The value of laughter

The most important key to my survival whilst in the ring, and since, has been laughter. Even if something shouldn’t be funny, I still try to find something humourous (however dark) so that there is some light. It’s very important for me not to view things as either all dark or all white…because to do so would either trap me in hopelessness or naivety…

So in the ring. The ring, as those of you who’ve been following this blog and/or know me know, was horrendous. The more I stand in this realisation phase, the more it’s hitting me. It was like something from a horror movie, except it was real life. The idea now that it was normal for me to wake up in a morning and check the children were alive and okay, and tend to those who needed help…before having a full day of torture, pain and abuse…to then be soothing the younger ones and helping them get to sleep and spending the night either fearful of an abuser creeping in or actually more often thinking everything through and trying to make plans….the knowledge that this was normal…it horrifies me. The idea I’d spend most weeknights or weekends and holidays there, but have to behave like a normal child at school, somehow, outrages me. Right from the start I’ve had to juggle living in the middle of two worlds, putting on a mask to hide the reality I was trapped in.

I have distinct and awful memories of hearing children scream. Of hearing my own screams. Of stumbling down the corridor, falling into the children’s room and begging a child to get me some water to bathe my new wounds in. I have memories of running fast into a wall in some desperate attempt to knock myself out. I remember thinking….it’s too quiet. I remember my heart in my mouth as I opened the door of the children’s room, and the heartbreaking scene in front of me. I remember jumping on abusers like a little terrier dog and trying my best to fight them off, despite knowing I was nowhere near strong enough. I remember hiding in a corner and shaking with fear, trying to calm myself down so that I could think straight and make plans.

It could be so easy for me to focus on all the black. It was shit, there’s no denying that. It was deadly, and very traumatic, and will haunt me for the rest of my life. I saw an interesting quote the other day that abuse is simply a different form of murder. Okay so the victim might be walking and breathing, but their whole lives are shaped by the past, and part of them – their innocence – died far too young. And it’s true. But abuse also was the gateway, ironically, for more constructive elements of life.

Such as laughter. My sense of humour is pretty average in this normal world, but somehow people seem amazed at this from time to time. This, amazes me. But now I’m standing and looking back at the memories, I can understand. How could I laugh about such grim things? How do I have any laughter still intact at all?

The answer is simple. Without laughter, I wouldn’t have survived. It wouldn’t have mattered how hard I fought (or indeed, how much I kept my head down), if I’d not been able to see even the smallest amount of light…the whole situation would have swallowed me and even if my body had survived, my spirit would not have done.

I remember tending to children’s wounds, and my own, and of course there were tears and I sang to try and soothe them and distract them. But there’d also, miraculously, be laughter. Laughter about various things; but most often, about the abusers. We would giggle about someone’s nose, or how an abuser might have made a mistake and got frustrated (even if that frustration actually meant more pain for us). We’d laugh at how we played games with them, and they didn’t even know. Often we might be unable to cry, or even fight back….but we’d always make sure that at least once a day we all found something to laugh at. Those of us who managed to do this, survived the longest…either spiritually or physically, or both.

It was also an excellent tool to wind up the abusers. Of course some of you may ask, why do this? Didn’t it mean I got hurt more? Yes…yes it did. But when you’re going to get hurt anyway, getting hurt by feeling empowered through laughter is certainly better for one’s head, I think. Certainly this was the case for me. I never knew if the moment I was in would be my last. I never knew if my body would have the strength to wake up the next morning. I was determined that if I was going to die, I was going to die laughing, and leaving the abusers frustrated. My screams when they hurt me held more than just pain, they also told me I was strong enough still to at least scream (so alive) but also because if I wasn’t going to make it, I wanted their last memories of me to haunt them…either by me laughing, or screaming…or both. Whatever happened, I wasn’t going to die losing the fight.

And this is something I am determined to keep as the case now. Whatever happens, I won’t give up whilst losing. I still fight to find something to laugh about every day, and this is something no abuser can take from me. They can’t stop my laughter, and trust me…they’ve tried. They of course recognised that laughter was genuinely keeping me going. But nothing they did could stop me finding something to laugh at. They’d shot themselves in the foot by abusing me from such a young age; okay it meant that some dangerous stuff got ingrained into me very early on, making it harder to remove….but it also meant coping strategies and survival skills were ingrained very early on, making them instinct rather than conscious choice. So I still laugh, and I laugh more at the knowledge that this will frustrate them.

I am lucky enough to be surrounded by friends who all have a wicked sense of humour. Finding laughter isn’t hard. Finding strength can be far far harder, but even on my absolute worst days….I will search for some light to laugh at, even if that’s the memories of the children giggling at one of the men’s “snot monster nose” or how he dropped his keys or whatever. The memories that the abusers forbade me to remember, and later hoped would destroy me…are actually memories that keep me stronger than them, even when it doesn’t look or feel that way.

Maybe they’ll read this. Who knows. I’ll laugh, just in case they’re reading this and turning red with frustration. Yes I am currently in a very bad place, and feeling wretched. But I’m winning, regardless. Because you can take my tears…and my strength…and my fight…but you will never take my laughter, and that will always mean that I win, and you inevitably lose.

J

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