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I AM a victim; I AM the hero.

I wrote this to de-stigmatize the disease of mental health as well as to give hope to others who also suffer from the ‘after-shocks’ of trauma and abuse. You are not alone.

I am a victim...I AM a victim...I am A victim...I am a VICTIM. I hated that word - victim. I still have a hard time saying that word because I don't want to live as a victim or be seen as weak and broken. I don't want it to rule my life. And I certainly don't want others' pity. But the more I fought that word - victim - the more I lived in a state of victimization, which finally brought me to my knees begging for the will to live.

I have a long journey ahead of me, but I am coming to understand that I MUST validate the victim who IS a very real part of me. She exists, she has suffered, she has been wronged...and that needs acknowledgement.

I AM a victim no matter how I try to look at it:

⁃ I grew up in an alcoholic home, where I learned to survive by numbing out my feelings. "Don't think, don't feel, and don't speak" were the house rules.

⁃ I was raped...twice. Once by my boyfriend whose patience ran out; I was a virgin at the time. The second time, I was drugged and couldn't remember anything. I knew with the severe pelvic pain the next day something had happened, but I had no memory. I only recently (within the past few months) have started remembering the details of both rapes...the feelings, the betrayal, the severe physical and emotional trauma.

⁃ I also survived a severe emotionally-abusive relationship that put me through years of domestic violence individual & group therapy as well as a PTSD clinical trial. For a long time,I couldn't drive without having panic attacks...I still have nightmares. I still have flashbacks.

⁃ I came out as gay in a SUPER Catholic family and worked in Catholic campus ministry for over a decade, where I lived a daily double life. Am I straight or gay today? Gay or straight with this group of liberals? Straight or gay with those conservatives? The well-intentioned 'homophobes'? (yes, they exist) And how about the allies? It gets confusing...stressful. I stopped "knowing" who I was anymore.

Regardless, I still refused to call myself a victim. "If I did, doesn't that mean all the people who have hurt me win? Over my dead body (almost literally)...I would never let them see how they broke me down, how they devastated me, how they betrayed me, how their choices/beliefs contributed to me contemplating the point to my existence on this earth, because if I do, it means they win!" This was how I thought, but listen: What they did is done. It can't be reversed or replayed, and I can't go back and change it...However, they are NO BETTER of a person for doing what they did...the abuser, the rapist, the alcoholic, the Church...they didn't win.

WE - victims of trauma AND survivors of trauma…heroes - WE still have a chance to reclaim the lives we feel have been taken from us. WE still have the chance to be better from take that which was evil and dark and shed the light of goodness and justice.

Here is the reality: They DID do those things to me, they DID try to break me, and devastate me, and hurt me, and WHOA...I certainly suffered the pain. I am still suffering..but they failed.

Here's why: I am still here. I still have my voice. I still have my dignity. Shit...I still have my life, which I (myself) almost took away. In those weeks of desperation and despair, I began to realize that I have the power to choose to choose my life. Yes, I AM a victim AND I choose to live AS the savior/hero who fights for my victim "self" more and more each day until my victim "self" feels safe, empowered, and whole.

If I allow myself to accept that "I am a victim", only then can I FINALLY begin standing up for my victim "self". If I don't accept her, she will forever remain invisible and suffering alone. Accepting that I AM a victim does not mean I have to live AS a victim. I am also my own hero, who survived incredible IS truly heroic.

Both parts of me are necessary...the victim who, in a very REAL way, can empathize with the traumatic pain of others in order to help them find healing and the motivation to live a meaningful purpose-driven life, AND the savior/hero who comforts and stands up for the scared, sad and angry part of me that is yearning for protection and courage.

They are both ME and both deserve to be validated, accepted, and radically loved. I believe that by allowing them to exist hand-in-hand, my two identities as victim and savior/hero will unify in wholeness...this is my goal.

In all of this, there are days my hero "self" takes some hard hits, and getting out of bed is a struggle, but she is recovering and will return.

I'll keep you posted 😇

** The separation of hero and victim**

(My art therapy piece that led to the writing of this article)

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