‘You’re a survivor, not a victim.’ BOTH CAN BE TRUE. The mixed messages surrounding this are dizzying.’: Woman advocates for mental health awareness, ‘It took YEARS to rebuild my trust’

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“‘We were both broken but it was on us to not allow our sharp edges to cut each other a little deeper.’ 

Anxiety. Depression. PTSD. I know these words, once stigmatized, seem to be the new norm. I know diagnoses are handed out more frequently than paper fans in a Baptist church during a Southern summer. I also know how real they are for those of us who experience them or love someone who does. Acknowledgment is not enough.

Before Casey left the state with me, before he promised me forever and before we said ‘I do,’ I explained the mental weight I carried. Somehow I knew it would be an added challenge. I wasn’t wrong. There is no way to plan for how your trauma will manifest and it doesn’t travel a linear or predictable path.

Courtesy of Raquel McCloud

Casey and I are both products of a messy childhood. Surviving mental, physical, or sexual abuse is bound to leave its mark. It’s not your fault you endured hell, but it is your responsibility to heal.

I also understand the weight of this thought, and how the added responsibility seems unfair…and it is. If life were fair, we wouldn’t spend a lifetime running from monsters we never let loose.

There are so many mixed messages addressing mental health, it’s almost dizzying. ‘You’re a survivor, not a victim.’ A victim is someone who suffers from destructive actions. A survivor is someone who continues to function in spite of hardship. Both can be true.

It’s okay to not be okay.’ ‘Everything will be okay.’ If it’s okay to not be okay, then why does everyone want you to be okay? Why do you desperately want to be okay? Because our souls were not designed to live in constant despair, unrest, or fear.

I don’t need anyone to save me, I’ll save myself.’ Will you? We have been built and broken by every person we’ve ever encountered. Some we know for a season, others stay a while longer, but each one has imparted something good or bad contributing to who we are. I wasn’t looking for a savior, neither in God nor man, but I found both.

Here’s the tricky part. Our mental health will directly affect our relationships. Our spouse and kids are at the top of the list. I have vocalized more than once how badly I want to give my children a better childhood, but what about my marriage, doesn’t it deserve better, too?

Although I warned Casey about the baggage I carried into our relationship, I didn’t vocalize how he could help me carry it or unpack it. I don’t know I knew how to, let alone how to guide someone else in helping me. When words fail, let mercy reign.

You can’t ‘fix’ mental health struggles. You can’t say the right thing to make someone ‘snap out of it,’ and you can’t guilt someone into feeling better. Their mental state is not a reflection of your ‘enoughness.’ Don’t take it personally.

It took years of tearing down walls, one brick at a time, to rebuild my trust in another human. It took years of him showing up. Years of him not leaving. Years of unconditional love. Years of avoiding hard topics.

Years of crying alone in the shower when it felt too heavy. Years of him waiting outside of the door, arms open, reassuring me it was okay to cry. Years. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it wasn’t built without a plan, either.

If you are in a safe relationship (have a safe therapist or can lean into a safe friend), let me encourage you to surrender the weapons you’ve had to use to defend yourself for so long. The walls you’ve constructed for protection, let them fall. Thank them for keeping you safe during a time you needed their strength and move forward.

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with gold. The pot isn’t completely destroyed and thrown away for being broken. Instead, its brokenness is mended in a way which displays and celebrates what it has overcome.

Make space for your gold, friend.

Courtesy of Raquel McCloud

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Raquel McCloud of North Carolina. Follow her journey on Instagram here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read more from Raquel here:

‘Age doesn’t matter, you consented.’ It wasn’t a stranger or a creepy cousin. It wasn’t forceful, or a textbook case of victim and prey.’: Child abuse survivor cautions others during quarantine, ‘Home isn’t always safe’

‘I was 13 when an older friend said, ‘I’m out of condoms but it’s fine, I know what I’m doing.’ I believed him.’: Woman says the key to a healthy sex life after a ‘past’ is communication

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