Yes, today I can say I feel more so a Survivor and less of victim. My goal is to be a Thriver, and that is baby steps.
For a long time- three years, in fact- I was the victim. After we escape, we become “stuck” or caught in all of what happened to us. We are confused, we feel lost, isolated and cannot find the exit out of the revolving door of Hyper.
We are hypervigilent, hypersensitive, hyperemotional, and hyperpanicky to escape feeling or remembering, so we go ’round and ’round until we are running from anything that might remind us.
Every exit off the Hyper door has something frightening to remind us, and so we don’t take that exit.
We just keep running, disoriented, and feeling pretty ridiculous at times because we know fully well we need to stop running and step out, but we simply are not ready.
And when there are no safe exits, it is indescribable for a victim to feel brave enough to step out of the Hyper-go-round, because staying there as ridiculous as it feels, is better than what’s out THERE.
So of course, we will eventually crash from exhaustion and the Hyper door will stop (and we crawl out on our hands and knees), or we will take a brave step out because the motion sickness one day becomes more overwhelming than the nausea of fear.
It is a mix of subconscious triggers of yesterday with today. It is the “red alert” syndrome. That is a part of both trauma and PTSD- and not every victim develops PTSD, but alot of them do, especially if they have been victimized repeatedly by one trauma or many different traumas.
This is our traumatized mind seeing everything – and nothing- as potentially dangerous. For those like me, it’s perfectly unnormal and how we have had to live in order to survive.
Instead of enjoying the sunset, we are afraid of the long shadows (I was sexually assaulted at night.. what could hurt me there?)
or instead of enjoying the simplicity of a friend’s hug, we stiffen and freeze with panic (my best friend raped me.. what about this one?)
or instead of enjoying a sincere handshake, we are afraid of the person’s strong grip (I was gripped around the throat with hands just as strong..why is it so hard to breathe suddenly?)
or instead of hearing the jingling of wind chimes on the back porch, our ears detect a trigger (I can hear my rapist’s keys jingling from his belt from a 1/4 mile away in a particular pattern…I immediately have a backup escape route even though I wasn’t thinking about it a second ago.)
or the worst mind warp, which is having to interact with the spitting image (behaviorally, emotionally, physically) of the one who nearly destroyed you. (This copy of your past probably wouldn’t even run with a dull butter knife, as opposed to your reliving memory of someone identical to him/her chasing you with a REAL knife… but yet, the feeling is real, and therefore, it is REAL to you.)
Victims, and survivors (with or without PTSD) are not crazy, or demented. They are regular people that have been through something life-altering trauma that went far beyond the epidermal layer of their psyche.
It is very easy (and very terrifying) to be triggered into reliving yesterday. Just ask any war veteran. PTSD is a large issue in the military. They have been on “red alert” internally, everything in a war zone is a potential threat, anything and everything could take their life in a blink when they are on duty. And when they are sent home, they are still caught in “red alert” syndrome.
Triggers exist everywhere, and sometimes seemingly from nowhere. It is always a fight to bring yourself to center (grounding yourself) and remember that was in the past. But it can be done, and we are all capable of finding our own safe place and ways to ground ourselves.
When a victim finally crawls out of the Hyper-go-round, getting out there and getting help, talking to others, or maybe not even talking about it but seeking out others..
That is bravery at its most terrifyingly finest. Trust me, it’s holy hell to say, “I need help and I am afraid to trust you but I must try.”
That is the transition stepping stone from victim to survivor.