Friday, 22 June 2018

Abuse: The Gift That Keeps Giving

If you ever experience abuse of any sort, you will discover that you eventually come to a point where you have to make a choice. Do you stay silent, or do you speak out? Do you tell the truth, or live a lie?

Saying it like that makes it sound kinda easy and straight forward - but here's the catch:

Both choices involve pain. 

Both choices will cost you. 

Both choices lead to loss.

If you remain silent you will remain 'acceptable'. You will retain your community. You will keep your relationships. Your reputation. Your job.

But you will live with the pain of having to always hide the truth. Of having to constantly play a part. Of feeling endlessly isolated and alone. You will have to endure seeing those who squeezed your heart dry, smile and play the innocent. And you will know deep down that others will be harmed, and that your silence enabled it. You will lose your voice. Your truth. Your integrity.

If you speak out you will discover the sheer relief of simply saying it out loud. Of telling your story. Of giving yourself permission. You will also find fellow survivors who can encourage and support you, and reassure you that you are not alone. That you are not crazy. That it wasn't your fault.

But you will make people angry. You will be blamed by those who don't want to feel uncomfortable. You will be attacked by those who don't want to believe that their idealised (and idolised) leader has feet of clay. You will be shunned by those who would rather not know that their loving friend or family member can treat others so heartlessly. You will lose friends and family. You may even lose your job.

Even though at times it will feel like "heads, you win - tails, I lose", you do have a choice.

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I experienced abuse. And I made the choice to speak out.

I did pay the price. There has been pain and loss.

People did become angry. They did attack me and shun me.

And the truth is that it wasn't just a one-time event. Abuse is the gift that just keeps on giving, because I continue to live with these realities - the lies, the disapproval, the damaged or lost relationships.

And sometimes, as happened this week, I find myself talking to old friends for the first time in years, and having to face the choice all over again. To face the loss of friendship again. To face the pain of rejection again.

And I chose to tell the truth. Again.

Even as I write this, I don't know how my friends will receive that truth. I don't know what cost I will bear for that choice. 

(I don't want to lose their friendship. At the same time I acknowledge that if they reject me for speaking out, I'd already lost it anyway.)

But these days I am confident of who I am (and of who I am not). And I know what prices I am willing to pay (and which are beyond my capacity to afford). And I know that I am worth it (and that not everyone will be able to see this).

And - as unexpected as it was - those things are also gifts that surviving abuse gave me.

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