The Wisdom of Hindsight

By The Flying Child

The Flying Child CIC consists of a very small team. It is small, partly because we are still in the early stages, but also because I don’t trust others easily. I haven’t always been distrustful, in fact the opposite was true. I have trusted too easily at times and it’s been to my detriment.

Survivors can struggle with boundaries. As a child, I could not defend myself against abuse, so submitted. Submitting to abuse isn’t a choice. It’s a normal response to attack. Submit, or die. It’s not just our physical boundaries that are breached over and over again, it becomes normal for our emotional boundaries to be breached too.

I have submitted to subtle overstepping of my boundaries in friendships. I went through a phase of attracting people who were perhaps drawn in some way to vulnerability. People who would shower me with love and attention, check-in daily, sometimes multiple times a day.

With hindsight, this level of attentiveness was overbearing, controlling and unhealthy. I had already learned to allow others to do what they wanted and believed that I had no rights over my body, that my opinions didn’t count. It was therefore normal for me to allow others to step in front, speak for me, manipulate and make decisions for me.

It makes perfect sense that these people are no longer in my life, now my life is no longer choatic and I don’t require ‘saving’. Nobody speaks for me now because I have my voice and I use it. I’m not a psychologist and I can’t explain why some people are like this, although I have my own theories, but it’s interesting to hear other survivors talk about the same ‘type’ of friends, or partners in their own lives.

I was asked during a meeting this week if I’d been exploited yet. The person asking works for a major charity and she told me that sadly, it was common for people like me to be exploited by those claiming to highlight stories like mine for the greater good, or those wanting to ride on our shirttails as we achieve a modicum of success. I was able to reflect that yes, I have, and it’s demoralising to realise that I fell for the persuasion of others. My fingers were burned recently when I failed to listen to my instincts. I ignored the fact that the same old signs were there: the controlling, overbearing and over-attentive behaviour, and I have had no choice but to distance myself before the relationship is allowed to develop any further. Over the last couple of years I forged relationships (more than one) based on taking what these people told me at face value. I believed them when they said they had contacts in media, publishing or journalism, or that they were using my experiences of trauma for the greater good, to raise awareness – not for their own personal accolade or worse – to line their own pockets. I made a couple of unwise decisions that I regret. I beat myself up about it for a while but then chalked it up to experience. I can only ever do my best.

So I’m very wary. I am learning to listen to my inner voice when alarm bells ring. I will stick with my small but mighty team. I don’t want this blog to demoralise survivors wanting to break into the activism world, as there are also some real gems out there. There are people who have cheered me on from the sidelines, pitched my story, given me their precious time to meet over Zoom, helped me to network. My story was broadcast on Radio 4 because of the sheer determination of others who believed in what I do.

If I could turn back the clock, I would be more cautious. My advice to others would be to stick with likeminded people who work with total transparency, put the cause before ego, accept that first and foremost we are survivors, and that comes above anything else – and most importantly people who leave us feeling energised, heard, valued and supported.

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