I often struggle with the term “survivor“. Does that really apply to me?
Dictionary.com defines it as follows:
So, according to this definition, and presumably other dictionary definitions as well, I am a survivor… but then, wouldn’t we all be in one way or another? I’d assume so.
It’s hard not to compare myself with others. Was my recent relationship really that bad? Do I deserve such a heroic label as “survivor”? There are many people out there who have had much worse experiences (as arbitrarily defined by me) than I… and yet there are also others who haven’t had it “as bad” (also arbitrarily defined by me) and they’re considered to be survivors too…
Recently, I asked a trusted friend who was the one I relied on the most when I finally realized I had to get out.
“…Am I an abuse “survivor”?” I texted her.
She responded, “Well, you’re not dead. So yes.”
And that made me laugh and miss her so much. I often wish she wasn’t on the other side of the world.
After I left him, I spent a lot of time reading and researching, trying to understand what had happened. I came across a helpful website: Centre for Relationship Abuse Awareness. I found a list of warning signs. I found a list of different types of abuse. I was surprised at how often I could identify with the content of these lists. I printed them and wrote “Y” for yes, “N” for no, “not really”, “think so”, “basically”, or “…?” for each item on the two lists. And I kept them. I wanted to record what I could, so that I could look back on it some day and hopefully reflect on my progress. I’m glad I did this, because sometimes I really do need a reminder on how far I’ve come, and that it’s okay to not be back to a “normal” fully functioning, contributing adult member of society.
Although my emotions don’t always like or accept it, it helps to have proof showing me that yes, I am a survivor. And as my friend so observantly clarified for me, I’m not dead. (At least not yet.) So yes, I am a survivor. Whether I’m sad or proud to have this label, it is now a part of me. And forever it will be.