I often wonder as I write in this blog, send out tweets, and go to therapy each week, why I feel better when my feelings are validated by others. Can others really relate to what I go through each day by writing and interacting in the survivor community? Does my therapist really “get me” or is she just trying to make me feel better when she says she understands my thoughts and tells me that they are normal for someone who’s experienced childhood abuse?
The definition of Validated is: the recognition and acceptance of another person’s thoughts, feelings, sensations, and behaviors as understandable.
So is it acceptable to desire this feeling in our survivor journey? I say a resounding, YES, it’s OK to want validation. It’s a good thing that someone validating our experiences makes us feel like we aren’t completely alone.
I honestly don’t know if every mental health professional would agree, or if someone who hasn’t experienced some type of abuse would agree either, but for me right now that’s OK. I know what I’m feeling and what makes me feel good inside and what doesn’t.
No matter when the abuse happened to us, chances are we’ve spent many, many years keeping it inside, hiding it from the world. Maybe we tried to reach out and tell someone but they just minimized it or blew us off. Perhaps they justified it by putting the blame back on us for something they think we did. Over time that constant lack of validation can affect us and reinforce the internalizing and self-blame that carries over into adulthood.
I know this first hand, as I’m sure so many of you do as well. When my abuse was happening, I was groomed by the teenager so well that I was brainwashed into thinking it was a special secret that I could never share. That it was a good thing, that cool kids did this, but nobody else would understand so I could never tell. That combined with the idea that if I wanted to keep hanging out with the cool teenager and ride his mini bike, I had to keep our secret and keep letting him do what he wanted to me.
So I spent all of my growing up years afraid to tell anyone what was going on, which carried over to being bullied throughout those school years too. It was so ingrained in my head that I couldn’t share what was on my mind because of shame, fear, and just wanting to be cool, that I internalized everything. That of course continued into my adult life and still does today. I place so much blame on myself for my past, rather than putting it on that kid who took my innocence from me.
I would absolutely never, ever, blame a survivor for the abuse that happened to them. It wasn’t their fault, at all, period. However trying to get myself to believe that in my own case, is still a struggle.
Through my therapist, J, I’ve been learning to reach out for help and she is there for support and validation every week. That’s not to say that she tells me what I want to hear, that’s not it at all, nor should it be. In fact, I struggle at times with telling her what she wants to hear, but she can see right through me. Over time I’m getting and have gotten much better at just saying what I’m feeling and being who I am.
So now, any chance I get to feel validated and seek the comfort of someone who understands; I seize it because it makes me feel so good inside to reach out and share. Does that make me weak? Honestly I sometimes wonder, and I’ve asked that question many times in different forms during sessions. As I’m learning the answer is a big No Way! I’m not weak for reaching out and wanting to feel validated, I’m stronger because I’m reaching out.
It doesn’t matter whether you blog, tweet, talk a therapist, participate in survivor chats, or anything else that helps you, just seek the comfort of those you trust whenever you need it. People who have been where you are, or are at where you are now, know what you are going through.
Survivors don’t belittle or minimize our struggles, they validate them because they know firsthand what getting through every single day is like.
We are not alone, #WeAreSurvivors.