Thank You Leah

June 25, 2011

Over the last year, I have received some pretty nasty comments from rape survivors who’ve read my blog. 100s to date. And even thought I understand where that anger is coming from, I do feel it is mostly misplaced anger.

As a result, it has added fuel to the fire. It has kept old wounds from healing. It has made me a less than pleasant person. I have allowed other people’s rage and abuse to become part of my own personality. I have allowed the actions of my borderline ex to taint the way I view those who remind me of her. And for this,  I bear my own shame.

So when I received a comment in my inbox from Leah aka BeBopaLuLa, I expected more of the same. But instead, I was pleasantly surprised. What Leah provided me was an apology and an acknowledgment of my pain. She gave me pause for thought. She graciously shared with me her story. She showed me that she is more human than I gave her credit for. And I am deeply sorry for that. I hope she will accept my humblest apology.

If it is ok with Leah, I would like to share her message. Because I would like my readers to know she is human as well:

Hi Savory Dish,

I’m not deleting anything out of shame. I was just doing my best not to engage you any further without having to delete my tumblr altogether. Of course I don’t want a stranger writing inflammatory things about my mental health on the internet!! I just turned around and deleted the posts that I thought would bother you because that is what I would want for myself. I have not commented up until this point, or contacted you in any way, because I thought that would be the best, most tactful thing to do. It didnt seem like anything i could say to you would be met well. It is clear though, that even without directly engaging you, you are still troubled by my presence and looking for something in my posts.

You are totally right. I made a big mistake in talking about your blog on my tumblr. I don’t know you, only what you post about, and that isn’t enough to judge you on. It seems like you went through a very painful experience and I do feel empathy towards you and badly for judging someone who is clearly still processing emotions and dealing with pain. So indeed, it was foolish, insensitive and mean of me to discuss your blog on my tumblr and I am sorry.

There are many grains of truth in your blog. I would never say it is “bullshit”. And at the end of the day, anything else is ultimately none of my business.

If you would like me to lay myself bare for you, so that you can stop drawing your own conclusions about me; I was raped a decade ago. I have been in therapy consistently ever since (except for periods between therapists, like when I’ve moved or when someone has left a practice) and also for many years before. I am in therapy right now, too (I have a particularly great therapist at the moment!). I have seen many different psychologists, psyhiatrists, therapists and counsellors, but I have never received a diagnosis for a personality disorder. I do have a learning disorder that went undiagnosed for some time and caused me troubles as a kid (and still does where school or work is concerned), I have trouble with anxiety, and yep! anger and depression. Being raped does make one angry and that anger dissipates over time and is assuaged through therapy and made sense of, but it does linger. There is no shame in any of this, and it is no secret to anyone who knows me well. I don’t talk about these things on my blog because I talk about them constantly in my personal life as they come up. And also because, despite what you may think, my life is going pretty well at the moment. You can read back even further in my tumblr to see me complain about feeling depressed, if you really want, though.

So there is an honest apology and admittance of seeking treatment for you. I hope that we can both just move past this and carry on with our lives.

PS: I was horrified by that story when it made the rounds on tumblr. Whether you can believe it or not, I can’t relate to people who find inspiration in stories of horrific violence, regardless of the motive.

PPSS I am indeed a feminist, but I don’t hate men! Also I am an only child so “too much attention” was more likely an issue.

Listen up, all you angry survivors: If you want to show me the error of my ways, this is how it’s done. Instead of posting my response in the comment section, I will post it here:

Dear Leah,

Thank you for finally reaching out. And thank you for your apology and acknowledging my pain. For the record, I never had any real ill will towards you. But I did make some pretty harsh evaluations about you. I was making an example of you. But in the process, I was unfair to you. For this, I hope you will accept my humblest apologies.

For the record, this will be my last post about you. I will respect your privacy. And I will do my best to delete any old posts that link to you. There’s enough content here without me using your blog as a reference. I shared this last message to hopefully right my wrongs. I would like for people to see this side of you. I found it touching. I hope others will too. But if you wish for me to delete this as well, all you need to do is say so.

We had a little bit of a misunderstanding there. But that is all water under the bridge. I feel, at the end of this exchange, I have learned a lot more about you and myself.

I am sorry that I have clumped you into a group of survivors for the sake of venting my own anger. Clearly not all survivors are the same. You have shown me this with your message of peace. I failed to acknowledge the hard work you have put into making a better life for yourself, and I’m sorry for that as well. I know how hard it must be to deal with something as horrible as rape. I’m sorry if I have belittled your pain or efforts to heal in any way.

I do like to think that your years of therapy made this particular exchange possible. It gives me hope that other rape survivors can move forward. I have a long history of loving people who were not ready to love me back. My anger comes from having people I loved with all my heart turn their back on me. This blog is my way of understanding something that is so hard to accept. But I am sorry if I have hurt you along the way.

I don’t know you well enough to judge you. But from what I have seen, you have carved out a pretty good life for yourself. You seem like a wonderfully creative and expressive person despite what has happened to you. And just between you and me, I like your style. I wish you the best. And if you ever feel like contributing to this blog, I invite you to do so. I would love to hear more of your insights.

Savory Dish

3 Responses to “Thank You Leah”

  1. savorydish said

    So when all is said and done, hostility loses and peace wins. When people reach out and make an effort to understand each other, it is a win-win situation. When people make threats and treat people disrespectfully, it can only make things worst for all parties involved. What goes around comes around.

    The key is communication. Not engaging people because you are afraid of getting hurt, only creates more animosity and misunderstanding. Of course this becomes infinitely more difficult when you are dealing with people who are severely affected by trauma. The traumatized mind relies on limbic reactions- fight or flight. Neither contributes to peace and understanding.

    In the end, partners and ex-partners just want to understand survivors. More so than the rest of the population. No matter how hostile the environment, there is a connection that brought them together. But somewhere along the timeline, that connection was broken because of fragile emotions.

    It is at this moment, that most survivors choose to disconnect. They push people away. And sometimes antagonize the very people who are trying to understand them. Fight or flight. But at some point, it is important for survivors and ex-partners of survivors to re-connect. Even if they are no longer romantically involved, it is important to mend old wounds.

    You can’t delete the past. But you can replace the horrible things said and done, by making amends. By replacing anger with goodwill. By acknowledging the pain you have caused others.

    For most, this is easier said than done. For survivors, more so. But that’s how you move forward and grow. You challenge yourself. Therapy can only do so much. The rest is up to each individual.

    But that means engaging with people who anger us and hurt us. The hit and run tactic is often used by trauma survivors as a means to avoid confrontation. But such passive-aggressive behavior only serves to create more unresolved anger.

    People talk about achieving world peace, but a much more reasonable goal is to achieve peace in our own lives. More importantly peace in ourselves.

  2. savorydish said

    There’s no shame in being raped as far as I’m concerned. The shame is when survivors behave badly (act out and lash out) and then expect people to not comment on it. Or when they play games and expect you to play along. The shame is when they expect others to tippy toe around their delicate sensibilities and tolerate their expressions of rage. The shame is when survivors encourage this behavior amongst each other.

    My borderline ex knows this shame well. She use to snap at me when I brought up past transgressions. How dare I point her flaws out?

    Her shame was so great, she ran away and changed her persona. Thinking that starting a new life would cover her shame. Thinking changing locations would change her life. She chose to live in denial, rather than acknowledge the pain she has caused others. The ole hit and run act. But this kind of cover up brings its own shame.

    I don’t like to point out people’s flaws. But when confronted with egregious hostility, it can not be avoided. With survivors and borderlines, it is essential to their recovery to point out their bad behavior. The point is not to make them feel worse than they already do. The point is to get them to be responsible for their behavior.

    As you can see there will be a period where the survivor lashes out at you. It has taken months to get to this place. But eventually their defenses give way and they are left with self-awareness. The point of confrontation is not to be malicious or to hurt the person, but to shock them out of their old patterns. To force them to look in the mirror. To help them snap out of their denial.

    For survivors, the simple act of reaching out and acknowledging your misdeeds is the first step in healing. Damaged souls need not stay damaged. It is a choice like any other. Yes, the pain of rape will linger. But that doesn’t mean you have to stay miserable. Your efforts to become a better human being will be rewarded. Your compassion will be appreciated.

    When a survivor steps out from their guarded exterior and fake persona, they are so much more likable. Because they have demonstrated that they are indeed as human as we are.

  3. savorydish said

    Self-awareness and taking ownership is something borderlines and survivors have to work really hard at. Their traumatized mind is constantly in self-preservation mode aka denial.

    Their natural instinct is to run away from problems, avoid confrontation, leaving issues unresolved. The frustrating part is they are usually the ones who instigate the conflicts. Fight and flight. This is more evidence that both borderlines and survivors engage in push/pull behavior.

    They pull you into their drama. Then when their traumatic past is triggered, they run for cover. Accusing you of attacking them. Leaving the accused scratching their heads.

    The first step is to make the survivor aware of this pattern of behavior. Confront them with the truth, even if they claw your face. A survivor in denial will fight to stay in the dark. They insulate themselves with enablers, people who are willing to help keep up the illusion of well-being.

    Do not play that game. They will give you plenty of reasons to cease and desist. But eventually their defense-mechanisms will give way when they realize the futility of their efforts. Persistence is key. They have spent a lifetime building that stone wall. It will take some time to erode.

    The good news is those survivors who are willing to own up to their behavior are showing positive signs of recovery. Not all survivors/borderlines are equal. Some are further along. Yes, age and therapy have a lot to do with it. But ultimately change is a personal choice. A survivor must be motivated to change. Easier said than done, because a person in denial has lots of reasons to stay in denial.

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