This is survival. Sometimes it isn’t pretty.
I wrote these words to my friend, Antanika, in response to the courageous and honest words she shared on her Facebook page last night.
They haven’t left my mind since.
Antanika is a survivor, and one of the bravest warriors I know. I can’t tell you how in awe of her I am. She takes her pain, her trauma, the things she has suffered, and she looks them square in the eye, unabashed. She says them out loud. She fights them head on. Me? I dance around words like sexual abuse, molestation, rape, violation, assault. The words are too stark, there is nothing to hide behind when I say these words out loud. Instead I find ways to make them sound poetic, romantic even, as if that somehow softens them or lessens the pain and destruction they have caused in my life. When really, I’m just too scared and ashamed to admit how unhealed I actually am.
I don’t know how healed those who have suffered these traumas ever become. Some days I feel more held together than others. Most days I won’t admit how close to unhinged I truly am. I do know the word survivor has been glorified into an image I feel I cannot do justice to. Because unless survival is found in a bottle of wine, then I’m not doing it very well.
Most people drink to forget.
I don’t drink to forget.
I drink to feel.
Because I’m desperate to feel.
Because the harsh truth is, I don’t know how to feel anymore. In the stark, sober light of day, there is only numbness. Disassociation. Detachment. I have drifted oceans away from my soul and can no longer recognise the sound of my own heartbeat. I want to feel, and I can’t. I want to submerge in the depth of my emotions, and I don’t know how. My heart is in lockdown, protected by strongholds I once needed but now do not know how to tear down. All I know is only when I drink, do I feel. Only on those nights do I find reprieve from the soul-destroying numbness that falls upon me like a blanket of fog I cannot get out from underneath of. Here, in the night, with alcohol in my veins, I am raw emotion, I am honest truth, I am the uncontained force of grief and loss and love and beauty and desire and hope and anger and hatred that rages through my anaesthetised soul and wakes it from its godforsaken sleep.
There are better ways to make it through. Right now, I am not capable of them. I drink because I cannot survive in the numbness. But I cannot survive in the fullness of my pain either. This is a paradox most cannot understand, except those who walk the path of the survivor.
I like to think that sometimes survival looks beautiful on me, that sometimes it is strength and courage and battle scars etched upon my skin for every war I have fought and won; battle scars that glisten in the sun as I stand upon mountaintops and look back at how far I have climbed along trails I never should have survived with the odds so damn against me.
But I know too, sometimes survival is anything but pretty.
It’s too much alcohol and words haemorrhaged on a page. It’s 3am bloodshed and battle and demons slayed. It’s torrents of rage unleashed upon the things we remember even though we chose to forget. It’s war fought in silence and tears, in fury and defeat. It’s weeping and howling and desiring and longing and seething and wanting and healing and feeling. For God’s sake, feeling.
It’s rebellion against the deadness that blankets our soul.
It’s anarchy against the numbness our hearts cannot escape.
It’s not pretty.
But it’s how we survive, today, until we can survive better tomorrow.
The point is, we’re surviving.
And sometimes that’s all that really matters.
Image courtesy Martin Driver