Saturday, January 12, 2013

What does it mean to you to be a "survivor"?

I saw this question on Twitter this morning (@NashvilleSAC) and it made me wonder how I define surviving.

Webster defines survive this way:

1 : to remain alive or in existence : live on
2 : to continue to function or prosper


So a survivor, presumably, is one who remains alive or in existence, or one who continues to function or prosper. Dictonary.com adds this to the definition: a person who continues to function or prosper in spite of opposition, hardship, or setbacks.

For me, it's important to include Dictionary.com's addition. To be a survivor you need to have experienced something that could have taken you down. But surviving, especially in relationship to trauma, means more to me than just remaining alive or continuing to function. Those are vital, of course, but I prefer to see them as first steps. 

Surviving is a process. Being a survivor will lead to prospering in spite of opposition, hardship, or setbacks, because all of this will happen. Because that is how real life is. We all suffer opposition, hardship, and setbacks, and we all have to pick ourselves up and keep moving forward.

So how do I define being a survivor? Facing the reality of what I experienced. Working, really hard, to accept that reality, and placing responsibility where it belongs. Letting go of fear and shame. Believing that I have the right to have a good life in spite of the horrible things that were done to me. Continuing to move forward toward positive goals: a relationship with God, family, and friends, all while helping others out along the way. All of this while recognizing that I can't make the abuse not have happened, but I can put what I've learned to good use for myself and others.

So yeah, I survived. I'm a survivor. But, no offense to Mr. Webster, I'm doing a lot more than just existing!

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