Throughout my recovery so far, or at least during the process of getting myself safe, I’ve always felt like I’m focussing somehow on “finding” myself. This, when you never knew who you were in the first place, is quite a challenging – if impossible- goal to set oneself. How can I find myself, when the person I was born as was crushed as a baby? How do I even know who that person would be now? I couldn’t possibly know…so how could I possibly find her?
And yet, it’s all I do. And I hear survivors talking about finding themselves, and even the professionals talk about the process of “finding oneself” again after living through abuse. It’s an idea put into a survivor’s mind almost the moment they have the ability to step back and see they are/were being abused…and yet it’s an idea that as a concept in itself, I’d hardly ever considered.
Until last night. Last night, as far as nights go, wasn’t the greatest nights in terms of emotional stability. My ability to hold tears in and feel safe within that was overpowered by simply too many tears. I felt like a bottle of coke that had been shaken up vigorously; if I didn’t let some pressure out then I was going to explode, everywhere, at once, and scream in shock at the same time. So out came some tears, to save explosion. I had spoken about something horrific I was forced to do once. Even though I know the threats that were made to me, and that I was already in extreme pain and a state of absolute terror and I rationally know therefore that I am not responsible for actions that I was forced to do…my emotional self is having a total breakdown. I can’t not feel guilty. I can’t not blame myself. I can’t not feel hideous.
But I realise that this was part of the whole purpose, and so somehow I have to focus on something else, so that I don’t continue to be a toy. I need to find some other small detail that I can pull gradually to pieces in my head, and in doing so create a bigger picture to counter these extreme emotions. Something non-traumatic, but powerful enough to overcome severe trauma. Last night my friend showed me a saying about life not being about finding yourself, but creating yourself. (Can’t remember exact words). I don’t really remember a massive amount of last night; it’s all blurred, too mushed up with emotions. But I do remember seeing that and wanting to say something but being too dazed and overwhelmed somehow to do so. But it did plant a seed. And even this morning when I felt like shit, and cried my eyes out on the phone to another friend (bottling tears isn’t going so well) this little seed was still niggling in my head.
Because it begs the question, what is the purpose of all this? Are we actually aiming for the entirely wrong thing, and something that’s so near to impossible that it’s no bloody wonder we all at some point feel unable to continue, sure it’s impossible to recover and sure we will never be ourselves? By aiming to “find” ourselves we are delving into the realms of somehow having impossible knowledge. By aiming to “create” ourselves we are only delving into the realms of control and a future…
By impossible knowledge I mean…how can we know what/who we are looking for? We are not blessed with the ability to look through a mirror and see who we would be had there been no abuse. Who would I be? I have absolutely no idea. Would I have done hideous things anyway? Would I have been kinder? Would I have actually been beyond evil – has this abuse spared me that somehow? Would I have been a musician at all? (Almost certainly not). Would I have been taller…or a mathmetician…or someone with such a loving family that I didn’t ever spread my wings and try out something new? Would I have had different dreams? On a more ‘basic’ level…would I have had the same likes/dislikes, would I have still been gay, would I have still adored my siblings?
The simple answer is…I have no idea. None of us can know how differently we would have turned out had life played a different game. It’s simply impossible. We can only guess. For some of us, the abuse started before we could even crawl…so we have no memory of even what we were like then on which to base our assumptions of how we’d be now. I have had stories told to me by my family of what I was like, but really do I trust that? How can I? And so, if I have no idea as to what I was like…and cannot just “know” what I would have been like had I not been abused…how on god’s earth can I attempt “finding” myself? I’m looking for a stranger in a crowd, lost somewhere in the last twenty years…but I have no distinguishing features with which to find her, no information. Nothing. I may as well ask every stranger if they are the person I’m looking for. I’m looking for someone based on simply guesswork. How is that ever going to work?
I cannot just “find” myself. The person I was as a baby was destroyed. Whoever that person was has gone. Unless of course there’s the belief that we are all born with the “destiny” of who and how we’ll be anyway. In which case, we don’t need to find ourselves either because it’s already pre-planned. Personally, I don’t believe in any of this. I have watched perfectly good people turn into monsters, not by force of others, but rather by being in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and with the wrong mindset. Equally, I have seen people I had believed to be absolutely evil manage to turn themselves around somehow. In both cases, circumstances helped/hindered…but there was also a definite degree of choice. Therefore, it’s not pre-planned. They chose.
“Find” also implies retrospect. And how can an abuse survivor find a person they once were, without going into extremely painful mind-blowing memories that may otherwise not be needed in such detail? If we’re spending our time looking for who we were, then we have to stay stuck in the past on some level…and then of course it’s no wonder the future looks like this impossible place. It’s no wonder recovery seems to take so long if we can’t move forwards because we’re lost trying to find the impossible answer. And maybe we don’t want to be who we were then anyway? What if we do find ourselves, and then can’t stand it? We’re pretty stuck then…
“Create” implies a future. It also implies it’s in our hands, and also has a more personal touch to it. Find is just a search party. Create is using tools to make something, anything, that we want to. I have the power to either let the memory I’m currently battling turn me into someone who allows them to let me be a tool, or shut off my emotions and later turn psychopathic in order to cope (as I’ve known others do)…or I can use the memory to *create* a different future. If I don’t let them use me as a continued tool…then I’m creating a shift in the system, no?
I don’t think I want to find the person I was…I’ll be searching for the rest of my days and never be able to know for sure if I’ve found her, because I have nothing to base it on. How could I ever know? I might think I have got the answer and found her…and then realise there’s still a bit missing, and so I’d have to go back again into the past and find her. It may well be endless, exhausting, and emotionally difficult. And if I don’t find her, then I carry on as I am doing in a state of “I don’t know who I am…” and feeling very lost and unable somehow to stand on my own two feet in this world.
If I instead view the goal of recovery not to somehow find the person we were pre-abuse, but rather to use the aftermath as a tool to create who I am…based on who I want to be and what I want my future to be like, then surely that’s more constructive, much more possible, and gives the victim so much more control back than they could ever have achieved by staying lost in the past looking for the lost girl?
Creating my new self sounds achievable. Finding myself, when I don’t know what I’m looking for…that sounds impossible, miserable, and a way of just keeping me stuck in limbo land. Which I don’t want, if I’m honest.
I fucked up. I did hideous things, under coercion and threat. My head is a total mess. I feel physically sick and a large part of me wants to either torture myself physically, or actually just finish it all now and kill myself. But then I think…why? Obviously a lot of it is guilt. A huge pile of shitty guilt dumped onto my shoulders. But also it’s because what I did goes against who I felt I was…who I was trying to “find,” and was instead a method of letting the abusers “create” me. They know I’m trying to find myself. They’re keen to create me before I get the chance. This has always been their plot.
And so then the panic…well did they succeed? I did it, didn’t I? I did that dreadful act. But…not by choice. I didn’t do it of my own accord. And I didn’t enjoy it, one bit. If anything it traumatised me more than people physically torturing me. My head is a fucking mess because I am human and able to feel guilt, grief and empathy. I’m able to know right from wrong. They are trying to create a new psychopath to help them, or someone so broken and overwhelmed by guilt that they kill themselves. Either I turn into them, or I kill myself to escape. That is the person(s) they are trying to create. The latter is so tempting, but I won’t let myself become a product of their creation.
I won’t spend any more time trying to “find” myself, because trying to achieve this impossible task leaves me vulnerable to false promises and empty threats by them. It wastes time, which they jump on and try to turn me into something else, for their benefit. Whilst I’ve been busy lost looking for myself in the past, they’ve been planning how I will be in the future.
Rule change. Now it’s my turn to create myself…now I have control and choice, and now I have the ability to make myself into whoever I want to be. And first and foremost, I do not want to be their toy anymore. To find myself risks going back to a place where I had no survival skillset…to create myself allows me to use the skills I have acquired from severe abuse to become a tool which can shape myself and my future.
I’m changing goal in this process. I am not trying to find myself. I am trying to create myself. J