The Dark Side Within: Coping With Abuse as a Survivor

It has been a long time since I was abused in private school. I don’t think there has been a day that goes by without some kind of memory or feeling about the abuse that happened to me. I have had friends and family tell me from time to time to “get over it” and that “it was so long ago, don’t hang on to it”. Words of such discouragement to a survivor I believe do more harm than good. I know our situation is not a comfortable one for others to deal with. Imagine having to cope as a survivor of such things. We all inherently believe we are somehow different. As a victim of abuse I know I am different – I am a “damaged goods” kind of different. As a victim I believe right down to my core that I am not worthy of love, of advancement, of being happy. As a victim I envy others and the things they can do so easily – make friends, play, have fun. As a victim I can easily find myself hating others because they have not experienced the pain and trauma I have. You can see how dangerous my victim mentality can become if I let it get out of hand.

As a survivor I try to see the positive in what I am doing about my situation. I cannot go back and change the past. I cannot turn back the clock and get to experience what was lost to me as a child. I can learn from what happened. I can attempt to make sense of it, but that tends to seem futile to me. I cannot rationalize what happened to me – I can only believe that the priests who violated me were pedophiles, using their authority to take advantage of the young souls like me. As a victim I believe I am the only one this ever happened to – that I had done something wrong to make these things happen. As a survivor I believe that my voice is not alone – that my voice speaks up for the many more that remain silent because of the embarrassment that can accompany the effects of abuse of an adult survivor of childhood abuse. I believe that for every abuse survivor that speaks out, there must be dozens more that remain silent out of fear. It’s like an iceberg. Only a small percent is visible, but the vast majority hides beneath the surface.

I have darkness within. I hate myself at times for being too accommodating to others. I aim to please people, to get along with others. I shy away from conflict. I accept the status quo most of the time rather than stand up for myself. I am working hard to change this. I believe this blog helps me. I am tired of accepting what happened – I am tired of my “friends” who tell me to “get over it”. Sorry. It’s not that easy.

Some of my childhood friends support me, others do not. The victim within me would love nothing more than to shut up and let things be. I don’t believe that is healthy. Watching my children grow up I see that children can be the most egocentric and self-centered beings. I am sure this is a natural part of growing up. However, remember, that while you were a child – how much did you really pay attention to other kids. Anyone slightly different than the majority is an immediate target for poking fun at, or dismissing as “not one of us”. Eventually this mindset changes for most kids as they become adults. Unfortunately this is not the case for others. The adults who had a perfect childhood, who were favourites of the teachers, who found school such a dream – good for you. I am happy for you. To those of you who were different – such as me – who were not necessarrily abused by authority figures, but who were bullied by peers, beat up or made fun of for your clothes, religious beliefs, differences in diets, haircuts, medical illnesses…..I understand how hard it was.

I remember when I was out of the private school and in the public system, there was a little girl – I cannot remember her name. She was quiet. She dressed poorly. She had the weirdest tight curly hair. She had very few friends and she missed a lot of school. I remember one assembly where she was given an award for something. As she approached the stage, she fell. Her hair flew off her head. She was bald. We all laughed, myself amongst the others – as I tried so hard to fit in with my new school. To all of this, this was funny. We didn’t pay attention to the fact that she ran off, grabbing her wig. A few months later we had another assembly. This one was given to pay respects to her for her life. She had died. She was terminally ill with cancer. She died – she had few friends at that school, and was ridiculed for her baldness. Kids can be cruel. I was one of them. I tried to fit in and be part of a pack. After that assembly I thought a lot about her. I was different too. I was hiding it inside. I wished I had the courage then to go to her and tell her it was all right. She died way to young. I think it was shortly after that assembly that I made the decision to not be part of a pack. I think that decision was made to keep more distance from other kids so they would never know what my secret was. It still bothers me when I think of the entire school laughing at such a terrible thing. I ask her silently to forgive me from time to time. I was part of a pack for that brief moment. Yes, there is darkness inside. I learned from that experience that pack mentality is strong – and breaking away from the pack mentality is difficult to do – yet if you don’t stand up for what you believe to be right, those pack moments can haunt you. It’s hard to stand alone – but it can be so much more rewarding when you finally do.

There are many different levels of abuse and bullying. When I was in my mid teens I was forging an identity with a group of like-minded “geeks” at school. Humour was my tool to hide behind. It’s still a bit of a crutch, but it really is a part of who I am. My humour can be dark at times – I am sure that’s my way of coping with the darkness of my past. I am hard on myself at times and still try to please everyone. I’m getting better at boundaries and standing up for myself – but it’s been three decades from the abuse. Though I am trying to “get over it” I am afraid to say I will continue to heal and work towards the light. However, have patience with survivors. We are working to function better. For us, healing is not a race – there are no quick paths to recovery. For us, it’s more like a bloody long marathon. The Force is my ally, and though I will slip to the darkness, the light will ultimately lead me through. Recently I had the honour to appear with Weird Al Yankovic on his Mandatory Fun tour. I shared the stage with him as Darth Vader. Ironic, that as I work towards the light I play a figure shrouded in darkness. I honestly can say though – that being on stage with Weird Al was a huge highlight for me. Here’s a picture from that concert. Weird Al will never know how much this meant to me:

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I am still committed to finding the fun in life. I am searching always for the light. My path is towards the light and though I will linger in shadows from time to time, I am and always will be a Jedi working towards the path of the light. May the Force be with you.

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One thought on “The Dark Side Within: Coping With Abuse as a Survivor

  1. Thanks once again for sharing. Your story is a powerful one and sheds light, yes, light, for me to understand that survivors are on a journey of healing…and reminds me of the importance of listening with my heart. Bravo

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