Manifesto: Going from survivor to survivalist

I hate the term “trauma survivor” whether it is a sexual assault, combat, being mugged or threatened. This term is a generic label that has no impact anymore. It allows everyone to stand outside of what this upheaval in their lives means for so many people.

I would like, instead to be seen as a woman who is a trauma survivalist who walked away from the violence with amazing survival skills that kept me alive and functioning throughout my experiences and getting on with living my life. Those who are survivalist are a unique group of individuals who should be celebrated as they the heroes of their own stories rather than be treated like victims whose lives are know lived trying to get and keep their Post Traumatic Stress symptoms under control.

I propose that we begin a new movement to begin to recognize those survival skills and rather than maneuver away from them because we see them as a symptom, embrace them. To begin to understand how the skills worked in our lives. To understand how we changed the destructive patterns in our lives from destructive to constructive. Many of us “Trauma Survivalists” have changed our survival skills to something that was showing up in our lives as destructive to making them work as a constructive piece of our everyday routines.

We as “trauma survivalist” have had our lives taken from the trajectory that our lives were on and taken a detour that often led to places where our survival skills were the most important thing we had with us. We may have gotten our lives back on track but have yet to claim the strength and courage in our lives. We have not shared our stories of how we have gone from being a victim, (having no control over what is being done to you or your life) to becoming a survivalist, where you have fought your way back to the light.

We live behind a mask of false confidence where the world sees the outer shell of bright colors and flashing lights while underneath we walk in shame, anxious that we will be found out as the victims we once were.

In order to come from behind our masks of false bravado telling stories to the world that does not fit who we see ourselves as. We constantly worry that we will be spotted for the frauds we present us ourselves as. Truth is we are frauds. If we weren’t frauds we would not be worried about the “poke” test. Where we are afraid if they poke our stories we have created the stories will not hold true. In fact they will not hold true until we begin telling our True stories of US.

Stories are our history and if they are not told we become a part of obscurity in which we arrive at the end of our life having presented the world with a false story of who we are and what our contributions have been. By writing and telling our True stories we make an infinite contribution to this world of courage, confidence, and strength that otherwise is lost to the next generation.

My call to action is for those of us who are “trauma survivalist” to begin telling our stories rather than hide in the shadows. It took me over 30 years to claim that title and tell my story after a sexual assault in my barracks room took my planned trajectory of my life filled with hope and challenges and sent me into the shadows of victimhood filled with shame, guilt and self-disgust. I am coming out of the shadows to fight for my right to be a hero rather than a victim to a society who has put a label filled with shame on me.

I challenge those who have been living behind that mask of false bravado or confidence while underneath feeling the anxiety of shame, guilt, or self-reproach to begin telling their story below in the comment section or start blogging about their experience. We need to take back the term hero for trauma survivors and refuse to be considered a victim any longer.