A close friend of mine shared the following thoughts with me after a discussion we had on abuse, shame, and our life experiences. It is easy to feel like a second class citizen when you discover your upbringing is so incredibly different than those around you. Sometimes that is a real difference, sometimes it is only perceived. Regardless, a child of abuse often feels the same power (or lack thereof) in that difference… a feeling of being less than or broken.
It is that feeling of second class to which my friend is speaking and I appreciate her willingness to let me post it to my blog. Take it away, Awesomesauce!
Second Class Citizen
I am a victim of abuse. As a child I was physically, emotionally, mentally, and verbally abused by someone that was supposed to love me. I am not saying he didn’t love me or that he still doesn’t love me today, but his actions spoke otherwise. What he said and what he did were contradictory. To this day he is not aware of what he did or is still doing. That is ok. He has gotten better in some ways and far worse in others.
I may not have admitted it at the time, but I once thought I picked the short straw on purpose. That in a pre-earth life I chose to come to this kind of home to prove I was strong, to prove I could overcome anything. I believed that there were going to be lessons I had to learn from this experience that I would never have learned any other way because I was so stubborn.
This is a lie.
Yes, I have learned and developed some incredible gifts and traits through growing up in a home like this but it wasn’t necessary. I made the best of a hard situation where I could not change the circumstances; I could not change my dad or his actions.
I used to think that because of my experiences growing up I was used merchandise. I was never capable of being as good as everybody else. School was so much harder, making friends, keeping friends close, having fun, and feeling like I could accomplish anything were struggles nobody knew. I despised myself in so many ways. I tried to be positive and would use my experiences to help people out. But as soon as they found out how grew up, it was always the same reaction—shock and a kind of awe that I was able to do as much as I was doing. At first I was grateful for this, but then I realized I was only victimizing myself further… their words fueling the fire and idea (in my world) that I was second class and therefore this incredible survivor.
As I thought about what I’d been doing, I realized I had been looking at my experience and my family all wrong.
My outlook needed to change.
My family isn’t second class, it is different and that is ok. We all have choices, and in my family my dad used his in a way that has had lasting effects. As my husband and I have talked about this, a comparison popped in my head.
Mac vs. Windows
By virtue of the home I grew up in, I became a Mac user. Most people I know use Windows. They enjoy that kind of operating system. Macs have a different look and they process things differently. As a victim of abuse, I also process things differently. I am still capable of using the same software and programs as someone that uses Windows, but it is different. There are some things that seem easier on one system than the other, but all it really takes is being familiar with how each operating system works.
People often compare the two—trying to determine which one is better—when in reality they are just different.
My whole life I have tried to be a Windows user—a Mac sitting in the back of the room of a giant Windows conference trying to convince everyone I belonged there. But I have never been able to be really successful as a Windows user, even if I fooled 95% of the people at the conference. When all was said and done, the first 5 rows could still see I was using a different operating system.
Why have I been trying to fit in so badly somewhere I don’t belong?
Because I have never been comfortable being a victim of abuse.
I was ashamed of the home I grew up in. I was ashamed of being a Mac.
My first thought when I woke up this morning was “I am not second class.” I am not second class and I never have been. Today is going to be a good day; it is my first day as a proud Mac user. I have a lot to learn—I have to familiarize myself with the Mac user book and study the manual. But hey, that is ok! I like learning.
I like being a Mac.
Thank you, Awesomesauce, for sharing this with me. As a fellow child of abuse I also spent most of my life feeling shame for my family and experiences. I hid behind achievements and also bought into the idea that “You do awesome things for an abused kid,” was a compliment when, really, those words reaffirmed my own fears that I was less than. A project rather than a person.
I LOVE learning that I’m not less than; I am simply a Mac in predominantly Windows world. But I think that’s changing. I believe that as people continue to share their stories and insights, the less shame others will feel toward their own experiences and the more Macs we will discover in our midst.
Thanks for being a proud Mac user, my friend. I like being a Mac too.
ASIDE for Victims of Abuse: Let me clarify one thing. You ARE a survivor. You do hard things. You overcome incredible challenges as you process through what happened to you and how you will allow it to shape your future. But I want to make clear, when you do those awesome things you won’t be “doing awesome things for an abused person”, you’ll be “doing awesome things for any person.” I hope you see the difference. I just don’t want you walking away from this post feeling defeated or like I’m trying to take something from you… some achievement or placeholder. This analogy simply helped me to see myself as part of the world around me, rather than an observer who is always on the outside looking in. If this comparison doesn’t work for you, it’s okay to let it go so you can find the one that does. You’re awesome! And I love you.