Trigger warning: mentions of sexual abuse
I share my personal experience of carrying emotional and physical trauma and how naming what I experienced empowered my own self. Being this vulnerable has its risk but when it comes to writing, I have always tried to reach out, so, if you were or are ever in a similar position like this, this is for you.
In Indian households, we have been asked to not share our “ghar ki baat”(conversations that happen in the house) or “family stuff” with others. Like in many cases, the dam breaks at a point when it shouldn’t. Kids with strict parents hide things more than the ones who are given the space to eventually go ahead and share. Similarly, kids who are asked not to share end up sharing their troubles – for humans have the need to share – with people who are potentially more harmful than the ones they would have looked up to in the first place, had they been provided with a safer environment.
Trust is a tricky thing and in Indian households, particularly so, here it comes with weights of hierarchy in relationships where respecting elders has long been seen as a stone-carved phrase rather than one which includes attempts in trying to validate the emotion of kids. All of this contributes to trust your own family even more complex.
As a person who always had trouble speaking up for myself, over time I have noticed that accountability for your own actions is good but what is more important is teaching children to believe in their own selves even when the ones they looked up to might not do so.
From getting the shaky vibrations while speaking to the first time I spoke my mind within a household discussion to realizing where I should be spending my energy and where not, it has been a long ride.
Sometimes though, as do most trauma-induced behaviours, the doubt in oneself comes back. Accepting and validating abuse takes years and survivors speaking up after years of their abuse starts making sense in a level, to which, one who is still in the process is probably oblivious to because unless you walk in the same shoes as theirs, it is difficult to get what they have experienced.
This is not a mental health post. It is just me sharing that for a long time, I had trouble admitting to myself the abuse I went through either because it felt trivial in the larger picture. A picture that I had made up inside my mind or due to the self-esteem levels that didn’t make me feel like I deserved any better. It didn’t happen overnight though.
I repeatedly kept working on speaking up, taking small steps to believe that what I say matters, how I speak matters and even how I look matters just as I am. It took time and a whole lot of self-appreciation than self-depreciation.
If all this speaks to you, this is for you, if you are unable to share what you are going through with anyone else, it’s for you. If you are unable to accept even to yourself what you have been through, this is for you.
I am sharing my story with you.
I am sharing that when I worked on detaching myself from the person I kept trying to forgive, I realised the best thing I could do for my heart and my soul to feel lighter was instead to take the much less talked about the path of not forgiving or forgiving – your body, forgiving yourself for not being able to put your feelings first.
Like a heavy cloudy veil of self-guilt evaporating from above me slowly over the years, I understood that I don’t need to forgive my abuser – not even for the “peace” – much better is writing it out, or drawing or sketching it out somewhere and to start labelling the emotions which, in such cases, helps validate the trauma you faced.
Forgiving the abuser is not something that I am supposed to do. But it did feel like that for the longest time, like bubblegum stuck under the desk for months and me trying to remove it, bit by bit.
Coming to terms with your abuse is different from coming to terms with your abuser.
The first step is admitting the hurt. Like I said, again, I am writing this just to share it with anyone who might have experienced or is experiencing the same and also because writing always helps.
At last, I hope one day you are at peace with yourself, and whether that includes forgiving is completely up to you. So, the next time someone asks you to come at peace with your abuser before you have begun working with your own entangled gooey mess inside – I hope you find the courage to choose yourself first, and if you fail, remember you can always come back and try again.
Taking care of that mess first and your heart, first, is what will make the difference, making all that anger sitting inside a little easier to carry, a little easier to hold.