The Silent Army by Amy Jo Sprague

I’m my own worst critic. I see no worth in who I am most the time. I think it’s weak if I feel fragile. The truth is, especially for those of us who have endured child abuse, we were never fragile and worthless and weak – our abusers were. And though we suffer in our PTSD, Dissociative disorders, BPD, and so on, we suffer because we loved. We loved. I think that survivors of abuse are the most compassionate, compelling, loving souls who are tough as nails and they don’t even believe that. Their (our) survival techniques were just…something we did…a way we found, a way – not an act of bravery.

I talk myself down all of the time, but when I think about it, it was brave. We stowed our minds away and put our souls on hold while “it” all happened, because some part of us – be it our instincts or untouchable spirit – knew that the only way to save our minds and hearts (our bodies left for prey) was to hide them, deep inside. And hiding it for so long became habit, and then soon it was forgotten about, until our bodies grew older and began to remember, and as adults – who are “supposed to be” blooming and growing and changing and living anew – we stumble and fall under the weight of all that was hidden, all that we saved.

It’s enough to know that we saved those things because we loved ourselves enough to know our minds and hearts were worth saving. We were hurt because we loved and trusted our abuser. It’s not that we did not love. We loved so much. And it’s a trick to learn how to love like that again with trust.

As it all catches up with you and you’re panicking, manic, psychotic, having flashbacks, dissociating, derealizing, depersonalizing, hyper-vigilant, hyper-aroused, terrified, small as a child – faith and beliefs crumble, because they were never truly taught to us. We begin to build new systems and beliefs and faiths, being Buddhist, Christian, Atheist and so on. We have to, as adults, re-raise our inner child and guide them into a secure world we have to believe we’re building. And we won’t guide them into this world until we believe it’s safe, and that can take a long time. It’s a long, grueling process. It’s exhausting. It’s war, flat-out war, between our heads and our hearts. Between our chemistry and our spirit.

We join the ranks of the silent army – the millions of victims abused when they were helpless – and we take that helplessness and chew on it like bullets in our teeth, resolving self-reliance and determination, leaving ourselves no other alternative but to survive. To strive. And what we strive for changes too, doesn’t it? Life’s materials and matters become trivial in the grand scheme of things, and we look inside. We look at the suffering of humanity, but not just that. We truly learn to see the resilience and healing that happens as well.

I think the last person we see heal is ourselves. I think we’re in a constant state of healing, always will be. So we can’t seek an end to our journey for it is constant, and proliferating new breath into us each day or with each trial. Do we ever heal? I think so, but I think the healing never ends – there is no outcome, no answer, no result. We bloom more and more as we go along. We learn to have a voice, to give a voice to that little child surrendered in our minds and bodies.

When, when, when will this army no longer be silent? How many more have to join the ranks? We outnumber the abusers and the ignorant and the scared. And for that reason alone we should be tearing down walls of silence. What’s it gonna take??

Amy is confessional (fledgling) poet currently working on her memoir. Poems and essays have appeared in various publications including FRiGG Magazine, Psychic Meatloaf, Third Wednesday and a few more. She lives in Wisconsin and blogs at Writing Thru Complex PTSD and can be reached by email at

Editor’s Note:

According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway,

“The immediate emotional effects of abuse and neglect—isolation, fear, and an inability to trust—can translate into lifelong consequences, including low self-esteem, depression, and relationship difficulties. Researchers have identified links between child abuse and neglect and the following:

Difficulties during infancy. Depression and withdrawal symptoms were common among children as young as 3 who experienced emotional, physical, or environmental neglect. (Dubowitz, Papas, Black, & Starr, 2002).

Poor mental and emotional health. In one long-term study, as many as 80 percent of young adults who had been abused met the diagnostic criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder at age 21. These young adults exhibited many problems, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and suicide attempts (Silverman, Reinherz, & Giaconia, 1996). Other psychological and emotional conditions associated with abuse and neglect include panic disorder, dissociative disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, depression, anger, posttraumatic stress disorder, and reactive attachment disorder (Teicher, 2000; De Bellis & Thomas, 2003; Springer, Sheridan, Kuo, & Carnes, 2007).”

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