“You took 19 years to find your life? How broken is your sat nav?”

Very, it would seem. Apparently the sat nav with destination “life” that was given to me 19 years ago was programmed to go on the “most interesting, terrifying, painful and moving” journey in order to reach the destination.

But I lie, really. Or exaggerate. Of course I had a life; else how could I have lived for 19 years? I just didn’t have the life that is classed as “normal.” But then, what is normal anyway?  Abuse is more common than people think, so could it arguably be “normal” too? WRONG in every aspect, but normal? It was normal to me anyway. There was nothing more normal than waking up, listening to my heartbeat so that I knew I was still alive, and feeling for any areas that were too unbearably painful. At times each day meant simply a day nearer until it was all over – either by dying or escaping, but mostly each day meant another day to fight back. I would then be subjected to whatever madness at various intervals throughout the day, unless it was a weekday in which case I had heaven (school) to escape to. Normality was living in fear, tip-toeing on eggshells, and turning into a lioness if anyone tried to hurt another child. Normal was being ridiculed, used as an object, and not knowing if my body was actually my own or belonged to someone else. Normal was stiffly getting into the shower and cleaning my tired, aching body and dreaming with my eyes shut, dreaming that the water would wash everything away, the abuse included. Normal was going to bed and praying that maybe on this night, I’ll be left alone.

That was normal. That was “life.” It throws me now, not having this. Sounds mad, doesn’t it? How could I be struggling with being safe? But I am. There are days where I get to 8pm and realise I haven’t been stressed or hurt once, and I panic. I genuinely panic. It’s very internal panic, and I try to keep smiling, but I panic because surely…surely there has to be something awful around the corner? I see my friends get angry with each other and it can lead to panic attacks once I’m alone…because all I’ve ever known anger to be is absolutely dangerous, not a normal healthy aspect of human life. I wake up at regular intervals at night-time, not always due to night-mares, but as a sort of vigilance technique, just to check on the environment. I can lie down and be extremely still within seconds, as though I’m deeply asleep. I’m not. I just am a little bit too good at playing dead.

I’m learning about the perceived “normal life.” Forgive me please, when I don’t understand or seem frustrated or stressed. Just treat it as when anyone is studying a fast-track course in an entirely alien subject…that’s what I’m doing, and just like anyone in that position, I sometimes scream and throw textbooks across the room too.

Nonetheless, there are some things from my “life” that are incredibly useful and the trick is now learning how to apply them to this “life.” I am strong. I don’t always feel it, and far less believe it… but then I have to think about what I’ve survived, and I have to admit I’m strong. I’m also compassionate. I also can turn ninja if and when I want to, or have to.

It’s weird. When people realise my abuse wasn’t just in the family, but part of a “ring,” they seem even more horrified. Why? I get it that maybe it sounds more extreme, and more severe. But abuse is abuse. And in actual fact, in a very strange way, I think I had some kind of advantage being around other children. We could comfort and help each other, and remind each other of what’s right and wrong, and that we deserve care, not pain. When my ex-partner was abusing me, it was far more personal, and the betrayal of someone I should have been able to love and trust. Despite everything, her abuse feels more damaging, because of this.

So yes, my sat nav to life took a bit of a random de-tour. But I’m here now. Destination, reached. And now what? I feel more lost than when I was on the journey. I’m learning how society actually works, but cannot let go or forget my past. There’s two worlds. This cannot be forgotten or dismissed.

I did have a life. A very wrong one, but which gave me some strengths that are helpful. Not that I’m saying it was worth it for the qualities, but at least there was something good, however small, which came of it. Now I have a new life…which is safer, but man is it confusing. I now need the “life manual for dummies.”

But then I speak to people who’ve always been part of this world…and think, maybe I’m not the only one in need of this manual 😉

P.s – the sat nav has been thrown out….

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