When J hurt me a few months ago, he reawakened a lot of the trauma I experienced from my mother’s hands as a child. I had a brief phone conversation with him last weekend, which hurt me a lot, because in several implicit ways, he blamed me for what happened. As I gripped my new smartphone in my hand and heard his callous tone, a flood of questions and doubts raced through me: am I just a product of my mother’s abuse? Does my compassion for others only stem from a need to distance myself from her? What does this mean for me, for my personality, for all of my good deeds? After that conversation, I deleted a post I wrote on this blog – a decision I regret – so I want to re-share a quote I included in it, about how people misrepresent love as a bond free of conflict:
“Love is possible only if two persons communicate with each other from the center of their existence, hence if each one of them experiences himself from the center of his existence. Only in this “central experience” is human reality, only here is aliveness, only here is the basis of love. Love, experienced thus, is a constant challenge; it is not a resting place, but a moving, growing, working together; even whether there is harmony or conflict, joy or sadness, is secondary to the fundamental fact that two people experience themselves from the essence of their existence, that they are one with each other by being one with themselves, rather than by fleeing with themselves. There is only one proof for the presence of love: the depth of the relationship, and the aliveness and strength in each person concerned; this is the fruit by which love is recognized.” – The Art of Loving, Erich Fromm.
While J has been the only friend to do something horrid to me this semester, others have abandoned me, and I realize I cannot control that. Some people have stopped caring, even if they believe they still might, because caring, as Fromm states, comes from the desire to communicate, to grow together, to act to maintain the depth and the aliveness and strength of the relationship. I have acknowledged my mistakes to these former friends, and they still have not come forth, so I have to come to peace with how maybe I will never know why they cut off their care: maybe they just need more time to develop the language to articulate their emotions. Maybe some other events happened in their lives that blindsided them even worse than J did to me. Maybe J just never cared in the first place, and he does not have the willingness to deepen himself, his care, or anything at all, really.
But I do not feel spite, because I know must care for myself, with the support of the few friends who have stayed by my side during this difficult time. This summer, which I will spend at my college doing research, will help me remove the association I have between J and my college itself. I will have more time to read, write, and plan purposeful and meaningful activism in regard to mental health. I will see a therapist, develop new friendships, and heal.
I want to end this post with a note about trauma. I have read a lot of articles as of late about the topic in an attempt to understand what I went through, and as a survivor of child abuse, I must say: you are not your trauma. You are more than an unkind, horrible deed someone did to you; you are more than the hurt you have received from a life that can feel so cruel.
I have spent at least a dozen hours this semester crying in bathroom stalls, because of distress and emotions I could not control. J wrecked me, and I suspect that he and my other former friends have spoken about me behind my back, instead of attempting healthy conversation. But these people’s actions do not define me, just as my mother’s abuse does not define me. I wake up every day and decide to live my life in service to others, to treat everyone, including myself, with compassion.
A kind reader of this blog sent me a quote about recovery, about how they learned that you make the choice to recover every day. And I will choose recovery every day – for myself and for others. And, without a doubt, so can you.
How do you guys feel about the content of this post? Would you agree or disagree with any of the sentiments expressed, and do you have any similar experiences with trauma or relationships? This post should serve as the last personal one for awhile; I will make myself promise to respond to a ton of comments before I publish any more, and I have a huge final in less than week, so please wish me luck. Thank you all for your support and your understanding., and I hope to hear from you soon!