Saturday, January 26, 2013

Who - or What - Is a Survivor?


What is a survivor?

How do we define what makes one person considered a survivor - while another is not.

My guess is that there will be as many definitions as there are people queried - or people who are reading this blog.

To one person, a survivor will be someone who has survived an event in which others have perished such as 9/11, an earthquake, a fire, a tsunami, a horrendous car accident or an airplane crash.  Especially a catastrophic event.  Something that has made the 6 o'clock news.  Trauma.  Big time.  Life threatening.

To others, the definition gets broadened to be those who have (or are) surviving life-threatening diseases such as cancer (probably the most well known and understood).

To people like me who suffer from psychological trauma inflicted by verbal abuse, bullying (both school and workplace) and other non-physical, life-threatening traumas, and those who walk with people like me, the definition gets further broadened to be those who have or are currently suffering from psychological trauma:  impacted by life events such as verbal abuse, bullying, etc. which have put them emotionally down for the count but have somehow survived and continue to not only survive the tremendous onslaught of verbal and psychological abuse they suffered but, at the end of the day, are still alive and breathing.  Maybe severely impacted or damaged.  But alive and breathing.  Usually treading the precarious, serpentine, never ending road to recovery.

To me, the paragraph above profiles a true survivor.  One who bears invisible scars that no one can see.  One who works towards recovery from something few people understand.  I've even had one person get very angry at me saying, "After all, you don't have cancer."

After all, I don't have cancer.  If I did, I would have tons of support available.

As it is ... I've had to create - and, for the most part, train - my own support network.  One person here, another there.

Oddly enough, during this period of my walk, I've been walking with a friend going through the cancer walk.  While the causes of our affects are very different - hers from cancer; mine from trauma - we both bear remarkable similarities.  Extreme fatigue for one.

I think that there is a misperception about what - or who - a survivor is.  To me, in its basest definition, a survivor is one who has survived.  One who, at the end of the day, is still alive.  One who, by virtue of being alive, is able to wake up the next morning, breathing, feeling, thinking.  Still alive.  Maybe barely.  Maybe with a lot of disabilities.  Life forever altered.  But, nonetheless.  Still alive.

That, to me, is a survivor.

Some might say I'm being pretty dramatic.  I myself would have to agree IF I wasn't going through this  facing head on the tsunami of feelings of worthlessness, shattered self-esteem, valuelessness, voicelessness, facelessness, etc. crash over me, dragging me under in their wake.  Feeling helpless and defenceless in their wake.

This blog is about my life.  My story.  It's about me.  My recovery.

Recovery is hard.  Even now.  It doesn't come with instructions.  It's not a flat, cultivated path as in the picture above.

There are unexpected pitfalls along the way.

Emotions.  Fatigue.  Depression.  Listlessness.  Weakness.  Severe itching.  Recurring nightmares.  Hypervigilience. And the list goes on.

Each day is new.  Complete with challenges, but also with victories.

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