This Is Survival. Sometimes It Isn’t Pretty.

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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.

Something. Anything.

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  

18 thoughts on “This Is Survival. Sometimes It Isn’t Pretty.

      1. So true. We are fighting the same battle right now… Thank you for sharing. Thinking that I am not the only warrior trying my best to survive makes me feel stronger and courageous. This is just one of the Giants on our way, good news is…WE are bigger than them. With God on our side, who can be against us! We are more than conqueror through Christ Jesus! He will restore everything that Satan has stolen from us…Including our own SELF… The once WE , who were beautifully scarred, yet, gracefully win every battle…God turns our ashes into beauty…All these shall come into pass…Living in the moment of truth, withstanding the pain of every gain. Every scar represents the battle that we’ve won, a medal of valor on the neck of a beautiful warrior…

  1. Kathy I love the way you express pain, surivaval and life in a no non sense and subtle way. Yeah, what’s important is that we are surviving and what we see in others is their way of coping mechanism. To each his own. 🙂
    And I hope you reduce your alcohol consumption though. 🙈

    1. Thank you!! And haha, I think I really needed to clarify that yes my ways of survival aren’t always ideal, but I don’t drink *that* much, I promise!! Love and light x

  2. When I needed to survive I stopped feeling. It was safer that way.
    When I was ejected (finally he chose to eject & reject), feeling was terrifying.
    Even now my default is to withdraw & shut down.
    I can write but I struggle to talk about my experiences. A trusted few know some, but not much.
    I am moving from surviving to being, feeling, freeing. You are too lovely one xo

  3. When I read your words, a voice in my head says”how did she know? How can she see so clearly how I am?” Then another quiet little voice sadly says” she is one of us.” Thank you for saying out loud in such an elegant and expressive way all the wounds that we are all trying so desperately to heal.

  4. Dear Kathy,

    You a hero and a guide to so many.
    Your story resonates with a good number of people who have been subjected to abuse and indignation but have bounced back to lead better lives.The spirit of Phoenix is active in its several forms.

    Best wishes and hoping to get to learn more from you

  5. This is Beautiful and was so true for me, untill I took it too far. I suffered a pretty traumatic childhood that continued well into my twenties. I always used drugs and alcohol to feel or numb, till I met the drug that took me to my knees. I thought I would never take it that far. I was a single mother, a daughter, a sister. I was a college student and nurses aid. As we all know addiction doesnt discriminate, I was a heroin addict. Fast forward 4yrs and almost 11 mos and I am in Recovery! I absolutely adore your work because not only am I survivor of many forms of trauma, but Im a survivor of active addiction. My life is BEAUTIFUL beyond my wildest dreams. Thank you for letting us into your world (because its my world too) and putting it into words. Some days I need to be reminded how strong I really am. #wedorecover

    1. Oh Alexandria! This brought me to tears! You brace soul, how privileged I am that you have shared your life and heart with me! I can’t tell you how much I admire your strength and courage. It is hearts like yours that make everything I write worthwhile. Thank you xx

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