…some things. But definitely not all.
Many of my readers know I’m an abuse survivor. I don’t make any secret of it, nor of the issues I struggle with because of it. And in large part because of my own past, the characters who come to me to have their stories told are also often survivors.
I want to make something clear, in part because of a comment made in a recent review of one of my books. Survivors can love. They can develop trust, and they can go on to have healthy relationships if they do the work. IF. To some people, it seems unrealistic for a survivor to enter a relationship with someone where they’re able to have sex and be open with their partner.
To others, it seems unrealistic that someone *wouldn’t* be able to do that. In my own experience, I’ve had more than one person tell me to “just put the past aside and move on.”
Let me also make it clear that I am not speaking for all survivors. Everyone has their own experiences and their own ways of dealing with them. I’m speaking for myself as a survivor, an author, and a reader. And I’m speaking for my characters.
For me, the truth is somewhere between “can’t move on” and “it’s easy to move on.”
I’ve been with my husband for six years now, and we celebrated our fourth anniversary on Thursday. I will say that by the time I met him, I’d already been in counseling for several months and had begun the healing process. But I still had three and a half decades buried, with emotional landmines planted by experiences that in some cases, I didn’t even remember.
The moment I met my husband–literally the very moment–I recognized someone I could open to and trust. Someone I could be physically and emotionally open with. Despite the dents and dings on my soul, I knew I could have a relationship with this man, including sex.
That doesn’t mean it was easy. Happily ever after sometimes takes a while. Sometimes, even after all this time, I still have flashbacks when hubby and I are in bed together. Even after all this time (and counseling), I still have landmines that go off every now and then, triggered by something seemingly completely innocuous. I mean, who would think a crayon would give me a panic attack?
In my novel I Should Tell You, both heroes are dealing with demons from past abuse. One is a recovering alcoholic; the other is addicted to prescription painkillers and ends up in inpatient rehab during the book. One is okay with sex; the other has to be high to have it, and has it because he likes it even though he isn’t sure he should. At their first meeting, and first real conversation, each of them recognizes in the other someone they *could* open up to, and with the help they’re given, they begin to do that.
I don’t consider the ending of I Should Tell You necessarily a happily-ever-after. It’s more a happy-for-now. Hunter and Mitch still have a lot of healing to do, but by the end of the book, when they’ve known each other for several weeks and Mitch has had a few weeks of rehab, they believe they can heal *together*.
That’s my experience as a survivor. My husband’s love doesn’t heal me. He doesn’t have a “magic wang,” as a couple of review sites have put it (and I put it in my novel Beta Block, which also involves a survivor learning to love and trust). True love doesn’t conquer all. But it can give someone enough hope to try to heal, and someone to help and support the healing.