Something has been on my mind a lot lately. It’s a topic I have visited before. Victim vs Survivor. I am not sure why it’s started to revisit my mind, but it is there.
Let’s go over the facts. I have been raped and abused. I became pregnant with my rapists baby, and then miscarried. I cannot sugar coat it. I have reached the point since therapy of being able to say it aloud. I was raped. Does this make me a survivor though, or a victim?
According to Dictionary.com a survivor is one who continues to function despite hardships or setbacks whereas a victim is person or who suffers harm or death from another or from some adverse act. So where do I fit in for this?
I’ve gone through years of depression. At my lowest, suicide seemed to be the best and only answer. My only way to feel better. I no longer felt anything. As my ability to feel became a thing of the past, self-mutilation became a new hobby; an addiction which was the only way I would allow myself to feel anything. I was the one in control of how much and what I was feeling, along with when I was able to feel. Feeling anything was too painful, making it harder and harder to get through the days without people seeing something was wrong. So I decided to not feel. I pushed all emotions to a place and locked them up tight. I stopped feeling.
With stopping the emotions, I could make it through the day. Then the next day. And the next. Pretty soon I was making it through one week. Then two weeks. Then three. Before I knew it I was making it through one month. Then two months. Then three. Eventually I just didn’t feel and managed to think this was a normal state to be in. I was able to function day to day and no one was the wiser. If I wanted to feel anything I would, by controlling it myself. I chose when to feel and how. I would self-mutilate. I cut myself. The need to release some emotion decided how deeply or how many. Some left scars. Some did not. It left me in charge of how and when I felt and how deeply I felt.
I eventually went to individual and group therapy. I saw a plethora of psychiatrists. This would help, and I reached a small break through. I was able to stop harming myself (a tiny miracle in my world). I was still unable to feel, but I was no longer hurting myself.
I was always addressing the effects of the rape, though not the rape itself. I addressed depression; the inability to feel or desire not to. I was unable to sleep. When I could I had nightmares. I was scared of any real or imagined noises. My own shadow scared me. I remember one time I was vacuuming, and my shadow was cast on the wall behind me. Enough to see it out of the corner of my eye. I had a panic attack. It came to the point that I was unable to work. I was having panic attacks at work, going to work, and after work. I was unable to function. I quit my job. I knew I had to. I needed help.
Up to this point, I was a victim. I allowed what happened to me to dictate how I was. It became who I was. It ruled me. I was a victim and took that title to heart. I was a shadow of myself. I did not even know who I was anymore.
I did seek help. The right kind of help this time. I admitted to myself what had happened. I admitted to a few that were close to me, including my parents, what had happened to me. I made it clear that I didn’t want to be treated differently, but that it’s beyond the point of being able to deal with it alone. I needed help, and not just for depression. I needed help dealing with the trauma and aftereffects of being raped. It was no longer something that I could ignore. It had taken my life over. It had been dictating what I do, how I act, where I go, and I needed it to stop. I needed to be in charge again. I needed to be human.
I went to counseling at the local Rape center.
This was the miracle I was looking for. I slowly started to live again. With each session, I was able to stand up a little straighter. I was not hiding in the corner. I was able to refer to it as “the incident,” then as “the attack,” and finally as “the rape.” I was able to say “rape” without a panic attack. I could reference it without getting sick each time. Eventually, I could talk about it, stating it happened in the past. And a while in the past, not the night before. Slowly my nightmares have subsided. I have had only a few in the past year. I have only had one panic attack recently, but it was in regard to my fear of bridges, not of being attacked. I haven’t had a relapse of cutting in over a year. I’ve replaced the cutting with tattoos instead. I have art to remind me of hope.
I have had a smile on my face and a cheerful demeanor lately. I have a functioning and loving relationship with someone who means the world to me. I have a job where I am not having panic attacks every few days. I’m no longer an emotionless zombie. I have feelings and emotions which pour out of me. Sometimes it’s more than it should be, but I’ll take it. I feel as if I’ve become a beautiful person full of love and joy with a little wear and tear, but stronger for it.
Does that make me a victim or a survivor?
I was raped, and I survived. It took me a bit to find my courage and strength, but I found it and fought back for my life. Now I am living.
I’m not a victim, nor am I a survivor. I’m a fighter. I fought for my life, and I have won.