They Aren’t Just Words
November 9th, 2016 I was traumatized. My country elected a self-expressed predator to the White House! I couldn’t believe it! I thought we had come so much further as a nation, as a people. I thought we were finally coming together as one and turning to Love. As a survivor of extreme childhood abuse, I could not wrap my head around the fact that this kind of man was now going to lead the country. I spent several days just crying and trying to come to grips with what it meant. Pictures of small, abused children with no voice and those dealing with mental illnesses having no champions, swirled around in my mind. Where would they get help now if even “good people” pass off his actions and statements as “just words”?
I had always assumed that the people that abused me were rare; that most people didn’t feel that way and certainly wouldn’t act on it — but on November 10th, two people were found in a burned out vehicle just 30 miles from where I sit. I don’t know if it was a hate crime but my cPTSD (complex post traumatic stress disorder) didn’t care. I was in danger. Every where I turned, there were images and reports of hate crime happening because “there is a new guy in the White House now.”
In response, my triggers started again. My biggest trigger is safety. I no longer felt safe. In just a matter of a few days, I watched as many people I previously considered “good” or “safe” spewed hatred I had never seen in public before. Suddenly, no one and no where was safe. I spent 3 days frozen and unable to leave my RV. I no longer even felt like I could ask someone else for help. The whole US felt like it had turned against people like me. I certainly didn’t trust myself to judge my surroundings any longer so it seemed that I was trapped. Fear took over. I surrendered to it. I admit it. It didn’t make it less real though.
I finally admitted that I had no control over it and that’s when the depression set in. I could find no energy to do anything. I didn’t get out of bed. I felt hopeless. The big plans I had before November 9th to travel, speak about life after abuse and create a website for those who need help suddenly felt useless. There was no longer any joy in any thing. The worst part was that I lost hope in ME. I gave my power away. I fell back into being a victim.
I let it all pass through, however. I didn’t fight it. I allowed it all. I allowed myself to be the victim, to be angry, to cry, to be scared and to fall. I allowed it to move through. I know that the fear would have kept me inside, scared to move and depressed if I would have chosen to “put on the brave face” before I was ready. I let it all move through me until I was depleted. In other words, I allowed myself to hit rock bottom. I couldn’t find the footing to rise until then.
So how did I begin to turn it around? Small steps every day. I decided to listen to someone who had another perspective on what was happening. Then, I chose to listen to something positive. I put out a call for help on Facebook, asking my friends to say something positive. I MADE myself leave the RV. At first it was only to the bottom step. Then I ventured out to the grill. The next day, I took a short walk with my wife around the campground (with mace in my pocket and sweat on my palms, breathing fast and looking every where for obvious danger). Each day I CHOSE to add something positive. I made myself venture out to the grocery store, a trip that normally would have taken 15 minutes but that day took me over 2 hours. I had 2 panic attacks and talked via text to 2 people who were encouraging and reassuring me the whole time, BUT I did it.
This has led me to today. It is November 21 and I am still dealing with triggers and fear but I feel better. I am not where I want to be yet. I am working for the first time in 12 days. I am not really into it and am easily distracted but I am doing it. I am sitting alone now, in the RV, because my wife went to a meeting in the next town and I am nervous but not afraid. I also plan to go to the grocery when she returns and I don’t think I’ll need to text. This is real progress for me. I celebrate it and will keep going.
Here’s the thing I want everyone to know: These aren’t JUST words. The hate filled words that some people are throwing around have an entirely different meaning to those who have experienced abuse. The kinds of words that the President-Elect and his followers are speaking were used in my earliest years by my abusers, to instill fear and compel cooperation. These words were my only forewarning of worse things to come.
On November 9th, I didn’t get upset because I was rooting for someone and they lost. I was terrified because from the highest podium in the world, I heard the new leader say I was in danger. My greatest disappointment in the past days are not the words that are still being spoken but rather the words that aren’t being said! The words that people around me that I look to, trust in and love, don’t say. We need to hear YOUR words. If you don’t believe the same way, say it. If you don’t agree, speak it. These aren’t just words, they are thoughts that lead to actions. Author Jodi Picoult says, “Words are like eggs dropped from great heights; you can no more call them back than ignore the mess they leave when they fall.” Their words have created a mess not only in me but in the nation as a whole and we can’t just ignore it or get over it. I take from their words that we have still a ways to go. I am not powerless like I was in my youth however, I now have a choice.
It is up to me to decide the actions I will take because of the words that have been spoken. I couldn’t control the reactions that I experienced but I get to choose how it affects me; will it defeat me or fire me up? It’s my choice. My safety lies in my actions not my reactions. I have an internal guidance system and will rely on it to let me know how to stay safe. I am not powerless in this situation. I will continue to work through my triggers. I will educate myself on what I can do to have my words heard. I will stand up against the words and actions that are hurtful and encourage Love. Hate filled words are being used today against the people of the United States for the same reasons — to instill fear and compel cooperation. We have a choice though. Will we allow them to defeat us or fire us up? Will we keep repeating the words of hate or decide to speak out of Love. Loving words can build bridges that hate cannot touch. I choose Love because it’s not just words.