The title of survivor isn’t for me anymore,

20 Apr, 2021

The past few weeks have been an incredibly interesting time for me. I have been reflecting a lot on my own growth and healing. I have become more grounded in my body and the spaces I am choosing to show up in and the ways in which I take up space.

Over the past little bit much of my own journey has been around healing my nervous system differently. I have written before about how I have cycled from hyperarousal to hypo arousal then collapsed for days sometimes weeks. There was a post this morning that came up from my facebook memories it says
“ true healing occurs when I give myself permission to feel whatever feeling live below the triggers”

This really hit with me in terms of how much I have healed in the past year. Let me give a bit of context of what I mean with some of these terms, May people have heard of the term PTSD but may be new to the term Complex PTSD. There is a lot of material online where you can search to understand the difference between the two. One difference is the cause of complex PTSD vs PTSD.

Essentially as I understand it for me, CPTSD has been caused by ongoing stress in childhood (and even earlier  if  I look at my moms experiences while she was pregnant with me as well as, the intergenerational trauma my matriarchal line has endured.) The ongoing chronic stress from early trauma and further trauma into my adolescence and early adulthood changed my nervous system. I have learned over time and continue to learn just how often my nervous system is activated. I have done some tough work to pull apart the layers of trauma that have caused my nervous system to respond and slowly but surely I have been working to calm everything down and create enough safety to feel the feelings I have avoided for years and years because they were just too painful to tolerate.

Now I want to mention here there are some important steps around stability that had to be achieved for me to even begin to look inside and build my window of tolerance to feel and heal difficult things.
Safe affordable permanent housing

 in my current phaseIncome security
Safe relationships
I think here of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Although the model is not perfect it resonates with me. 

Even with these things, it has taken years to fully FEEL like I am in safe affordable permanent housing. (this is why I have some strong critics on the housing first and homes for good models that are used in Canada but that’s for another day)
Once I had these things in order for about 8 years only then did I access therapy and begin to do the deeper work. For me trauma treatment has been one of the most significant vehicles of healing. I’ve met many other folks who have found other forms of healing the most useful for them. I am not a therapy only type of human if you have found something that works for you then heck yes doesn’t matter how you heal or where you heal there is not “right way”.

What I can say for me these past few months is that the term survivor is no longer resonating with me. I think language is important. There have been different phases of  my life and in my current phase, I’m newly conceptualizing what has happened to me, how it has impacted me, where I am and where I am going.
If I had to summarize all of those phases in terms of language that we use I think there was a time that I was a victim many times actually that someone else victimized me, then there was a time when I was a survivor. That time of surviving was longer than the actual abuse I experienced. Survivor for me was where I relied heavily on community, engaged in many reenactments of my trauma, was consistently cycling between flight/flight/freeze/collapse mode, and just getting through my days without violence happening while still feeling like I was experiencing violence every single day. In both my time as a victim and a survivor I reflect and am completely amazed at my resilience despite the horrific experiences and at the power of community! I received unconditional love, kindness, and empathy from others. I am proud of myself for the ability to withstand, do good work, raise a family, learn so much despite having so much turmoil going on inside.

I feel like I am moving out of this place of surviving into thriving. Where I am grounded more often, where I feel love, and give love more freely, where I am not afraid, my interpersonal relationships are better and my boundaries, self-worth, and self-perception to not hinge on how someone else responds to me or feels about me.
It is possible that throughout my life there will be moments where I will experience being a victim, surviving, and then back into this phase of thriving. I also feel like there could be even more after this thriving place. What I do know for now is the term survivor no longer works for me. It did for a time, and I am so much more than what I have survived.
There are a few key messages I hope that this blog post sends but if not I will place them here:

It is impossible to ask/ expect anyone with complex trauma to heal quickly without access to security and safety.
It is impossible to ask/expect someone yourself to be calm or take on tasks that require you to be out of a flight/fight/freeze/collapse response while the trauma is still happening or their symptoms of trauma are in control.
Not everyone might feel the same way I feel about the term survivor and that’s ok. For me it doesn’t resonate anymore for others it might for now or forever, for some it may never have resonated. All of that gets to be ok.

Until I can find a word that hits more solidly with me, I will introduce my new title. Part of moving forward in my healing and my journey is understanding my purpose and realigning with the services that I provide with Collaborative Community Solutions. After a lengthy search and time feeling that CEO, ED, Founder, Owner etc etc really did not sit with my much like the term survivor. I landed on Executive Disruptor. This feels perfect for right now. It is always my intention to invoke systems level change to better support those who are or have experienced gender-based violence.
I am curious to know from anyone reading this if any of it resonates with you?