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I Am A Survivor

I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

I am a survivor of childhood bullying.

I am a survivor of growing up in a large family that was often neglectful.

I am a survivor of nearly a lifetime of Mormonism.

I am a survivor of my daughter’s death.

I am a survivor of year’s of suicidal depression.

I am a survivor.

Are you a survivor?

Take a moment to remind yourself today of all that you have survived and of how you have conquered. Some days, it is hard for me to remind myself of how strong I am because I am so overwhelmed with all the tasks of moving forward. I want to move forward — most of the time. But sometimes it’s also important to look back.

I’m afraid that when I write and publish an essay like this, I will get feedback about how what I’ve survived is nothing compared to other people. I’m afraid that people will demand proof of what I’ve survived, lurid details that I have no interest in sharing. I suspect most of us survivors are worried about the same thing. It’s one of the reasons that we don’t talk about survival often. We do what we think everyone around us demands, which is to stay silent about the past and pretend that we are whole.

Is anyone really whole? I don’t know the answer to this, but I doubt it. We are all survivors, which isn’t to say that I think that we’ve all survived the same things. We haven’t. But let’s also not get into a game of measuring and quantifying what we’ve survived. What I want to write about here is the courage it takes to survive. Not to be silent. Not to keep moving forward. Just to survive.

The will to live is something that can be taken away. I lost it for years, breathing each day only because it was harder to figure out how to stop breathing than it was to just keep breathing.

Another loss was my sense of self, my identity. I still sometimes wonder who I am, but most of the time, I prove that I know by going about my work of writing, publishing, and doing.

I am a runner.

I am a triathlete.

I am a knitter.

I am a mother.

I am a thinker and a doer.

I am curious.

I love stories.

I like deep conversations.

I have learned that I can hold pain, my own and others.

I have a deep capacity for love.

I am not fearless, but I know what I have done before. I never want to do it again. But I can.

I lost certainty in myself. I lost the hope of perfection. I gained in return an ability to apologize and to forgive. I learned to love messiness, to embrace imperfection.

I survived the worst thing I could imagine happening to me. I found out that my anxiety about the future did not stop that future from coming. I wanted to believe that it was my fault because then I could control the universe. But that wasn’t true. The universe isn’t mine.

I am a survivor of random chance. I am a survivor of being human. I am a survivor of losing relationships I thought I could never lose.

I am still standing. And sometimes, sitting or lying down.

I am breathing and I take no breath for granted.

I love and know that I may lose everything again. I may lose myself again.

But I will always be a survivor.

I will fight for this one life I have until the end. I will face pain again and again. I will not give up.

Written by

Author of The Bishop’s Wife mystery series, The Mormon Sabbatical Podcast, Princeton PhD, fiction editor at Exponent II, autist, she/her

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