Please, says David Pittman, be careful what you say to those in pain.
I can’t tell you how frequently, because sadly I’ve lost track of the number of times a fellow survivor of childhood sexual abuse has told me someone in their life said to them, “why can’t you just get over it?”
Someone commented the other day in one of the online support groups that I belong to, “sometimes the feel of this group is to be past the past. I am simply not. My one on one therapy has been shit. I don’t feel I have gotten any better. If I post some bad things or things I feel I don’t know it’s like I fail. It is not you, it’s me :(“
So I replied – “please know you are not alone with the feelings you’re having. Many of us, including myself, wonder when things will “get better”. In group this week we even talked about how we didn’t understand why, after going through so much therapy why we would still have the past come back and bite us in the butt. We even have members of our family or friends say, why don’t you just get over it? The thing is, we never “get over” what we have been through. The best we can hope for is to “work through it” and to heal. And so together, helping one another with what has helped each of us, we try to do just that. Combine our cumulative learning and coping skills to better handle “it” when it rears it’s ugly head. I guess I’m just trying to say, we’re here for you, I’m here for you and you’re not alone.”
What’s really sad to me is when people in our lives, people we care about and love utter those words, “get over it.” It’s as if they think we’ve been in a car wreck or had a bad cold. How they can be so insensitive to spew such verbal poison is beyond the pale.
I know, and thankfully so, they can’t possibly comprehend the hell and torture we’ve been through. But to lack even the slightest amount of decency or courtesy boggles the mind. Even more baffling is when it comes from a “professional” or someone who HAS been sexually abused. In those situations it’s clear they have not faced their own demons and so to make themselves look or feel better, they say words that cut to the bone and do more damage. It’s that type of thought and speech that causes survivors of abuse to either stop talking or further bury emotions and the trauma that they desperately need to work through. And now, because someone has said what they have, the healing process is delayed, derailed or denied altogether.
I remember being told as a youngster, if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all. Well here’s my message to all those who tell us to get over it…
…shut your pie hole! You have no clue what you’re talking about and you’re hurting more than helping so do everyone a favor and keep your mouth shut!
Can you tell I’m a little aggravated about this issue?
And to all of my fellow survivors, please hear me when I say this…pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, and the dingbats who would say such words. They don’t know what we’ve been through. Keep doing what you’re doing by working with your therapist, attending group therapy and relying on the support, guidance and comfort of those who care enough about you to say positive affirmations. We CAN heal and we CAN do it together.
Healing and recovery from childhood sexual abuse is challenging enough as it is. If someone is not a part of your healing, disregard them. And cling tightly to those who show you true love, empathy and support.
I had a fellow survivor give me the perfect example of the struggle we face. They told me of a relative who had a permanent physical disability and how comforting the family was toward them. And yet, when it came to their own pain from sexual abuse, this same family was completely indifferent.
Just because people can’t “see” our injuries doesn’t make them any less real. Simply because someone doesn’t have the capacity to look inside our hearts and souls, doesn’t make the pain we feel any less severe. Instead of assuming we’re ok, how about taking the time to really listen to what we’re saying. In doing so, you might just be the one who helps someone in pain beyond what you could ever imagine or bare. You could be the one that makes all the difference in the world.
As I was writing this I thought of something to say the next time I hear those words…I’ll ask them, would you tell me to “get over it” if I had cancer or heart disease? Of course not because that would be ridiculous. Well, what we are going through is like a cancer of our minds and disease of our hearts. If we don’t address it in a healthy way it tears us apart from the inside out.
So please, be careful what you say to those in pain, to those who have been utterly devastated as children to the point it affects us adversely as adults. We need to be loved and supported, not dismissed with hateful words. And be thankful it didn’t happen to you and pray it doesn’t happen to your children. I bet you wouldn’t tell them to…get over it…
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Photo: Flickr/Lachlan Hardy