December 17, 2017
The reason I am so candid and painfully honest in my writing is because I wish someone had been this way when I was at my lowest. I wish someone would have been talking about suicidal urges and self-harm. I wish I had known of writers that talked about domestic violence from a first-person perspective and not just from a future, wiser, safer self. I needed to know what it was like for them in the moment, in a raw guttural sense. How did it feel when it was happening?
There is a lot of value in talking about survival and moving forward in life. It is important to see what the future can hold, but when you feel alone in the thick of sorrow the only thing that you want is to feel less alone.
I survived a lot, internal and external threats and dangers. I survived by using what coping mechanisms I could access and in my darkest times, which were just defense mechanisms, it was self-harm and alcohol that kept me from the pain I couldn’t yet deal with. Today, I no longer use those methods. I don’t need them because I have better, more effective, healthier ways to process emotions and overcome challenges. Tools like a 12-step program, positive self-talk, my emotional support dog, the sun, a backlog of therapy, and medication.
I have taken back autonomy over my inner and outer life. I cannot control much of anything, but I can be conscious of my choices. I can be self-reflexive and open to change. I can be compassionate to myself, even when it’s hard.
When I first began talking openly about my experiences, I felt so uncomfortable. Especially if I was talking about my trauma. I was grappling with a deep shame. I thought people didn’t want to hear it. I thought I was out of line. Sometimes I still feel that way, in the pit of my stomach, but it doesn’t stop me from speaking up.
It isn’t “over” in the sense that I’ve overcome and therefore banished challenging times to the past. It’s over in the sense that denial is not my shield anymore because I am finally honest with myself and others. I accept myself for who I am, the whole package.
If I had heard and read accounts of such tragic self-hate from people who had to work hard on getting healthy, and who were willing to candidly share their process of healing, I know it would have given me some realistic hope. Hope for a better future, not a perfect future, through hard work and perseverance, ups and downs, slips and falls, and by always trying again. It would have given me a more realistic perspective on recovery.
It’s a process.
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17 November 2017
By Kristance Harlow