Today is two days before Christmas. I’m not sure how that happened. One minute it’s summer, and the next Christmas carols are wafting up the stairs at work. Frankly, the weather hasn’t been very cooperative in this venture. It’s in the sixties outside and raining… not what you’d ordinarily expect from Georgia in December. If I could send some of this water to any of you in California, I would.
Amidst all the scrambling to find the right things for the right people and squeezing clients in before the office building closes for the holiday, I find myself thoughtful about the year and how it’s gone. Have I made the right decisions in my work? Am I being a good mother to my children? Have I been a good steward of my resources? Have I helped my clients find what they need?
Now, I have a unique knack for picking things apart as they apply to me, and I am not sure all of my answers to those questions are positive or accurate ones. Probably, I am a little hyper-critical. I stumbled across something the other day, however, that made me smile. I have no idea who said it first, so, if it was you, I apologize for the lack of attribution. Anyway, the quote said, “Remember, you have a 100% success rate in surviving everything that has happened to you so far.” What a thought!
This, I suppose, gives me some perspective. Whatever my faults and failings as a person, a therapist, or a parent, I have come through everything life has thrown at me. I can certainly think back on some situations that I thought I would never get done with or escape, but somehow I am here today and have the luxury of complaining about the rain. I’m not always sure how I got through, but I have.
When I consider the trauma survivors with whom I have had the honor to work, I find that this quotation has far more meaning. Clients of mine have been through fires, hurricanes, domestic violence, emotional neglect, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and assault, physical abuse, violent crimes, and other overwhelming experiences. Many of them present to me with shame about skills they have used to cope: drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. To them I say that, whatever they have had to do in the past, the primary focus is that they survived. Many people in traumatic situations do not have support systems to help them develop safe and life-affirming coping skills. Whether you had to hide, fight back, numb out, or run away, you did what you had to do to get through. You also have that 100% success rate.
So, as the year winds up and many of us are focusing on giving to others, give yourself the gift of affirmation that you have had the strength to survive everything life has sent your way. Odds are good that you will continue to do so. If you need to talk about what you’ve been through, however, I hope you’ll come find me. I’m happy to listen.