A personal account of discovering childhood trauma and their emotional responses.
Before the world went nuts, before it changed irreconcilably. I was on a journey of self-discovery. I was looking at myself and my world, trying to figure out why I acted, re-acted and thought the way I did. I got extraordinarily little out of the journey that first year. I changed a lot, put on a bravado that was false, but learned little about myself. I was told that I should be strong, that I should be in control. I mentally whipped myself when I felt I was falling into old habits. I berated myself when I people pleased. I hated myself when I couldn’t voice my feelings or desires. I scoffed at myself when I felt weak or cried. I did everything I could to strong arm myself into divine change for the better. I did everything I could to not have to do the work.
It didn’t work!
It wasn’t, as my mind had whispered to me, in those early morning hours. I’m not broken or hard-wired wrong. Not that I was worthless or stupid, and it wasn’t because I was too busy to try.
It was because I was, as always, trying to find someone or something else to blame for my current state. I had done it my whole life. I didn’t want to see the naked truth about myself, so I tried to hide behind the state of my childhood and the emotional trauma I still carried. I hid behind the boys and men that took particular and unwanted interest in me. I hid in my life as young teenaged mum. I wrapped myself in a blanket of self-hatred because I was uneducated and unemployed.
My cloak of victimhood danced with rivers of colours that dazzled and entranced me and I let it, because I didn’t or couldn’t do the legwork; I didn’t want to look inside myself and find my faults and wounds.
I convinced myself that I would become a better person if I concentrated on all the wrongs others had done to me. It enhanced my victimhood. “look at how they wronged me” “can’t blame me for how I am, look at how I got treated”.
I brushed it all under the rug and sat down to wipe my hands against my thighs, congratulating myself on my success and bolstering my ego. But that rug now sat atop a mountain of pain and broken promises and I couldn’t get down!
“damn them for treating me so badly and hurting me so much”.
I needed to forgive, right? That was how I got down? After all, I sure didn’t need to wade through all this trauma, because it wasn’t my fault!
But that’s not true. I needed to forgive, yes! And no, it wasn’t my fault that I had those experiences. But, yes, I needed to dive deep into all that stuff I had swept under the rug. What I hadn’t understood at the time was that buried in those memories. Buried in that ick. Buried in those wounds were tiny slivers of glass that continued to cause me pain, that trained me to react and act in certain ways. That festered and turned necrotic with every situation that shared similar emotional reactions. I had to acknowledge all of that raw and bloody glass to grow as a person.
I scrambled to gather self-help books; I asked friends what I could do; I dived into old hobbies that I figured would help me be the person I was before. I was wrong, because I was looking for a “how to” book and all I was finding was “you can do it!” books. I was trying hard to be the person I was and not the person I wanted to be. I despaired, so I dived into YouTube looking for self-help and positive thinking videos and then I found her!
Sarah Montana, I watched her Ted talk. I re-watched it. I cried, I screamed, I scoffed, and finally sat with her as she told me about her hurt and trauma. About her failed attempts to forgive and forget and her ‘Falling through the rabbit hole’ on her quest to learn how to forgive.
I discovered that what I knew about forgiveness was wrong. I sat with this woman playing through my computer speakers as my mind spun and I discovered something. I discovered that the act of forgiving isn’t about forgiving the person who wronged you. But forgiving yourself. In my case, I was forgiving myself because I couldn’t stop it, because I never noticed being hurt. I forgave myself because I never knew I was putting myself in harm’s way.
People make choices; it can be wrong, and it can hurt someone, but it isn’t a choice you help them make. People make choices every day. Good or bad, wrong or right, it’s their choice… my choice… your choice. You determine your path.
I looked inside and I fell into an ocean of anger and hurt, this ocean. Fuelled my toxic traits. It threatened to drown my wonderful traits. Floating in this ocean, I found the parts of me that were harmed. And with each discovery, the ocean waves rolled. The sky darkened. It tossed me about. And on the outside my emotions became erratic, my temper became short. I became depressed, my world turned grey. I pulled away from my husband. I turned on him. I couldn’t hug my children because I resented them for their freedom and their existence. In short, my anger and hurt tore my world apart.
And how I wanted to blame those people that had hurt me. But it wasn’t them. When I looked deeper it to that riled ocean, I saw myself. I saw I aimed my anger at myself. Because, if I didn’t want to be hurt, why put myself in that position. Does that sound familiar? It’s the lesson we learn every time we blame a victim for their abuse. It’s the lessons learned when we ask “why did you stay?” It’s the lesson we learn when we asked why we were with that person.
Its victim blaming and I was doing it to myself. Intellectually, I wasn’t part of that process that lead that person to choose to harm me. I had in my journey of self-discovery learnt that all that anger I held onto for my past and the hurt I had endured there. That I was actually angry at myself for putting myself in that position.
I forgave myself for the anger I had held on to so forcefully. I held my hand and removed the blame and the hate. I had been trying to forgive the person and in my mind forgiveness equated acceptance of their behaviour. Like I was removing their guilt and their accountability. Forgiveness felt like I was taking the blame for their choices. The epiphany I had while listening to Sarah was a powerful one in which I took myself from the only person fighting to the person moving on.
Forgiveness was the start; the rabbit hole didn’t stop there. Like Alice as she fell, I wondered what was at the bottom. Who would I be after I fell once I landed, would it trap me in the hall with the glass table or would I find the garden? I didn’t know all I knew was that my forgiveness had shown me several paths and no directions. If only I had found Cheshire cat as well.
I asked for help. That roiling ocean I had inside was unbearable. I couldn’t find my own way to calm it. So, I started talking to a counsellor. I sat with her five times and I cried beside her as we talk superficially about my childhood. Our talks weren’t deep. But it had a profound effect on me.
The unfortunate truth is you cannot look inside yourself and have your life remain sunshine and rainbows. It’s a dark, painful, and twisted journey. I rebelled from it so many times. I let my ego tell me it wasn’t me that needed the work. After all, I knew I wasn’t perfect what more could I do? I was good. I had learnt forgiveness.
Lots! I could do lots more.
So, I delved down into my past, my psyche, my present, and future. I unearthed stones and cracks, scars and festering wounds. I tore my mind apart, and I met wall after wall. Screamed that it was too hard. Hid from the things I didn’t like about myself.
I learned, unlearned, and re-learned traits, personality quirks, and emotions. I accepted I had spent a lot of my life blaming others for my lack of direction and held tight to my victimhood. I learnt I let the man who abused me emotionally and the boy who abused me metaphorically hold me back. I was dragging them into every aspect of my life and using them as a benchmark of how to be treated.
I blamed my husband for not making me happy; I blamed my family for not teaching me how to succeed; I blamed my friends for making me stupid. Worse than all that, I blamed my children for trapping me somewhere I found cramped and unliveable. I never once took accountability with me. I became depressed and anxious. I slept just to avoid my life, and I let everyone, including me, accept that it was just because of my depression. But it was the ultimate form of escapism. I refused to acknowledge that I could do something. The doctors refused to drug me. I let my mind run all over me and cover my world with darkness.
So now I am here with (metaphorical) bloody knuckles and weeping wounds. But I am finally understanding something. I am accountable.
I am accountable for judging people instead of working on myself.
I am accountable for my lack of drive
I am accountable for the lack of control in my life. I spent so many years asking so many people to run my life, and they did. People will. If you hand them the keys and say drive. They will drive you right into a wall. It isn’t deliberate; It isn’t malicious. It just is. They are not you; they don’t know your directions.
I am accountable for teaching my kids to disappoint others in hopes they will always choose themselves. We must show our kids that sacrificing their selves is not an act of compromise but of self-harm. That if someone expects you to be less than yourself so they can be bigger, then they are not for them.
I am accountable for showing them they can reach for the stars. It’s not something you can tell them. Kids are smarter than we let them be. They know deep inside that mummy is a liar. Because, “if I can reach for the stars why can’t mummy?”. We are responsible, not only to tell these little people to follow their dreams but we owe it to ourselves and them to show them how to do it.
I am accountable for all those little faults I let control me. My highly emotional state, I am accountable if I let them control me. My confidence, I am accountable for building myself up. All my dreams, I am accountable for following the path I want to tread. My happiness, it’s all mine. I can be happy with someone else, but not because of them. Happiness within my self lets me shine. That’s why when I was seven, I shone like a bright light. Because I was happy!
Which is why I am here today!
My dream is to write!
I have long held onto the idea that I will never be a writer because I lack the technical skills, the imagination, the drive, or the ability. Some of these are true, but most of them are true because I let fear and ego hold me back from living this dream. How on earth, or any other bloody planet, can I get better at my craft and unlock my potential if I don’t, as Nike says “Just Do It!”
I was once a bright girl who saw the magic in a tree or on the wind. Who read to pass the time. Who danced to the music in her mind. That wondered at what lay beyond her sight. I was a girl who dreamed while being awake. Who put herself to sleep telling and creating her own worlds and stories.
Then, I was the teenager who wanted to live a successful life. But who fell victim to self-esteem and peer pressure. Who had needed to conform as to not stand out. Who’s dreams and personality were laughed at and used as a weapon against her. Who’s happiness was destroyed because she didn’t have the strength to shrug it off. Who believed she had to because that’s what everyone did.
I grew up to be the women that allowed others to convince her she would be nothing more than a speck of dust. I was told I wasn’t intelligent enough, so I showed them I wasn’t. I was told I wasn’t strong enough, so I showed them it was true. I let them drive me into a wall. And I screamed the entire way and then thanked them at the end. Because a good girl, and for sure I was a good girl, fell into line and lived by expectations. I was to nurture, to remain wholesome, I was to be well spoken, polite and not loud. I was to be unopinionated, I was to be calm; I was to be the one who took control of life, but only in practical ways. I would cook, clean, run the house. I was to carry, birth, love, nurture, and sacrifice for my family. I was to be the foundation to be stood on while they built a life. I was about to forget about the magic I saw on the wind.
And I was so good!
I learnt to hide my light, imagination, and drive because that was what was expected. I learnt to hide away behind judgement and ridicule because that was accepted. Just for them to turn against me because life is harsh. I waited patiently as they tethered me in a barren yard and instead of breaking the rope; I wrapped it around myself to stay warm. I lived the life I was supposed to according to everyone, but not the one that mattered most. I raised a bubbly boy and watched his lights go dim.
I endured needles and scans through two IVF ICSI cycles to have my daughter; I carried her for 39 weeks. They strapped me to a table in a room full of people as they cut her from my body. My first glimpse of the sweet precious life I carried was of a bright purple girl covered in goo and bruises screaming as they held her in the air. They lay her on my chest, and my entire world stopped. My mind ground to a halt, and I wanted the absolute best for my girl. I wept tears of joy and utter devastation. For a second, I thought to myself “what have done” I knew my daughter was too good for this world, for the role it would force her into. She was my trigger point! She was what made me sit up from a 28-year sleep and say nope!
You cannot have her like you took me!
This post can also be found on Me and Miss Tay . Com . au