The Catch 22 of healing and the narrative of survivorship

My life centers around empowerment. Empowering young children, empowering survivors wherever they lie on the gender spectrum. Even in overcoming my own struggles I have been called “chingona” and “strong.” However, some days I am not strong. Some days I don’t want to be chingona. Domestic violence has turned my healing process into a balance on a fine line between fragility and numbness. When I feel fragile people tell me to be strong. When I go numb to attempt this strength I am told to explore my emotions. When I explore my emotions I am told I am too vulnerable. When I try to dialogue about this I am told that I am perpetuating a culture of victim hood. Then I am told to be strong. The Catch 22

The problem with glorifying the narrative of the strong woman as the only narrative of survivorship and using it as the cornerstone by which we compare all other female survivors of violence is that it erases other healing process and invalidates other paths to healing. It’s victim blaming at its finest. It tells women that if they cannot get through it than they are unworthy of empathy, that they are not the victim and survivor they should be. To say that only strong women’s narratives are worth telling is to assign value to different experiences, to objectify. This perpetuates oppressive narratives that exclude certain survivors from resources and from dialogue.

Further it ignores healing as a process. The very counseling science practiced by an overwhelming majority of clinicians recognizes that the process of moving among acute emotions just after a trauma to the normalization of trauma to the integration of trauma into our lives is cyclic and nonlinear. It skips and jumps and hops. It goes backwards and forwards and in loops. The problem in the narrative of the strong woman that exists says that if you cannot come out of the trauma whole than the problem lies in you. That you were not able to beat the trauma. But every living breathing survivor is proof of victory over their trauma regardless of the road their healing process travels.

This narrative says if you feel crazy you have lost. Counseling sciences call this the acute phase and after any trauma a survivor can experience this phase an unlimited amount of times. I say that you are not crazy. I promise what you’re feeling is normal. You are not erased. You are not blamed. It is time we stop finding fault in the abused for their reaction to their abuse. Survivors have been and are hurt and no one gets to tell us how hurt we are or that we shouldn’t be. You don’t need anyone to validate your experiences. They are valid simply because you have experienced them. And no one can take that from you.

– Arieana

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