Please welcome Drew Sheldon to #BeReal.
I couldn’t believe it when Hasty invited me to take part in #BeReal, I was quick to say yes. I was not, however, quick to write this. Writing has been quite a slog recently. The more I work at being real, the more I struggle to continue.
I started blogging because I wanted to let my truth out into the world. Most of the time people are wonderfully supportive and encouraging. I feel incredibly fortunate considering all the horror stories I hear of fellow bloggers (especially women) being trolled and harassed. Occasionally, though, someone will quietly comment or send a private message that makes me re-think it all.
I have written here and there about my history of abuse. I endured it for much of my childhood and have further experienced it at times as an adult. Like many abuse survivors, I learned how not to be real and to do whatever it takes to hide the truth. We are so often made to believe that it’s our fault and that people will hate us if they find out. I try to fight against that conditioning, but like I said, I occasionally receive a comment that reactivates it, sometimes strongly.
One example happened this last Christmas. I published a deeply personal post about my mom and how her generous spirit used to shine during her favorite holiday. In it, I mentioned that family issues left me with few material artifacts from my mom after her passing. I did not mention that was the fault of my abusive older sister, but she felt compelled to comment on the post even though we haven’t spoken in nearly two decades. She said nothing about my vague mention of her. She simply tried to paint my mom as a villain rather than confront the truth about herself.
Abusers hate for the truth to be told. If they can’t defend their actions, they will try to distract, shifting the blame or at least the attention to others. It’s probably not even entirely conscious much of the time. I’ve never known an abuser who recognized themselves as such, and they probably don’t want to accept that reality. I have known them to tell whatever lies will suit their purpose, even and perhaps especially to themselves.
I learned this same habit and have known many other survivors to do the same. It hurts to think of the ones we love as abusers, and we do our best to defend them. Being real, however, requires me to do different no matter how much it hurts.
None of this should be taken as a claim that I’m innocent. I’ve certainly done hurtful things. I’ve participated in hazing and other behaviors I later recognized to be abusive. So much of the time, it was driven by fear and a desire to fit in, but that is no excuse. Just like with the people who abused me, it was never my intent to hurt anyone, but that doesn’t change the fact that I did.
Recognizing my imperfection is a prime motivation for being real. I want to examine my life and get better. When a former lover told me I had said and done hurtful things, I begged her to tell me all about that. Unfortunately, she didn’t tell me anything, and I’ve often had trouble getting any helpful thoughts on this. I’m lucky that some people in my life are quite open and honest with me, never hesitating to tell me uncomfortable truths. On the other hand, it seems much of the feedback I do get is discouragement from speaking my truth, and that’s not a request I can honor.
It’s been a struggle for me to write lately. The more truth I write, the more I realize I still have to write. A lot of it is pretty scary for me, and I’m sure some people will not be happy about it. I’m over it, though. I’m committed to this mission to #BeReal and tell my truth, regardless of who likes it or hates it. I’m really grateful to Hasty for this reminder and encouragement. I know my realest self is my best self, and I will not stop working toward that.
Drew Sheldon is a disabled veteran and a feminist. A survivor of numerous traumas and PTSD sufferer, he advocates passionately for his fellow survivors and all people struggling with mental illness. He was raised by a single mother whom he dearly misses. He currently lives under the rule of his beautiful kitty Francesca.