Just when you think what you survived was bad, you talk to someone who had it worse than you did. What kind of person does to their children some of the things that were done to me? Or worse, what happened to my sister, for whom the abuse was so severe, I cannot even begin to imagine (or perhaps I don’t want to) what it had to have been like for her-and I had the room next to hers. And what’s worse, is there was not a thing I could have done to help her-I was five years younger than her. My brother tried to stand up for her and was punished-no driving for a week. But I can think of worse things. Maybe a sixteen-year old can’t.
Wounds from the past are often behind some of the most self-destructive behaviors we engage in. It fueled my drinking, smoking dope and pill popping for many years. I had to be numb, that was the only thing that made the emotional pain tolerable. But I finally reached the point where that wasn’t working either and I found the substance abuse was only making the pain worse. It was time to face it. And what made that harder was that one of my greatest fears was trust. Like my sister, I had been betrayed by therapists, and even a sponsor in AA. Overcoming the anxiety associated with getting back up and trying again was extremely difficult. But staying the way that I was also wasn’t an option. And sometimes, you need therapy for the therapy.
When a survivor of severe childhood trauma has also been traumatized by a therapist who’s job it was to help them, it drives home the importance of trust when someone is working in mental health. I am a nurse working in psych, and I can’t imagine betraying one of my patients the way that I or my sister was. Talking to her is a good reminder of my professional responsibility.
But to go back to the dysfunctional ways we cope-with drinking, drugs, self-harm, we are only punishing ourselves for someone else’s shortcomings. It’f funny how we do that. We must be punished, right, we really deserve it? No, we never did deserve it. Back to the question that begs to be answered: What kind of person does those things to their child? Probably someone who had worse things done to them as a child. It explains it but it will never excuse it. For me, it helped me have compassion for the little girl my mother was when the harm was done to her, but I also had to have compassion for myself. And learn ways to live without making the pain worse. Which booze, pills and smoking dope is phenomenal at.
Living in the past is like picking at a scab. You will never heal. Sometimes we need to share those experiences with someone to begin cleansing the wound, washing away the dirt and grime. And to validate that what happened was in fact, wrong. Letting go is one of the hardest things we can do. But it is also a critical step for the healing process.
I nursed that resentment towards the people I was hurt by, fed it, nurtured it and did everything in my power to keep it alive and well. And all I was doing was letting them win. But by living in the past, what I was doing was continuing to be a victim. Not a survivor.