Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sometimes What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Sadder...And That's OK

[Content note: abuse]

A recent submission on Tumblr made me stop and think about what I see as a problematic narrative in our culture. Here's the submission:

[Image text: Facebook post from the page "Thoughts of a good man." It reads, "You can break down a woman temporarily, but a real woman will always pick up the pieces, rebuild herself, and come back stronger than ever."]

This garbage has a very close cousin in the phrase, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." It's a refrain we hear at every turn, often in some small effort to help someone with a tough situation. But what is it really helping?

It wasn't until I saw this variation by "Thoughts of a good man" that I fully realized that this cliche has a negative side. You see, sometimes what doesn't kill you deeply damages you. It makes you sadder. It sends you into isolation. It leaves you feeling broken. But this doesn't make you weak, or a failure...it's just something that is happening. We all process and experience trauma in very different ways and the message that "real" women (what does that even mean?!) just pick up the pieces and rebuild themselves implies that those whose lives are derailed/those who are deeply affected by the trauma aren't doing everything they could be "get better."

That's crap. Sometimes what doesn't kill you makes you sadder...madder...more afraid...and that's OK.

To me, this image also has a creepy undertone of implying that strong women can withstand abuse. As I said on Tumblr: Am I correctly reading that this is saying that “real” women can withstand abuse and grow from it? Yet again proving all “real” women/men statements are straight up bullshit. If you feel you became stronger after an abusive situation, great, but don’t you dare shame people who react differently.

That's all it really comes down to...simply know that everyone reacts to situations in their own way, at their own speed, and does the best they can. Here's another image that sends a message I can really get behind.

[Image text: Stop beating yourself up! You are a work in progress, which means you get there a little at a time, not all at once.]

This serves as a little reminder that the healing process takes time (and might never be done.) When something triggers my emotions and sends me spinning into a moment of sadness from the past, I can either accept that is what I'm feeling at the moment and allow myself the emotion or I can internally berate myself for being "weak."

I am much more often choosing the former over the latter. That's progress...and it matters.

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