Many survivors of sexual abuse wish they could be normal when it comes to vacations and family gatherings… but what we survived wasnt normal.
I find that many abuse survivors expect time and again that we will be able to join in the excitement leading up to a getaway… whether it is a time of reuniting with family and friends for fun, or a quiet, relaxing resort away from regular life. But it can be a letdown when you find that your true window of time to be present and engaged with those around you is minimal and the anxiety level is steep.
Some of us prefer to paint on the smile and tough it out, just as we always did, even during abuse.
Don’t speak. Don’t rock the boat. For the sake of everyone else, keep it together, enjoy as much as you can, but just get through it.
Others don’t even try. They just stay home.
Why is it so tough? I’ll be honest; I am still navigating this one. Still trying to understand my idiosyncrasies. (And my idiot-sin-and-crazies…healing is a lifelong journey, right?!) Yes. But I can tell you this as we relate to vacation:
We struggle when our boundaries are stretched or breached. We struggle with the feeling of a loss of control. We struggle sleeping in new places. We struggle relating to new people in our living quarters…or when we are temporarily living in theirs. We struggle when we don’t get space and solitude. We struggle when we feel caged. We struggle when those around us seem moody, sensitive or controlling. We struggle when we feel like we have to walk on eggshells, when when we feel we are to be the peacemakers and keep everyone happy, or when we feel we aren’t living up to expectation. We struggle with our beach bodies. We struggle because our normal routines that help us feel safe are still back at home. We struggle because our daily support system is not operating in its normal way and, worse, sometimes technology isn’t accessible to keep us connected. We struggle when we are dissociated. We struggle when we are apart from those who help us survive on a daily basis. And we struggle because the reality is: many of us were abused, molested and/or raped while on vacation. And we struggle because we remember.
Vacation triggers us.
And as hard as we try to not allow it to, oftentimes we just can’t stop it from happening.
So a note to those who relate… you are not alone. Care for yourself. Even if it means going against the grain. Find your VOICE. Share your struggle with someone you trust and allow them to help protect you while you are with them away from your home… and share your struggle with someone you trust who will help support you from a distance while you are away.
And a note to those who don’t relate… try to understand. It’s not about you. Don’t make it about you. Just love the survivor in your life. Listen, support and allow healing to take place along the journey; it is for the better of all of us.
God bless you all! Hope you are enjoying your summer!
Keep it cool,
What struggle do you relate to? What can you add to the discussion?