Surviving Trauma

Alice writes:

I was abused by my father when I was 11. I have flashbacks of things he did to me as a toddler. I could never understand why my mother was so off and angry and irritated by me. The day I told her, she ran out of the house and came back with her friends comforting her, and treating me as if I’d done some thing wrong. I’m about to have my 60th birthday, and I have three children. My third I had when I thought I was ready and healed.

After four marriages, my two daughters have all sorts of emotional problems. I was always afraid and felt uncomfortable with them. So far, my son seems to be well-balanced and a lovely person, but he left me to live with his dad when he was 10. I love him more than life itself. He finds it difficult to be with me. I try and do the best I can to appear happier than I really am. I want to see what the future brings.

Dear Alice,

To write openly about what happened at the hands of your father takes so much courage. Child abuse is so pervasive, and yet we are still not allowed to talk about it. Talking about your history and how it’s affected you is a sign of both self-love and a desire for further healing. Your courage shows that there is much hope for you!

As you probably know, abuse shatters our self-esteem, and makes it painful and scary to love and trust ourselves or anyone else. We feel like outsiders, stained and tainted by what happened to us, and certain that no one will accept us as we are.

Even outside of the terrible trauma of your father’s abuse, you were not loved and cherished as the precious, beautiful child that you were, not by your mother or any other important adult. You were, in fact, given the role of scapegoat, because your mother was incapable of handling the truth and placing the responsibility where it truly belonged: on herself. It is often the case with families in which abuse occurs, that alcoholism, mental illness, and neglect are at play, and the child, in an insane mangling of reality, takes the blame for the violence and chaos.

I suspect your parents were repeating the cycle of what happened to them, and acted out all their rage and self-loathing on you. Like a soldier who spent years on the battlefield, you were beaten down, your body and nervous system pushed to their limits. What you are experiencing now is post traumatic stress disorder, and all the anxiety and pain that it brings.

You wrote about attending various forms of therapy, and still feeling unhappy, isolated and not sure what ‘normal’ is. It sounds as if you spend a lot of time pretending you are ok, and trying to appreciate the good that you can. This in and of itself takes a lot of courage, but I am sure makes you unnecessarily exhausted, and is keeping you from a true connection with life, which you so deserve.

I urge you to get back in touch with other survivors in either a support group setting or a 12-step capacity. Please know that you are NOT alone, in the abuse or in the terrible fact that you were blamed for it. Any therapy or 12-step program, like Survivors of Incest Anonymous or Adult Children of Alcoholics that works with the ‘inner child,’ is key to true healing. Even if your parents were not alcoholics, they exhibit all the behaviors, so you qualify.

You deserve a place where you are allowed to be who you are, feelings and all, with supporting and accepting people who are walking the same path. You will learn to re-parent that sad and isolated child who is patiently waiting for your attention. You may in fact have many inner children who are yearning for you to see and listen to them, who cry tears that need to be dried and are in need of warm words and physical comfort.

Healing from child abuse is a lifelong process. Injuries inflicted at such a young age reverberate for decades, so there may be no ‘end’ to this path. Books like Courage to Heal and works on Co-dependence by Melody Beattie can be incredibly valuable aids — however, nothing balms the soul more than three-dimensional fellow travelers who are recovering themselves. You are a brave and loving woman capable of great happiness. I suggest building consistent and strong support from other loving souls who can empathize with and guide you, so that you can blossom and thrive.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *