Note: Due to the nature of her story and professional standing, the author of this post is choosing to remain anonymous. The video embedded below is part of the author's story.
"Always be kind as you never know what battles someone may be fighting." Author unknown
Take the time to understand the life and abuse that is hidden behind the shy girl that you may encounter in your classroom, in your workplace, amongst your friends, or within. She has learned to wear the mask and role well, but underneath is the story waiting to be heard and the soul waiting to be unlocked from her cage of darkness and shame. As trauma therapists we persevere, shine the light, and hold our survivors in compassion as they give us the privilege of journeying through this world with them.
Now you too can begin to understand.
A Person Cannot be Defined by a Single Story
We cannot define a person by a single story. Similar to the fact that you cannot judge a book by it's cover, neither should you judge a person based on their behavior or what they present to the world. All her life she thought her inability to connect with others was due to shyness and social anxiety.
She did not realize her shyness was fear of being hurt, abandoned or abused. It was not until learning about her past and how it impacted her, that she was able to begin to break free from the bindings of abuse.
Abuse damages self-esteem and self-confidence. It demoralizes and devastates the soul. Messages from abuse remain inside our bodies, our minds and our souls. Long after the abuse has ended, messages from abuse haunt her day and night as she struggles to break free from the internal prison built to protect her for survival.
The struggle is internal, on the outside she presents as if she is happy and free. No-one knows the scars both on and under the skin. While growing up she broke into a million pieces to endure and survive the abuse.
Slowly, painstakingly and intently, therapy session after therapy session, she works to put the pieces back together, to heal the wounds and denounce the messages she learned from the abuse. She learns that the messages she believes about herself - that she is unlovable, unworthy, undeserving, worthless and only deserving of pain and suffering -- are not true after all.
She is breaking free, climbing, sometimes crawling and sometimes clawing, out of the self-disparaging and self-abusing prison she created for survival and out of loyalty to those she believed "loved her". Learning that love and abuse do not belong together is frightening but freeing for those who know only abuse and darkness. She is thankful to the helpers who have helped unlock the cage through patience, kindness and pure perseverance. It is with their help that she is beginning to find her voice and beginning to see light where once there was only darkness.