Survival is not linear

There is something to be said about survival. You think once the physical trauma is over, you will wake the next morning an entirely different person.

You will march to the bathroom, chest puffed out in radiant pride, ready to wash your hands of it all. You expect to flip disheveled hair out of your eyes and blush with envy at the person smiling back in the mirror.

You think, “I’ve done it. I am free.”

Being a survivor is supposed to be liberating or at least that is what all those self-help books made you believe.

When you look up in the mirror as a survivor, you may despise the figure looking back. Its eyes streaked with blood, tears viciously dragging eyeliner down swollen cheeks, and lips pressed together just a little too tightly to be considered pleasant. The creature looking at you is barely able to contain a whirlwind of awful shrieking.

You think, “Who is that monster? It most certainly can’t be me?”

But it is.

Being a survivor is a practice and nothing is beautiful about its process.

You practice a smile to wear at work.

You practice a conversation to use with friends.

You practice a routine to keep you going every single day.

It may not be beautiful, but it is entirely yours.

After the abuse is through, the only thing you absolutely long for is to have something, anything, they didn’t have their hands all over. You may fear the person staring back in the mirror but everything in sight is now yours. You belong entirely to yourself and no one else can claim that fear-stricken body slouched over the bathroom sink.

That is amazing.

Being a survivor was never meant to be marketed as this glamorous liberation of one’s history.

That isn’t realistic.

Being a survivor is about the process it takes to put a few more steps between the gruesome flashbacks and having dinner with your coworkers. Being a survivor is about the process it takes to reduce the hours you scream yourself awake at night in a lonely bed.

It is about finding tiny victories.

Those victories are the reason you pull back the blankets on a particularly difficult day and continue to exercise your practice.

Many stories talk only of the shadowed moments in a survivor’s past or about the statistics of people just like them, but not enough is celebrated. When the dust settles and the abuse has rung its final drop out of your already haggard soul, that is when healing can begin.

Despite it all, the pain, the shame, and the fear of falling apart into a million trembling pieces, there is happiness to be held.

There is happiness in being free of terror.

Joy lives in a lukewarm cup of coffee resting on your office desk.

Delight wriggles itself free from your toes peeking up above the water in a hot bath.

A smile bounces around in the dryer as your favorite cotton blanket just moments away from being done.

In these seemingly minuscule moments, you could take the hand of your happiness, run away, and start a new life.

That is the brilliance of a journey, it will be filled with what appears to be insurmountable pain, but moments of joy will grant you so much strength.

Trust me, in the end, you will learn to love every single little piece of yourself in the reflection, but never forget your strength, your joy, and your community as you observe yourself every single morning.

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