We Are Not Victims

“We are not victims. We are survivors. And beyond that, thrivers!”
– Susan Macaulay

Amen! To this statement I do believe I fall into the ‘thrivers’ category today; but it didn’t happen overnight. Recovering from abuse is a process. While time spent in each phase of this can vary from person to person, no phase is skipped. When we are being abused and the abuse is in our awareness we are victims; when we choose to take action and stop the abuse, we enter the phase of surviving the abuse; and finally when we heal from the abuse we becomes thrivers.

I spent 16 years being a victim, 12 years being a survivor and whilst I thought I was thriving for the last few years, I have only been thriving for a year.

Victim

As a victim, I lived in fear, fear of being physically hit, fear of loosing my children, fear of a divorce, fear of being replaced, fear of being sexually abused, fear of never being good enough… I was surrounded by fear. For many years, every time I tried to combat that fear with actions or disprove the lies doled out, I dealt with physical abuse and gaslighting (gaslighting is a method of control a narcissist uses on their victim). I lived this life for 16 years.

I have always resisted the term ‘victim’. “I am not a victim” I would say. To me it carried a defeatist mentality, and I was a warrior. Given my own resistance to the word and the perceived meaning of ‘weakness’ that is carried for me, I just want to clarify the word victim as per the Cambridge dictionary means:

someone or something that has been hurt, damaged, or killed or has suffered, either because of the actions of someone or something else, or because of illness or chance.

As you can see from the dictionary meaning there is nothing negative, submissive or even weak about the word. It just represents what has happened to the abused at the hands of an abuser. And this realisation / acceptance is important. The negative meanings we give to words like this normally stems from a vulnerability we are hiding or rather hiding from. (Vulnerability is a huge topic on its own and you can read my Vulnerability blogs too to understand that better). The minute we start hiding from something we now open ourselves up to inauthenticity and more abuse. And this is why I remained a victim for 16 years.

Survivor

Finally in 2008, my decision to end my marriage moved me to what Susan calls ‘survivors’. I didn’t want to remain a victim anymore, I couldn’t stand the hypocrisy, the lies, the abuse – emotionally, physically, sexually and financially. I didn’t care if the world found out that my carefully crafted perfect happy life wasn’t actually so. My second but equally strong reason was the emotional and mental wellbeing of our boys.

So what made me a survivor? As per Websters there are a few definitions:

  1. a person who continues to live, despite nearly dying – sadly I did attempt to take my life in 2001, a very dear friend called at the right time realised I was incoherent in my speech and took me to the hospital. That’s how I survived that but it’s NOT why I take the title of a survivor on, it’s this second definition below that gives me the title of a survivor.
  2. a person who is able to continue living their life successfully despite experiencing difficulties – this meaning is more relevant to me being a survivor.

I broke off the abusive relationship, and started rebuilding my life with out a husband, for me and my boys. I became a single parent. I had the skill and ability to be financially independent, so rebuilding my life meant living the life as a single adult. This meant I now had time to have a hobby, it meant I had time to focus on my health. It meant I had time to focus on my children, go out to movies with them or even a restaurant. It meant I could do WHAT EVER I WANTED WITHOUT FEAR. But it wasn’t as easy as this reads.

Problem No.1 I didn’t know how to be single again, I didn’t have a hobby, I didn’t know my self worth, I wasn’t healthy, I didn’t have a purpose outside my boys.

Problem No.2 My heart and my mind wanted something else. My heart wanted to know what was wrong with me? Why couldn’t the man I loved so much love me and respect me? Why did he abuse me ? And my mind wanted to know, why won’t he accept what is wrong as wrong, why can’t he apologise, why won’t he accept his lies as lies? Why even now after the relationship is over can he not just focus on being a good parent?

Solutions to No.1 Finding a hobby took me time, it had been so long since I indulged in one that I no longer knew what hobby would interest me. It took trying different things to finally settle on hiking and walking in nature. This hobby also took care of my health.

Philanthropy is also a good way to dawn the survivors cape, I knew I wanted to have a purpose that is bigger than me. I signed up for Gulf4Good. A children’s charity, which ran physical challenges likes hikes and treks to raise money for impoverished children around the world. To me THIS MADE ME A SURVIVOR – a hobby and purpose rolled in one!

By 2010 I thought I had moved on. Now I was helping others, travelling the world, hiking, healthy and carefree. As time passed I wanted less and less answers to my questions that kept me bonded to my abuser. BUT we shared children, and this meant that he used every opportunity to gaslight me even after our divorce, only this time it was with our teenage boys.

He couldn’t touch me, but he knew I wasn’t strong enough and was still predictable enough, he knew threw my actions that I had vulnerabilities that I hadn’t attended to. I didn’t follow the court order for visitations and gave him full access to the boys because I wanted to be a ‘good mom’ and a ‘nice person’.

Anyway to cut a long story short, it took 12 years of surviving for me to realise I wasn’t thriving yet.

Thriver

About a year ago, I realised I was letting my boundaries being pushed again in the name of love. I realised despite all the work I had done on my vulnerabilities I was still unwilling to face up to some of them. I was still worried about “what people would think?”. And I thank my coach and friend Liv who showed me the mirror on a call. I was allowing my boundaries to be pushed, I was allowing for my power to be taken again. For 3 days from that day of realisation I had my head reeling with grief and disbelief, that I had allowed myself to slip. I revisited all my learnings, my identity, my values, my vulnerabilities, my purpose, I meditated desperately, started chanting, and on the 4th day… I redrew my boundaries.

Living by your boundaries IS the key ingredient to thriving I believe.

Today I can say I am thriving, and I can also say that I do oscillate between surviving and thriving. Every time I slip into hiding my vulnerability I go back to surviving, every time I allow some one to push my boundary I slip into surviving. And every time I step into my authenticity, embrace my vulnerabilities, and hold fast on my boundaries, I am thriving.

PS: I learnt a little technique called QH1 which helps me thrive. Look out for a blog on it soon.