Do you remember in your childhood that miraculous moment of awe and wonder when you saw something so powerful or beautiful that you were inspired by it? Perhaps you’ve seen it more recently in your kids. I remember watching my son in one of those moments and it was like a little piece of his brain had exploded to allow him to take in all the new information he was processing so that he could remember it forever. Life can be full of beautiful things, and at the time we simply don’t want to forget them.
Paradoxically, trauma can be like this also.
Recently I read a post from a man whom I have supported, and who is active in advocacy work for male victims of abuse. Someone had commented to him that his insistence in constantly writing and speaking about his trauma was like picking at a scab.
It had been a particularly tough news day with the usual demonising of male victims and so he quite rightly opted to step away from the keyboard. Many hours later though, he found himself still carrying the pain and in a heightened state of agitation.
Removing yourself from the things that trigger you doesn’t remove the pain that is behind it. It doesn’t remove what happened to you, or your memories around it. It’s real, and it exists in you as part of you. Just like all the beauty and wonder, we also remember the ugly and traumatic and often they take precedence in our memories.
I don’t have many happy memories of my childhood. There is little I remember of laughter and fun times although I am told I had them.
I had always known everything that happened to me and so I never had a major moment where it all came flooding back. The memories were always there, I just hadn’t accepted the impact they made and how they changed the course of my life. For many years, I was still looking for approval and acceptance but finally when I accepted them myself, I realised that no one was ever going to apologise, nor give me back what was taken from me.
I was told once “other people don’t see you the way you see yourself”. This was truly life altering for me. It made me realise how much self loathing I projected and how it really messed up my view of the world and importantly, how the world viewed me. The way I viewed myself was something that was given to me from a young age, but it was up to me to put down that vision and take back what was rightfully mine. And so I did.
What I could never have predicted was the beauty that was allowed to come back into my life. It was like all the wonders of the world exploded before me again. I believe this to be the path of true healing. Not one bit of my memories have gone, but they now have a particular place in my mind that is wrapped in compassion and forgiveness. Not for those that harmed me but for myself and this is why I can have so much empathy for others pain. I know what it’s like to be trapped and I know what it’s like to be free of that trap.
The true gift came to me in the realisation that I would never go back to sleep on what happened, and that I could use that as power to fuel me, even with positivity.
In my advocacy work I see so much denial of men’s pain. I often talk about how far outside our paradigm it is to accept that men can be victims too, because it’s an incredibly difficult path to accept that life is not as we believe it to be. Those that repeatedly fail to understand the issues simply can’t bare to accept that life is not what they believe, because that reality will take them to a place of ugly and often unbearable truths that will require them to wake the hell up and accept a new reality and new paradigm.
And once it’s seen, it can’t be unseen. Our eyes are open, and we can’t go back to sleep.
So for those of us who are awake, we will continue to speak, write and record our truth. We will continue to campaign and raise awareness and we will continue to fight the good fight until men are accepted as important and equally valuable members of our society.
We can step away from the things that cause us to relive trauma because sometimes we need to. It will never take away from what happened to us, but the more we speak our truth the more we heal. Little bricks that rebuild our lives and lay the foundation for others.
Much love to all of my friends who work so tirelessly to pave a better path, and to all the men (and some women) for whom we are laying the foundations for them to be seen, heard and respected.
Together, we’ve got this.
Photo Source: Flickr Jacob Stewart