Human resilience is something which had always fascinated me, even before mine was tested. My parents would say that I have always had an unhealthy interest in the darkness of society; too many thrillers with too many traumatised characters, too many tv shows with murder and death, too much attraction to people with fucked up lives. And this was all pre-my direct introduction into the darkness.
And then my ex-boyfriend decided that I was his favourite punching bag, literally and figuratively. I was 15. And suddenly, I was thrown into the deep end of resilience with no semblance of a lifeboat of any kind. I spent four years of my life actively drowning, and then a few more years drowning in the memories. And yet, I never actually drowned.
Take a minute and imagine spending four years drowning and forcing yourself to survive again and again. Imagine spending four years solely on survival. Except I didn’t get to spend four years solely focused on survival. I spent four years focused centrally on not letting my fight for survival be visible, with a side note on the actual survival part. I focused on making life look as normal as it was before, while I secretly survived. I spent four years not letting anyone see I was drowning while somehow keeping my head above water.
Now when I look back on that time, I’m basically in awe of my own resilience. I was physically beaten, abused, molested, assaulted and raped. And somehow, I got through school with reasonable grades and got into the college and course I wanted. I was verbally and psychologically humiliated, stripped, torn and crushed but I still found the trust to have close friendships and relationships, be let down and do it all over again. And I did all of it with maybe 1% of the people in my life having even the slightest idea of what I was dealing with.
I’ve written about some of the details of the abuse earlier, but the relevant points for this piece are that my ex got two of his friends to join him in abusing me, and then killed himself when he realised he wouldn’t ever be able to abuse me again. Because I couldn’t go to my family for help, I went to his, and his father took action. Does anyone else see the irony in that? One of the other men who was involved with my ex was his best friend, and once a close friend of mine. Recently, the friend contacted me with ‘gaslighty’ apologies.
I chose to ignore him, but there’s a thing about men and entitlement. He started incessantly calling me. I’m talking dozens of calls in a day. The first time I picked up and heard him call me by the name only my ex and that group of friends ever called me; I went from catatonic-level frozen to adrenaline-hit-panic-attack to push-it-away-so-he-doesn’t-hear-it to a rage which I could never even hope to express. All in the span of maybe a minute.
And this brings me back to the awe I have in my own resilience. Over the last few days, I have been consumed with deadline-ridden work. I would ignore most of his calls, but then every so often pick up, with the stupid hope of getting him to shut up and hear the same words of how everything is my fault, including the brutality, how I killed his best friend (my ex) and how I didn’t deserve to move on when none of them has been able to. When it was more than evident that this shit wouldn’t end, I had to call my ex’s father and rely on him to take action. I had to speak to the father of the man who basically killed me more times than a cat is supposed to have lives. It was hard. I haven’t needed to speak to the man for five years. That’s how long ago my ex killed himself, and somehow this shit still hasn’t ended!
I dragged myself through my work, almost grateful to have a distraction. It allowed me to be in the company of someone else, so I didn’t have the luxury of falling apart. It gave me a reason to stay up all night and not feel like I was too scared of the nightmares which would most definitely plague me to fall asleep. I got all my work done. I didn’t miss a single aspect of the work I had to do.
This is the resilience which always awed me. This is why even before I got to see it in action, I was fascinated by people’s fight for life. I half-heartedly tried to kill myself a few times while the abuse was happening, but it was always event specific. As many times as I felt like I died, or that I would, I knew that I didn’t want to actually die. I fought not just to survive but to have a life. One which I would be proud of, be happy with. I fought to love myself, and I succeeded. This piece is proof of that. This is my homage to my resilience, to the strength which even I don’t know how I have.
I have so many more steps to take when it comes to dealing with this current issue, ones which I’m deeply dreading, ones which will force me to delve deeper into the past than I really want to. But one thing which I’ve learnt from all of the horrors I’ve survived is that I can fucking survive anything. I have faith in my ability to deal which is unshakeable. Right now, somewhere inside me, I’m a little broken again, I’m a lot terrified and even angrier. I almost feel like the weight I’m being forced to carry once again is heavier than I can handle. And yet I do not doubt that I’ll do it. Even though right now breathing seems like a monumental achievement, how can I doubt that I’ll be able to deal with a few phone calls when I’ve dealt with being ripped apart and put myself back together more times than I can count?
Human resilience, especially that of women and non-cis individuals is unsurpassable and amazing.
Photo by Maranatha Pizarras on Unsplash