During the time when I was stuck in Depression and Rape Country, US invaded Afghanistan, Facebook was launched, and NASA found water on Mars. The Lord of the Rings was released, but so was The Incredible Hulk. The US had three presidents during the time it took me to get my life back. A lifetime ago, I could barely get to tomorrow, and then a series of lucky events led me here, to a full and healthy life. One of those lucky events was the day I realised my loved ones were no longer willing to carry me.
I’m often asked for help by people who are still facing the horrors of depression and rape trauma. Sometimes, I can make a few calls, drop an email, or recommend a resource–small fry stuff that just can’t fix any damned thing. It might give someone the ability to get from today to tomorrow, but mostly, it’s the crumb I add to a 500-strong dinner party.
I wish I could save every survivor, but I’m learning the hard way that outsiders simply can’t do what you, the survivor can. I can carry a little hope, but I will never be able to carry you. Nobody can. We can walk alongside you, but to do that, you, too, have to walk.
During the years it takes you to find your way out, presidents will fall and rise. The movie industry will reinvent itself. Science will achieve miracle after miracle because recovery is a long haul. You need to use your own legs to walk through it.
When I was subsisting instead of surviving, many helpers came into my life, but when the sun went down, I closed my eyes alone. I faced the darkness alone, and not a soul could join me there. The core of recovery was mine to build.
When you have a knee replacement, doctors can encourage your healing. Friends can help you into your clothes and do your shopping, but only you can do the physiotherapy required to heal. You are the only one who can rise up on your own legs. You are the only one who can do the heavy internal work required to survive, to heal, to stop subsisting and start living.
Friends and family can become your greatest cheerleaders, but dammit, you’ve got to stand. Your loved ones can find you good doctors but you’ve got to stand. That part is integral. I know this because I didn’t stand for the greater part of a decade. Bush came and went. The Mars water discovery came and went. Tolkien’s movies arrived and left, and I was so busy leaning on friends and family that I did. Not. Stand.
My caregivers were exhausted by the end of it, and when they retreated, I realised I was left with only one option: to rise up on my own legs so I did. From that day on, recovery came quickly. Not even one president was inaugurated before I made a new life. After 10 years of subsisting, I began to improve because I stood. I learned the empowerment so vital to my recovery. My muscles began to strengthen because I stood.
It didn’t feel as though I could stand. Even the idea of it felt like dread, but the horror of it was the very thing that gave me a lighter day.