The Little Engine that Sucked at Life, but Could Anyway

Rape has a way of tainting everything, so much of my life has been about surviving, not thriving. I finally found my way out of purgatory eight years back. I’m The Little Engine That Could and my only life skill is failing because after that, I get up again. That’s me. That’s it. It’s the only thing I know how to do.

Before adolescence stole my flat chest, I used to be a gymnast, but my balance was appalling. I left every class covered in bruises. Gymnastics teachers are not gentle. They flip and push and pry you until you get it 100% right. Then you go back the next day and do it again. I was a shocking gymnast. I didn’t participate in a single competition, but I got up every time. I went back to every class.

Untitfled

Life is not like gymnastics. It rewards you properly if you get up again enough times, even if you have no other life skills. When I started out on the quest that is adulthood, I couldn’t even take care of my own untraumatised self, let alone pass the Trauma 1.01 class. I can’t count how many shrinks, techniques, and medications I tried till I got whole again. I just kept going until I hit on something that worked.

I only recovered because of my tendency to beat a dead horse until it rises from the grave. That’s all I know how to do. It’s hardly inspiring or ideal, but eventually, it works.

I know people who have extraordinary personal resources: wisdom, boundaries of steel, and the ability to think their way out of seventh hell. I had none of those assets, so I found out that the only thing I really needed to survive trauma, depression, and illness was stubbornness. If I had that, the rest followed. There was no special knowledge, no Chopra-like gift involved in staying alive and eventually finding my way to happiness. All I needed was the willingness to try again: the next therapist, antidepressant, habit… It didn’t matter which tool, as long as I tried again. Eventually, the right elements came together and I became a survivor.

Did I sometimes get so tired I thought I’d never get up again? Yes. Did I give up sometimes? Yes. Did the pain of all that failure make me feel so battered I wanted to die? Yes.

But then I tried again.

If a toddler can get up after falling until she learns to walk, so can I. I find that beautiful because it means all of us can thrive.

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