SURVIVORSHIP – by Jonestown Survivor

SURVIVORSHIP
I am a survivor. I have escaped many mishaps in my life as I learned about myself and the world I live in. The one I carry around with me at all times – really part of my living and breathing – is my survival from the death of the dream of Peoples Temple. I lost 913 of my very dearest friends and adopted family members and just escaped with my own life. I know the tragic stories of the other survivors and many of the families who lost their loved ones. Over the past thirty-five years, I have figured out how to survive.

One way I survived is by looking around me and finding other survivors of other tragedies who shared their strength with me. There are many of these same courageous people who keep their journeys locked inside, unable to unburden themselves to others. That is what I did for twenty years after my trauma. I understand it completely.

I also think that there is a tipping point, when it isn’t helpful to keep it locked inside. It doesn’t help the individual – because blocking it doesn’t erase it, or shrink it. If you step on a piece of glass, and don’t take it out of your foot, muscle or callous tissue form around it to keep it stable. And then, likely at some point it gets infected. For me, I could feel when my internal pain began to get infected – when it wasn’t going away, and when it was getting in my way. That is when I started speaking out and I eventually wrote my first book, JONESTOWN SURVIVOR: An Insider’s Look.

Yesterday, I participated in an Authors’ Event at University of Phoenix. It was a full day of discussion on many levels. I re-told my own story to five or more curious attendees. Then, I met another survivor from Cambodia. She had survived the attacks of the Khmer Rouge and concentration camps in Cambodia before fleeing to the United States.

I met another survivor, an author, who grew up in West Berlin, just after World War II. Each day, the independence of the area was under constant threat until the Berlin Wall was constructed. She grew up when everyone in her world was stressed out by the conflict enveloping them. Each day, she was impacted by the historical issues, and by the affect that looming threat had on her parents and the others in her life.

And, my day ended on the same note, as I spoke to an inspirational and wonderful friend who I am drawn to, “spiritually” in a way – though I am an atheist. We just seem to comfort each other at times, without words. She was a victim of both child abuse and rape. I don’t know any of the details of that part of her life. We don’t really “go there” when we speak. I do know that she is a survivor whose internal strength has carried her through very difficult times.

I am strengthened when I get insights in the paths made by others. I am inspired and challenged to share my experience, and to acknowledge that we can and must survive the nearly – but not quite – unsurvivable events in our lives. I know that the lives of survivors other events can be supported when we share our own stories.

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