3 Things You Shouldn’t Say To Abuse Survivors
Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional; I am a mental health patient and these are my personal opinions.
Unfortunately, human depravity has existed since the beginning of time. Abuse is not uncommon and, if you’re reading this, thank you. I can’t stress this enough; please stop saying toxic things to people in recovery. As a survivor, who is in recovery, I have experienced a great deal of ignorance from well-meaning people.
1.“ It’s okay. “
This phrase is something people say often, but it really feels like the person is making light of something that has had a huge impact on the mental health of a person who’s suffered abuse. It minimizes the abuse, because the person saying it is obviously not an abuse survivor—an abuse survivor would never say that to another survivor. “It’s ok,” is something you say when someone tells you that they ate the last donut.
2. “Forgiveness is the key to happiness and healing.”
I have learned in therapy that forgiveness is not always achievable. It is my opinion that forgiveness is a construct derived from the ways of religion. Faiths, such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, are very mainstream in western society; some of their core ideas can become part of the healing process. The things that I’ve found most helpful are: learning to channel feelings of all kinds into healthy things, and learning that it’s possible to gain control. I have been able to process my feelings by writing them out in detail, and I use my writing as a way to tell my story. Speaking out has made me much stronger.
3. “Anger is Wrong.”
Feelings are always valid. The idea that feelings are toxic is harmful to survivors. People can’t control feelings and navigating stereotypes can result in survivors feeling shame for having “bad” feelings. The trick is to find a healthy way to deal with anger. Survivors keep their less than ideal feelings in check so they don’t interfere with wanted relationships, or impede their ability to reach life goals. I deal with my feelings of anger by watching horror films or writing morbid, scary stories. It may seem rather cliché, but it does help manage the rage that I feel towards the people who hurt me. It is important to remember that no human has complete control of their feelings, and no feelings are, by definition, good or bad. Shaming people for the way they feel can hurt people more than it can help them. Shame can make an individual shut out needed members of their support system, or cause an individual not to reach out for support and help.