Healing from child abuse–In stages
I finished The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller last night.
And then I couldn’t sleep for the longest time. (I know, I know, I probably shouldn’t read such highly charged books right before I go to bed. Well, I’m going to…so I’m going to lose sleep.)
This book highlighted some stages in my healing I hadn’t realized were directly due to my abusive childhood.
I admit, I have known since I was in my early 30s (almost 15 years now) that my adult relationships were being adversely affected by my childhood. I knew, and I didn’t know at the same time.
I’m not sure how this is possible. Though I have a couple theories.
1. I could only heal so much at any one time so I healed in stages.
We can’t really handle the full monty of our past all at once. We would go into serious overload and not be able to function at all. Which now that I think of it was likely what my breakdown two years ago was all about. But I don’t recommend this because it’s too all encompassing, too devastating. That’s why drugs and therapy help us handle our past in more manageable bits. Hopefully.
2. Though my mother was abusive emotionally in the nastiest ways, my father wasn’t. He has always loved me unconditionally with respect and understanding, and still does.
This divided me in ways that were likely really twisted and confusing. I had this constant model of good parenting on one side and extremely cruel parenting on the other side. My mother only abused me when my father wasn’t home, so he didn’t know anything about it until I told him more recently. I was caught. And I didn’t feel able to articulate what was happening to me when I was a child because I thought my mother’s behaviour towards me was my fault. If only I’d been more like who she wanted me to be or less like myself, however you want to look at it it was fucked.
But at my core I knew she wasn’t okay, that the way she treated me was wrong. I had my father’s love to show me that, and that gave me the strength to start defending myself when I was a bit older. And the war between my mother and I started in earnest.
The irony is that when I was a teenager she stopped. Once I was big enough to thump her one, she gave up. And that’s when she became my “best friend.” That’s one of the stages children who’ve been abused go through. They idolize their abuser. I so did that. Until…she lied and went back on her word again.
Then I moved to Montreal on my own and never went back. My first big step in totally the right direction.
But my issues weren’t resolved. I was only 18. No, then the craziness of my childhood started playing out in my personal relationships. This is another stage.
When I was 19, I met my first husband and the father of my son. He was cold and distant with my son, angry and hostile too, just like my mother had been with me. I divorced him when my son was only three. I tried to keep their relationship as healthy as possible. But it caused me a lot of pain and suffering. I blamed myself for years for marrying a man like my mother. I didn’t treat my son abusively, but his father did. Somehow I’d chosen a man who perpetuated the cycle. There were times I was so angry with myself I could’ve killed myself. But my son needed me.
And then my second marriage was even worse. This time he didn’t abuse my son in any way, but he dumped all his hate and nasty behaviour all over me.
That’s when I hit the wall and had my breakdown.
All that anger and hate turned on myself when I married a man all too willing to demoralize me. To literally try to murder my soul, as my mother had tried to do. But his hate only grew when he realized I wasn’t broken.
That was when I asked him to leave, and he did within an hour and never, ever asked to come back. Thank God for that because I didn’t like him at all by then and never wanted to see him again. And I haven’t seen him for over a year. This is another stage, making decisions for my self. Finally.
It’s very frightening to admit that my childhood broke me open. And that I struggle every day to be whole and here for my son because I know having my son has saved me when it seemed so much easier to just give up.
But I haven’t given up and I won’t give up not now.
I have come too far to not struggle. But the terror and isolation of my childhood linger within me. Maybe they always will.
I used to be ashamed of that, but I no longer am.
I am starting to see I have too much to live for.
I’ve decided to live to open an honest dialogue about child abuse.
And to watch my beautiful son grow up.
Two fantastic reasons I think.
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