Dear survivor

Dear Survivor,

I’m so glad you made it. I’m happy that you found the strength and fortitude to work your way out of the depths. You’re so courageous. Courage, after all, is not the absence of fear, it’s being afraid and doing it anyway. And you’re doing it.

I see that you’ve been suffering for so long. I can see it in the way I catch you staring off into space sometimes with a thoughtful look when you’re with a crowd of laughing people. I can see it in the moments of vulnerability that you only show to me, like when you’re almost asleep, and in your sheepish, child-like voice, ask me to stay, or to sing to you.

I know the pain you’ve been trapped in. And I also know how long you’ve buried that pain and all the years you’ve been pushing it down, and pushing it down, further and further, until it formed a solid, little rock at the very bottom of your heart. I know about the nights when you sit alone on your couch, thinking about the things that have happened to you and the things you’ve done. I see the shame in your eyes when something is said in a conversation, innocuous to most, but it pierces you like an ice cube on an exposed nerve.

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I know the sleeplessness that haunts you when all you want to do is sleep – because when you’re sleeping, you can’t think, you can’t feel, you can’t regret, and you can’t disappoint. I know.

I recognize the self-destructive behavior that you’re carrying out in an attempt to punish yourself. And I know you know intellectually, you didn’t do anything wrong, but somewhere along the way, you lost yourself. You don’t know when exactly it started, but over time, you started to believe the lies your mind had been whispering to you. You internalized the lie about not being worthy…of love, of grace, of good things, of success, of the friends and family you have in your life, of the opportunities you’ve been given.

I know all about the nights you spend drinking by yourself, or starving yourself, or getting high, or harming your body, of setting yourself up for heartbreak or humiliation, of sabotaging yourself in one way or another, because you want your physical body to feel the pain that is debilitating you from the inside.

I’ve seen you looking through old pictures of better times with a sad nostalgia, thinking about who you were then, and wondering if the demons have always been there, but just dormant. You wonder if there was anything you could have done back then to prevent what’s happening now. I know that feeling of wanting to crawl out of your skin and just become someone else, because anything would be better than being you right now.

I too have fantasized about what the world would be like if I wasn’t in it. The moment when you’re driving fast around a bend, and the split second you think, what would happen if I just let go of the wheel and drove off the road into the depths below. The times when you’ve been walking down the street and thought, what if I stepped out in front of that bus, or the nights when you go to bed, and hope that you won’t wake up. I too have let my mind wander and play out the scenario of removing myself from the world – would my loved ones be happier? Would the world be a better place? Or what if I was never in this world in the first place? Would that be better?

But, dear survivor, as lonely and alone as you have felt, I’ve felt it too. And so have many others. And really, don’t you think that maybe every human, to some degree, can relate? I know the that the things that happened to you were dark and insidious, but here you are. You’re still here. That means something.

And now I see you fighting, I see you picking up the baton in the relay race with yourself for this next leg. I can see the bravery and courage that has taken everything in you to muster to get to this point. You are already a survivor – but you want to thrive, and that makes me so happy. Because you will, and you deserve to, and the people who love you want you to. That’s the other thing – people do love you. I know that’s hard to believe right now, but it’s true. Some of them protect their own feelings by being angry with you, or brushing you off, or cutting you out, but the love is still there. Trust me.

Try to look out for the ones who express their love for you without condition though. That’s the energy you need right now. You know that no one can fix you except you, but I can tell you from experience, it sure does make a difference if you surround yourself with people who can love and support you transparently, without strings, without amplifying your shame, and without making you feel like you’re less than. Because you’re not.

Survivor, whatever it is that you have survived, as awful and painful and messed up as it is, it is a part of you, a part of your story. The challenge now, is to make sense of it all, and ultimately, gain strength from it. I know that sounds impossible, but you can do it, I believe in you. You’ve got this.

From one survivor to another, I’ve got you.

I’ve got you, and I’m not letting go.

Love,

Ange

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