Into the Breach

My brother Jimmy was like a navy seal. Intent on drawing any rage my parents might be brewing, he crept down the hall as I followed, carefully placing each tip-toed step in silence. Together, we moved through the house without a sound.

I smiled to myself as I watched my therapist read the assignment he had given me. He finally came to the end and looked up. I took the opportunity to fish for a compliment. “It’s well written don’t you think?” I was sure he would be impressed.

“There’s one problem.”

My stomach dropped. “Well…it hasn’t been edited.”

“It’s not that.”

“What is it, then?”

“You think your brother is your hero.”

“Really?”

“You described him as a navy seal—a rescuer.”

“Yes, I guess I have always thought of him like that. So what?”

“He’s not the hero. You are.

I had never once thought of myself that way. My therapist went on to suggest that first, I was a hero for simply surviving. He concluded his enlightenment with these words. “You survived the past, but no one can rescue you now except yourself. You are the hero of your own story.”

I’ve spent a lot of time emphasizing self-empowerment in my blogs. Our abusers are no longer in charge and we can choose to heal. I know this to be true. But I am not naive. The devastation wrought by childhood abuse makes you think change is impossible. The heartbreak is so severe, the anger so overpowering, the injustice so outrageous, it feels utterly incapacitating.

Abuse alters the way you live and move in the world. The sorrow that comes from being unloved, and the devastation of knowing the people you want to love most, are out to destroy you, is inexpressible. Trauma impacts every important relationship and tries to take away all the good things you are. It drives you to act in ways that violate yourself. Simply put, trauma alters the trajectory of your entire life. For me, the longing for home has been a physical all-consuming yearning that can never be fulfilled. I must live with everything that happened and everything that will never be.

For the trauma survivor, life is not a warm fuzzy journey of healing. It is an all-out war. I know what it feels like to want to die—and mean it. After years of suffering, I remember sitting alone one day and thinking, “I cannot live like this. It would be better to be dead than to be in such miserable distress.” Many times I mulled over the thought of suicide, and then this thought occurred. “If my only option is death, then what do I have to lose? What if I throw everything I can think of at this problem?”

Support groups, therapy, youtube videos, friends, AA, NA, Al-Anon, church, no church, prayer, meditation, exercise, yoga, retreats, reading, journaling, talking, talking, talking, listening, listening, listening, relaxation exercises, deep breathing, knowledge and more. Survivors must use every weapon in the arsenal and it must be aimed directly at the breach in our souls.

Like many people, there was never enough money for all the therapy I needed. I went around that obstacle by attending affordable zoom meetings, free support groups, borrowing books and journaling, squeezing in the occasional therapy intensive when I could. Thousands of hours of prayer and meditation, pursuing friendships with other survivors, I continue to press on.

You must not give up. Everything depends on the choices you make, especially when things are at their worst. I am not just one little life and neither are you. What happens to me affects my children, my friends, society, and the very foundations of life. I am taking a stand against evil and I will prevail. If I can keep my eyes focused on the bigger picture and the important part each individual life plays, I can keep going.

The war survivors are embroiled in is one for life and death and we are the four-star generals of our own army. We must throw all we have, all we know, and all we are into the breach.

Once More Into the Breach

(William Shakespeare, from Henry V, spoken by King Henry)

Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more;

Or close the wall up with our English dead.

In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man

As modest stillness and humility:

But when the blast of war blows in our ears,

Then imitate the action of the tiger;

Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,

Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage…

…show us here the mettle of your pasture; let us swear

That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;

For there is none of you so mean and base,

That hath not noble luster in your eyes.

…The game’s afoot:

Follow your spirit, and upon this charge

Cry ‘for God, for Harry, England, and Saint George!’

 

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