Friday, February 6, 2009

Finding Peace: Being Completely Comfortable in Your Shoes

Peace. Isn’t that what all survivors crave? The day when the flashbacks end, the depression lifts, and the anger subsides - the day when you can be “normal” again.

At the beginning of my recovery, I thought that if I just worked hard enough to purge every memory, cry every tear, and scream every injustice, this would bring me to a place of incest being “over”. I would “do” trauma recovery, come out victorious, and life would be a Disney flick.

After four years and mounting shame wondering, “Why aren’t I over this yet?” I saw peace as a gradual reduction of annoying symptoms and a greater sense of courage emerging. I would celebrate a week without a depression bout, or mustering the courage to confront my offenders (first in role play and then in person), or landing a job that was “healthy” and kept me out of a victim role.

Twenty years later, I have finally grasped my real peace as a survivor:

Real peace is accepting that trauma has forever changed you, your perceptions of the world, and your feelings about those who directly or indirectly injured you. You can heal, but you can never “undo” it.

Real peace is both doing the hard emotional work of recovery and understanding that you are always going to be a work in progress.

Real peace is continuously employing strategies for the times that life will throw you a triggering curve ball. Such as when a new daughter reminds you of your innocence lost, or you finally get the “validation” you wanted by a sister whose memories surface a decade later.

Real peace is transforming the negative experience into positive actions that heal others.

Real peace (here is the late-stage grand prize) is watching so much good evolve from uplifting others that you no longer carry any regrets about your past, and in fact, begin to celebrate the strength of your character brought about by facing adversity. Wow!

I never dreamed I could write these words and truly mean it.


  1. I love your definition of real peace. Those are the things I find to be true in my own experience, also. I truly doubt that I will ever be truly free of what happened to this life. That ultimate healing is yet to the end of time when my Creator transforms me.

    Helping others means a lot to me. Everything I have been through helps me to be more empathetic of others. I am far from perfect in that, but I try. In spite of my slip ups, I do believe that I helped more than I have hurt. And even when I have inadvertantly hurt others, I have learned from it...and, hopefully, won't hurt anyone else.

    What a be validated by your sister. My own sister died as I was regaining memories of my true past. We will never be able to validate each other in this life. Although, the way she lived her life was an indirect validation of I am told.

    Life can definitely throw those curve balls. When it happens now, at least I know what is going on and I have tools to help me deal with it.

    I have enjoyed getting to know you a little better, Bonnie. :-)

  2. Hi One Survivor,

    Thanks - I have enjoyed your feedback and insights as well. I am so sorry about your sister. I do know what you are saying that sometimes the pain people carry flows into their lifestyle, and provides validation in and of itself. My father could never admit to being a victim of abuse himself, but he was a textbook of symptoms.

    I am meeting with a cover art designer today to get a book rolling - looking forward to getting the ball rolling.

    Take care - have a good holiday if I do not talk to you before.