We survivors do look normal most of the time, but it can feel like a double bind.
On the one hand, it’s useful to be functioning well in the world. But that means that people don’t know or can ignore the hurts we have endured. On the other hand, breaking down and showing how bad it feels can scare people so that they withdraw or even become cruel.
I’ve been writing a memoir on healing from recovered memories of abuse. I didn’t uncover the abuse until I was in my fifties, so I had built up really good, tight defenses. I’m working with an editor now to revise this memoir to bring it to publication. He says it’s hard to believe that a person so highly functional (professor, mother, etc.) could have been abused. I understand what he’s saying. It’s amazing what children can survive. Through the eons, far too many kids have grown up with starvation, brutality, sexual violence, neglect. And they grow up and become not only adult but powerful. Think Joan of Arc, think Hitler (unfortunately), think Virginia Woolf, think Oprah Winfrey.
We survived and we brought with us our vulnerabilities, often hidden inside very competent exteriors. It’s all the more important, then, to share our stories.