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#SurvivorSpeaks Monique Wright-Williams

#SurvivorSpeaks Monique Wright-Williams

We are proud to partner with National Coalition Against Domestic Violence on their #SurvivorSpeaks campaign. We hope that #SurvivorSpeaks will empower survivors to come forward with strength and share stories that need to be told to raise awareness.

Hard or Soft Shell?

No, I’m not asking for your crab preference.  Nor am I offering you tacos. I’m actually wondering which you selected to ‘protect’ yourself after your abuse. I firmly believe there are just TWO methodologies that we employ when we are subconsciously dealing with having been abused. One is to develop a hard shell, the other is to develop a soft shell. So, what’s the difference?

Hard Shells
Women who opt for the hard shell form of protection put up a solid wall around themselves. This wall could manifest in many forms. My choice was the hard shell. For me, it manifested as being “mean.” In fact, my grandmother called me ‘evil.’  To this very day, I HATE that term.  But being mean may have saved my life. I didn’t take shit from ANYONE outside of the abusers. Constantly getting into fights with boys in my neighborhood as a young teen. I walked with a frown and DARED somebody to say something – anything because I had a two-edged sword for a tongue! My hardness also manifested as not letting anyone ‘in’. That’s simple enough to understand because if I did let someone in my fear was that they’d learn my “secret”.  And then what?  I have no idea.  I guess it was the fear of being disbelieved or believed and seen as ‘dirty’ or ‘worthless’ and I certainly felt worthless enough on my own. So to have someone else confirm that would’ve been as traumatic as the abuse itself.

My hard also showed up as void of empathy when the reality was I bled first if someone else got cut! I may not have had the ability to stop the abuse at home, but I was well positioned in my early adult years to prevent anyone from trying me — at least that’s what I thought until I was shown differently by way of a college “friend” who I’d known since childhood, who took advantage of my inability to handle any alcohol and after two drinks of champagne, was totally wasted and…  But when I had my wits about me— not gonna happen. Unfortunately, it left a lot of people believing that I was someone that I was not – hard. I cared as much as the next person, but you’d never have known that.  It also resulted in me leaving behind a lot of unnecessarily offended people.  I’m sorry.

While I’m sure you’ll never read this, I need to say sorry, to apologize for not showing up as myself.  Please understand, I simply couldn’t. If I could have, I would have.  I wanted to – that’s for sure! Who doesn’t want to be liked?  Well, ME at that time because being ‘liked’ was akin to being ‘desired’ and therefore meant more abuse. If you didn’t like me, you certainly didn’t want to screw me, right?

Soft Shells
People who opt for soft shells often try to hide behind and within their own bodies. No one wakes up and notices that they’re severely overweight and decides to just go for the biggest they can be. Nope. Overeating is a soft shell. It results in you being big and fluffy and protecting yourself by not wanting to feel or look desirable, or by finding comfort and solace in the pleasure that eating food can bring. I didn’t opt for a soft shell. I’m not even sure I could’ve since I was so very active.

Sports also saved me.  I could be aggressive and it was celebrated. It also often gave me a chance to show that boys weren’t necessarily better than girls at sports. I played those boys so fiercely that I didn’t even enjoy playing with the girls anymore. I did everything I could to gain some sort of power over males. But back to soft shells…Women who create soft shells aren’t necessarily thinking, “Oh, I’ll get fat enough that sex isn’t possible”, it’s just a welcome side effect.  Actually, it’s not ‘sex’ they’re afraid of, it’s violation. And with that and a mixture of the power and control, one can have over the food they put in their mouth… a perfect combination for the soft shell of obesity.

I know I had a hard shell and sometimes resort back to it, but the difference now is that I’m aware of it and therefore have the responsibility to do better, to be better. So, I take that shell off every time I notice that I’ve slipped into it. If you have a soft shell and know that you do, it’s your job to deal with the things that are causing you to overeat and bring your body back to its most healthy state.

Whether you have a hard or soft shell, it’s up to you to decide what to do with it.

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