Hope Burns

The world is new today, and it has nothing to do with the beginning of a year. It is new because I have taken a fork in the road. My journey now is different from ever before. It is  fresh snow and a path not taken. It begins with hope and a dream.

I am a trauma survivor. I have complex PTSD from 4 years of being trafficked when I was young. I have reached a point in my recovery where I am more healed than damaged. The problem with being healed is it is new and untried. My brain in all of its glory is familiar with the other way, that is what it knows. It’s the down hill trail with fewest obstructions. The fact that I am attempting to take a new path to end with a different result is often inconsequential to the normal functioning of my brain.

There is a battle waging each day within my heart and mind. This battle is different from ever before because it is not a fight for survival. I am no longer awakening each day to talk myself into living, breathing, and working. I am now fighting for the permanent changes within myself. At times I find this battle as complex and heated as the fight to live.

I had a really good Christmas this year, and I could not enjoy it. Through the trauma therapy, I came to realize that I expect bad things to happen in direct proportion to the good things that happen to me. So, if I get a compliment I expect at least one if not more insult and tear down. Every gift is followed with a loss. My trauma brain does not trust goodness and kindness for it cannot last. I am going back to school starting next week. I am going back to pursue a dream that is mine and not someone else’s. For Christmas, my parents bought me a laptop. I got to watch my niece and nephew open their presents and be so very joyful. Inside, each good thing that happened to me and that I witnessed hurt and felt like I was being lashed.

With my counselor, I was able to sit and explore what was going on inside. My abuser/trafficker used to make me pay for every compliment or good thing that happened to me. There was a cost for every lollipop from a bank teller to every present from unknowing parents and grandparents. The cost was taken from me in secret, but I had learned that I didn’t deserve good things. I also learned to only accept the good I was willing to pay for. But the people in my life now are healthy and wonderful people, they don’t expect a return on a meal bought, gift given, or laugh shared.

My trauma brain, in an effort to keep the scales balanced would give me a cup inside for the good things. Anything that overfilled the cup resulted in an internal shut down. I could only be so happy, so joyful, so delighted every day. The size of the cup would change based on things that I do not comprehend. Some days my cup was large enough to encompass a full day of good things big and small. Other days my cup would be filled with a sincere thank you. This Christmas my cup was so very small that is filled days before the holiday began, and I did not even realize it.

I am choosing to pick up hope for the first time since I cast it aside at the age of 6. I haven’t faced what made me give it up yet, and I am sure I will someday. I don’t need it for today. I just need to pick it up first. It’s like a piece of driftwood that has been washed up on shore after spending years beaten by the waves. The letters can barely be seen, and they are almost too shallow to be felt by the softest touch. The simple act of picking it up burns away the rotting wood and reveals the metal inside. The heat radiates into me, glowing with the warmth of a new day in early spring.

I know what my brain is trying to do, and that means I can deal with it. I can fight the lies that say that I have a limit on goodness with the truth that there are no such limits in existence. I can love others without limits as well, though I imagine that will also involve more battles as well. I must stay present first. When I feel the welling desire to run and flee, I must stand and be aware instead. Hope and kindness burn, but not with the fire of damage. They burn because they are awakening what has been long dead inside. Jesus is my savior, and that does not stop with my salvation. He redeems it all.

 

Living without Walls

I have reached a strange impasse in my growth and healing. I feel even more like a stranger in a strange land. I have spent my whole life adjusting myself to all circumstances and people, a perfect wallflower. I would be a part of a group, and yet always on the outskirts with no one really knowing me. I was neither too loud not too quiet. If the group appreciated enthusiam, then that was me. If it was always quiet, then that was me, so quiet my very presence could be forgotten.

The environments have hated the most were ones where there were so many variances in the atmosphere, I would almost split myself into pieces trying to Glen into the environment. I can remember being aware of this part of myself, and also being oblivious until someone would make a comment about me that seemed bizarre to me. I have been called an extrovert by the extroverts, fearless and confident, quiet and reserved, shy and bold; and all of these by people in the same group. They have seen me for several years. They have known me in various circumstances. I am all of these things and none.

I am at the point in my healing where enough of the roots have been dug out, chains have been released, and walls broken; that I can honestly look about as a new creature and start to dream and think. Who am I? What do I like? What do I want to be? What are my desires? The one I wrestle with the most is do I really have the right to be?

I am 36 years old, and I am trying to dream as never before. I am dreaming of things and places and events as if I had not one worry. All things are possible, and then as the freedom flies out from me, my insides quake with fear. A fear so great that I immediately shift into survival mode and disappear from being fully present. I am afraid of freedom.

Freedom is an unknown. Who am I without these chains, I don’t know but the scariness has led to self harm. The inner turmoil of emotions are scary even if they are good and hopeful emotions, my mind cannot comprehend. I can comprehend pain. I know how to deal with that. That has an answer unlike hope and dreams.

Then, of course, my old friends guilt and recrimination stop by to visit for awhile. I’m breaking the cycle bit by bit. I have found it better to reach out to others. I cannot always share what is going on, but just not being alone helps. I have also found a great relief by being honest when I can about the self harm. It removes a lot of the guilt and humiliation. Its easier to breathe without those added weights. Its also easier to work out my thinking with other people, especially when it feels counter to the situation, like being full of hope and instead seeking injury because that is a known quantity. I don’t want to live like that. Pain is not the solution.

For me, at least for now, the solution is harder than the pain. I have to slow my brain and deal with each fear. I have to be ok with the emotions and become comfortable with all of the emotions. There is only one way to do this task. I must stay. I must leave the walls down. I must try things for myself, an I must be ok if I am different from those around me. I must take the shaky steps forward toward my impossible dreams.

I must put down my weapons, inside and outside. I will look in the mirror, and I will come to know the amazing woman in the reflection. I will find the dreams of the long lost little girl, and I will put her safe in my heart. I will keep stepping out in freedom, and even if I stumble, I know how to rise again.

Until next time…

Sami_Sunset – Light Bringer

Tonight, I find myself in a moment after discovery. I have been on this leg of the recovery journey for over a year. I’m in a new place.  A place that doesn’t even resemble where I was when I began this walk. I keep growing, learning, and adjusting my course as I come to terms with who I am authentically. I’ve been working on a decision lately. I gave myself weeks to think about it, pray about, and finally to just take the step. There was a peace that came with the exhale I set my foot onto the path. But today, all the doubts and fears descended like the ravenous monsters from my childhood.

I didn’t fully explain my name when I chose it for my Twitter account. If I am being honest with myself, I didn’t fully understand it at the time. There were some other discoveries I had yet to make. I have long associate the names Samantha and Sami with my favorite names. They are safe, and warm, and a balm to my spirit. I didn’t know why until recently. The abusers that trained me, sold me, broke me, used names to communicate the behaviors that I should exhibit. My own name became the name used when it was time for punishment, but Sami, Sami is the name they used when it was time to go home. It was the name of safety. It was what they called the little girl who was me when it was time to shut down and go home.

There are Light Bringers in this world who shine the light into the darkness. The brightest of them have often lived in that darkness. They made it their own as it was the only way to survive. They walked it, lived it, breathed it, conformed to it because that was the way to have hope that they could make it to tomorrow. When they find the way out, what they desire most is to burn the light further into the dark and bring others forth. They find the way, and they want to help others make it as well.

Being a Light Bringer is a beautiful gift when shared with other survivors because it imbues a strength in all who see it. The Light Bringer is a beacon showing that you are not alone, and all of the people who want you to feel that way are lying. The trouble comes when the Light Bringer points out the obvious flaws in the thinking and actions of this world. Our world is created on illusion that we can prevent the bad things from happening. We believe that just by working hard and doing all of the right things that we can hold the darkness at bay and maintain our control. Bad things cannot happen when we do the right things at the right time.

You can see it for yourself in conversations about almost any world event. We want to know what happened, but we also want to know the why and how. We will say, this happened because of their beliefs, that happened because of what they were wearing, you would have been safe if you had stayed home, going out after dark was the danger, people not like myself are the hazards, if you would only, why didn’t you……. The list goes on and on. It is not a list really about the event. The list is about all of the things that we can do to prevent whatever it is from happening to us. Because the alternative is not something we really want to accept.

I was trafficked and exploited as a child from the ages of 4 – 7. I have googled trafficking and exploitation, many times, and most of the information to be found is for teens, adults, women, foreigners, but its harder to find articles and people talking about little kids. When a person is raped, we analyze their clothing, behavior for all time whether they have changed or not, where were they, why were they there, anything and everything to put a reason as to why it happened to that person. We as a society practically make it an inevidable conclusion that the perpetrator could not help but rape that person. They didn’t have a choice. Besides its not that bad, just shake it off, we can’t ruin the perpetrator’s life because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time and could not help but rape that person. Bad people don’t exist. Bad things only happen to those who deserve it.

We run into a bit of a cognitive dissonance when faced with a 4 year old rape victim. We, as a society, cannot write that off, and we don’t really like that. There are statistics galore out there, and we quote them at each other and say something must change. Yet as we say this, we analyze over and over how did it happen to them and that is how we fix the problem. The problem is not in that place, though, the problem is in the dark. The problem is in the things that we don’t want to acknowledge and face. Don’t look, don’t see, doesn’t exist.

I am one of the ones who chose not to exist, so I could survive in that dark. I am not a statistic, but a person with a story. Some if it is heartbreaking, some of it is hilarious, some of it is ugly, some of it is filled with all of the mean and horrible things I have done, some of it is filled with my mistakes, and some of it is so beautiful. There is a time coming when we will have the option of being honest and saying that darkness exists, evil exists, bad things happen and we cannot always control it. A time is coming when people will want you to ignore the full ramifications of what they want you to do, say, or think.

By not looking in the dark, shining a light, we are ignoring one of the few things we really do have control over in this world. We ignore the impact of our relationships with each other. We forget just how important it is to love one another. The dark is a scary place, but it still cannot exist in the light. If you walk into a room, and turn on the light the darkness must flee like scuttling cockroaches.

It is not easy to be a Light Bringer, and I know quite a few these days. I have found them in my real life and also in my digital life. Even as they stand and shine their light, there are those who sling mud at them trying to darken the brightness with which they stand. These people, these Light Bringers, are not statistics. They are real flesh and blood. They tell the stories of their lives that are hard to hear not just because of what happened, but because it means the numbers aren’t just on a page. The numbers are living, breathing, crying, hugging, loving, amazing people who have suffered and chosen to live and grow and burn brightly. They did not choose to stay in the dark. They did not choose to turn into the dark as the ones who came before. The world understands that better than it does the ones who choose to love. The world sees pain and understands why it creates pain and propagates pain. When the world sees pain that has turned into hope and love and infects others, than it must be stopped, for then it means that the dark does exist and it can be defeated. It just can’t be defeated by ignoring it.

My name is Sami_Sunset. I am in the sunset phase of my recovery. Granted this phase may still take quite a bit, but it is ending. I will not have to hide behind the safety of my digital name. I will be a Light Bringer and take my place among those who shine into the dark. You are loved, and you are not alone.

Until next time.