright Sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America“. As she was battling breast cancer, she came face-to-face with the relentless mentality — and extremely profitable commercial ventures — pushing the “all you need to survive is happy, HAPPY, HAPPY!“, which inspired her to look at how that meme has poisoned much of America’s approach to crisis and illness.

  6. 6
    Trebuchet

    Wonderful. Just wonderful.

    I’ve had a very easy life, it occurs to me. I haven’t needed to do much in order to survive. Thank you for the reminder and don’t ever change. Unless you need to!

  7. 7
    F [is for failure to emerge]

    Yes!

  8. 8
    morgan ?! epitheting a metaphor

    Dana, thank you so very very much. It comes at a time when I really need to be reminded that I did, in fact, in some fashion survive.

  9. 9
    Susannah

    Thank you.

    I’ve been feeling a bit guilty lately, because I haven’t done “enough”, haven’t been outspoken “enough”, etc. This was helpful.

  10. 10
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    I think I’ve done ALL of those things you listed to cope. Each, in turn, has taught me something along the way. I have re-learned accepting touch, I had to damn near literally “reclaim” my body, I still get angry sometimes (but that’s getting better), I’m learning to “use my words” again when I’m triggered, and have warned friends and family that sudden or unexpected physical contact (especially from behind) may result in sudden violent reactions.

    And I will never, ever trust the police to do their damn jobs.

    I survived. Somehow.

    So why do I feel like I’m weak, worthless, and undeserving? And where the fuck does that little inner troll come from, anyway?

  11. 11
    Tethys

    Thank you for this excellent piece of writing Dana.

  12. 12
    Robert B.

    As it turns out, a warm fart on Pluto would weigh about eighty micronewtons, or about 0.0003 ounces. (I get curious about these things.)

    This article comes at a good time for me – there’s a conflict I’ve been trying to put into words, and I think you just did it for me. Thanks.

  13. 13
    Karen Locke

    Thank you, Dana.

  14. 14
    markr1957

    Thank you for saying this in a way I always wanted to, but could never find the words. I always minimized things by thinking of those who were worse off than I was, but it doesn’t change any of the shit I went through. I have survived!

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