Dear Survivor, Your Pain Isn’t ‘Trending’ Anymore.

For months now, or maybe even longer, I have used every excuse possible, not to write. “I am thinking of a story”, “I want to write when it means something”, “it has to be right thing” or “the topic that is currently trending.” I considered the possibility that I was putting it off by a fear of failure. It possibly was true to a certain level. Although there was never an instance where I could truly understand what it was that had me run away from writing, even from myself. 

Today it feels like I can push it off no longer. The urge came over me as suddenly as thirst for a glass of water. I was in the middle of reading a sentence, of authors on voyages and quests of soul searching when I just couldn’t focus anymore. As though the only thing I could do for the moment was write. I tried ignoring the urge as has become my norm but it stuck on like an itch I couldn’t scratch away. So here I am. 

I don’t know what it is that I intend to write and it doesn’t matter. As long as I’m typing away on the keyboard, my breath gets a little easier.

I have had many ideas for stories recently; a woman who can travel time through memories, a romance for young adults that didn’t include vampires or witches, a novel for adults that did include magic and symbols, the sex life of a girl after a manipulative, violent past relationship. 

I recently read in a book of the game ‘Big Liar’. It goes like this: you tell the gathering two stories, one of which is true and the other which isn’t. If they guess the story that is true, you drink and if they are wrong, they drink. It probably makes for a fun party game. My ideas seem to me a bit like that very game. Some of these stories were just that: stories, while some of them reeked of the truth.

The world has suddenly grown an appetite for the truth. Movements are underway ensuring massive changes in the lives of celebrities and people in power just by the truth spoken by a survivor. And yet, even today it seems too heavy for me to carry. I believe that the truth is pure, it sets you free if you have the courage to both accept it and be it at all times. But that courage is rare, and the acceptance even more so. Lies seem small, white and light in comparison. Comforting and less hurtful. Anyway, my point was that my stories were a game I was playing with myself: do I tell people the same old repeated truth that they probably would rather not hear anymore or give them a fantastical new story that will captivate them?

The ‘MeToo’ movement was an outrage of voices speaking up together, finally letting their anger out. Closure and change were round the corner for so many of them. People who deserved it. People who needed it more than anything else. And yet every story I read filled me with a sense of anger and aggressiveness that I thought I had left behind. There were no panic attacks, no memories that raced through my mind like triggering movie flashbacks. I was even okay on the outside, speaking of the justice or injustice of every new account of ‘MeToo’, and smiling at both the appropriate and inappropriate jokes made by people around me, for whom this was a trending topic.

Opinions flew like autumn leaves and some people took sides while others refused to be attacked. Inside me though, a certain restlessness grew slowly, spreading to every thought of mine, reminding me of everything wrong with life.

“My relationship wasn’t right – we didn’t have as much romance as I had dreamed of; my best friend posted photos kissing her boyfriend while my sex life had problems and needed fixing; I didn’t know who I was anymore, maybe I needed some soul searching?” or “I had to have more friends, I didn’t like being an introvert anymore, I had to stop overthinking, I had to lose weight and my personality needed some serious improving.” All of this needed attending to and immediately.

There was a sudden sense of urgency, too much time had been lost, my whole life had already slipped away and I was slowly getting buried under a series of confused, muddled complexes with anger sheltering them all under its roof. Every morning, there was a new story online and my determination to change increased. I’m not sure if these two were related but coincidently, they happened at the same time.

I had gone to two different counsellors, both times never more than two sessions. Each time, I told them about my past, as though it was an introduction that went along with my name and occupation. “Hi, I’m So and So and recently started working. Oh, and I was sexually abused by my ex-boyfriend.” 

We usually ended up talking about other things after that, beginning at a place that I didn’t expect or talking of things I didn’t think were relevant to the issue at hand. The first time, I ended up talking about my parents fights and learning some meditative technique for my anxiety and the second counsellor convinced me to quit smoking weed. Both times, I ended up not going back after two sessions. Now, I’m considered going back for a third time, in order to be able to express this restless anger.

There was a time when the anger furled me on, I loved it and encouraged it. It made me bold and flirtatious. It made me outrageous and plucky. Four years later, it comes out in the form of repressed dreams and frightening thoughts. I shouldn’t be angry anymore, enough time has passed to have healed it away.

Today, if I talk to the guy I have been dating since two years, it might seem odd, he would ask me to think less about such negativity and focus on the good things in life. “You are okay now, things are good, I am here. Try not to think of these things because it will eventually become a habit and the negativity will get worse.” His heart is in the right place, and he is a gentle being who has been through equal instances of trauma in his own life. Dealing with it in this way has helped him stay contented.

But I was someone who embraced every feeling. It was my way of being alive every moment possible. I loved with a passion and wanted to live with a passion. With him too, I fell in love with a certainty that defied me. My gut told me that this was the man I was to marry and I didn’t question it. Today I say I was this person. At some point, I must have been. There is no place in my life for it anymore. Uncertainty, and the fear of seeming childish has taken over me and I now live in subdued maturity. These feelings of passionate anger are not acceptable after so long. Even as I write, my typing has started feeling tinged with guilt. Guilt that I am wrong to feel this way. Guilt that maybe I am right to feel angry, but the world is wrong to expect me not to still be affected, and tainted because I blame even my partner for something that I am too cowardly to express because the truth is, I actually don’t know if he thinks it is wrong. Finally, I feel myself going back to the place where I refuse to question any of this, questioning my life may mean uprooting it and I refuse to do that.

So I go back to the thought that maybe it’s time to see a counsellor again. Because everyone is talking of rape and taking names and giving explicit details but the world is hushed and unsure of what happens with the survivors’ lives after. How do you move forward and live with this label that you can’t stop giving yourself, even when the world has forgotten? How do the people close to you, especially your partner deal with this and know how to support you? Of course, we all manage. We learn along the way. But a little support from the world never hurts. In a place where survivors have no idea how to go back to ‘normal’, a little less guilt and shame heaped upon them for not being okay because “it happened so long ago!” is never a bad thing.

Instead of being so conscientious about saying the ‘correct’ thing, couldn’t we just offer the space to be ourselves? I am not asking you to be angry for me or to fix me; just be okay with the fact that there are times when I may not be. Time heals yes, but we humans are weird that way and don’t always work like clockwork.

-the positivity of black

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