Surviving Abuse and the Identity Crisis that follows


Abuse in many ways affects one’s character; how one sees the world and how one interacts with the world.  According to the UNICEF, people develop best intellectually, emotionally and inter-personally when their formative years are free of repression, natural disasters, malnutrition, polluted water and armed conflict.  The first 5yrs of a child’s life are the most important in that respect.  Abuse started for me during those most crucial years of my life.

Beginning of 2016 I became worried about my identity.  I knew nature and nurture shape one’s identity.  I sometimes read how some people find their identity after years of abuse. You hear them say ‘in the process I lost myself, but now I am reclaiming my identity’.  But you have to know who you were before in order to reclaim it don’t you?  The fact that I had no reference to who I was ‘before’ began to bother me.  The before was before I could even comprehend anything.  It suddenly felt like I was living a lie.  It felt like the Thuli I had known all my life may not be the real Thuli. I constantly wondered who the real Thuli was, and it added a little bit to my distress throughout the year.

I remember saying a prayer in ink to God, asking Him to show me who I really was.  I figured He created me, He is the one who knows what blueprint He had in mind. I also figured He was the only reference I had in order to understand my true identity.  I suppose I expected a simple answer in the form of an essay ‘Dear Thuli. I’m glad you asked, so here’s the deal…….’  I’d then read the letter and then just go about daily trying to change to suit that.  Funny huh!

Of course it doesn’t work like that.  He didn’t answer that way.  In summer I decided to focus on things I knew I genuinely liked. I love walks, I love being by the beach. I love traveling.  I love poetry.  I love reading and writing.  I started making time for those things, I’d do one thing I love a day.  That in itself wasn’t fulfilling, surely I am more than my love for reading. The whole thing was frustrating.

I am a Christian and believe that my identity is in Christ.  But, sometimes, in my darkest moments I struggle to equate that to something that is pragmatic and useful to me IN that moment.

I recently started learning to be calm internally and learning to listen to my thoughts and examine them. I have learned to question the intentions behind things that I do, decisions that I make, or those that I should make and don’t make.  And in that journey I have uncovered how low self-esteem impacts on how one creates relationships.  There is a desperation to belong, a desperation to fit in, to be loved such that one’s identity is fluid enough to fit into any situation, just to get a morsel of love.  This is how I’ve lived my life all this while. Granted, I’ve found my own in some areas over the years, but there are remnants of people pleasing here and there.  Standing up for myself is a shoe I am yet to break into and be comfortable in it.

And so the journey continues…….


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