Acclimation. It’s what we do.
I was reminded in therapy last week that we usually acclimate to repetitive traumas we cannot control, until we find a way to stop them. It allows us to survive, emotionally and physically. I am a survivor because I acclimated to the physical and emotional abuse I endured when I was younger, until I found ways to stop them. This made me reconsider my sometimes negative reaction to the word survivor. (Yes, I realize it’s part of my chosen moniker. Doesn’t mean I love the word.) I survived many things and then TRIUMPHED over them. I decided I needed an actual list of the times I have done this, for when I’m feeling like a failure.
- I was molested for 6-7 years by my older brother, from the time I was 7 until I was almost 14. I’m not completely sure why I never told anyone, but obviously I felt it was unsafe. I acclimated to these things because I felt that I had no choice, until I had the courage to change it. I made it stop by setting up an obstacle course in my bedroom that would make a lot of noise when he came in to my room at night. My parents woke up and came to rush in, and the story came out. It’s noticeable to me that I didn’t tell anyone, but instead forced a situation where it couldn’t be said I was lying. Unfortunately, it’s also noticeable that nothing happened about it, but at least he stopped. I did that, nobody did it for me.
- My stepfather said and did lots of inappropriate things. He was frequently nude in my house and our backyard, from the time he moved in when I was 6. He frequently commented on my looks from the time I was young, and sometimes touched me in ways that didn’t feel good to me. He insisted on kissing me on the lips when he kissed me. He would get drunk and tell me all his problems by the time I was 10. I acclimated to these things because I felt that I had no choice. A complete list of his craziness and inappropriate shit would fill several pages. I really hated him. I moved out at 18, largely to get away from him. When I was in my late 20s and had moved out of state, I came to visit my mother and he tried to kiss me hello, on my lips as usual. I finally had the confidence to say NO. I stopped his kiss from reaching my face, I told him it wasn’t okay to do that, it had never been okay to do that, and it was stopping as of right then. I also told him he’d made me uncomfortable most of my life, and I wasn’t going to let that happen anymore. Our relationship changed at that moment. I held the power after that. I did that, nobody did it for me.
- I was in several emotionally abusive relationships when I was young, with older men who held all the power in our relationships. Some were short-lived, some were lengthy (up to 3 years.) I ended every one of those relationships myself, even if it took me some time, even in the face of suicidal threats from one. I did that, nobody did it for me.
- I was in one particularly emotionally abusive relationship as a young woman. After I was treated like a queen and placed on a pedestal, I was belittled and yelled at, made to feel my flaws were too much for anyone to want me, that I was lucky to have this man who would put up with me. He would get drunk and scream profanity and vitriol at me, among many other things. I acclimated to these things for 3 years, because I felt that I had no choice, until I finally found the courage to change it. I didn’t do it all on my own, but once the door was opened to leave, I refused to go back, even in the face of threats of physical harm and subsequent stalking. I did that, nobody did it for me.
That’s all I have time for right now. May add more later.