Archive for physical abuse
I tried to LOVE by the definition of love in the last post “Love is Patient, Love is Kind ~ a bit of a rant” but I was not valued for that because I (whatever I did) was never good enough. How could I have learned to understand the true and lovely meaning of this poetic bible verse “1st Corinthians 13: 4-7 Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud it is not rude it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” if I never had an example of human love that actually loved this way or presented love in some sort of balance?
People tried to tell me that Christ was this example but this was not my childhood experience. The bible tells adults to be an example of Christ ~ but where WERE those adults? I recall being “preached at” being talked down to so often the people delivering these messages were delivering them in a UN-loving way. As I child I learned that I MUST do this “love thing”~ but I didn’t learn that others must also try to achieve this standard, I only applied it to me. The fact that all people (INCLUDING ME) have equal value, was missing from my learning. What I learned was that I was not going to BE loved, but I HAD to love.
This missing information went with me into adulthood and everything I knew (right or wrong) about love went with me and I processed all relationships through the grid that I learned as a child. Things have to be RE LEARNED properly with the right definitions in place if we are to heal this gaping wound. People said things like “just put it behind you” or “Just give it to God” but nobody told me HOW to do that. I was not able to put the massive mixed messages about love or about my worth behind me until I really looked closely at how they got there and what the real truth was. And this was not a small mess, it was really huge.
This post is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sorting some of this stuff out but one thing I learned on my journey to wholeness is that the key to my understanding the true meaning of love was by realizing what it was not.
If I am supposed to treat others the way that I would also like to be treated, then I had to begin to treat myself with respect and love too. Self love was never taught. I had to learn to regard myself the way that I was being encouraged to regard others. The first step towards self love came from the work of looking at how I arrived at “not loving” myself.
SO……Just what does that mean; what did I do?
I looked at the abusive situations I had been in. I examined them in a new way as though they had been done to me instead of that I had been a participant or somehow responsible for what had happened to me. I began with the first memory of trauma. As I have shared before, my first memory of trauma was of being sexually abused by a female babysitter when I was just over two. When I took this memory apart, revealing to my therapist everything that I remembered about it, I was shocked to realize that I thought I had a choice. Even at the age of two, I thought that I could have done something to stop it. And since I didn’t stop it, I concluded that I must have participated in it. This conclusion did not come from that one event. It came from many other times in my life when I had not been validated and my only conclusion was that it was my own fault. Self blame was how I survived. I could not blame the adults that took care of me, for without them (when we are children) there no hope.
I looked at the child sexual abuse, psychological abuse and physical abuse spiritual abuse and the trauma that I had experienced. I examined how each situation had affected me emotionally and how I adjusted in order to cope with the reality of how I was actually regarded or not regarded.
Then instead of trying to change ME which was the solution I believed in all of my life, I stopped trying to change ME and I looked at the root of the abuse and what I believed about myself because of it. I looked at WHY I blamed myself and HOW I came to blame myself. That is where I found the answers. What I changed was the false belief system that I had accepted about myself and my value.
This false belief system was given to me by many others and by many situations. Not all of them were abusive, but the grid that I viewed them through was discoloured and foggy from a very young age. I already had self esteem problems.
When I was actually able to straighten this false truth out, I was able to realize that the state that I was in emotionally and mentally was never something that I brought on myself. I was able to place the responsibility where it belonged; on those who failed me, abused me, mistreated me and devalued me. The good news is that I didn’t have to stay there forever either. I stayed there long enough to validate myself and to believe that I deserved equal value to everyone else.
Then I had to own that value. I had to embrace my own value deeply inside of me, all the way to the very core of me. I had to take apart the damage, in order to realize that I was indeed lovable and that I could love me. This took time. There were a lot of false beliefs and false definitions about love living as truth in my head. I had to take a look at it and re-wire a lot of it before I began to feel the burden of self hatred lifting. There was a lot of re-parenting involved ~ learning to love and nurture myself ~ to do and be for me what others never were for me. I had to let go of the guilt that went with not being able to “just let God do it”.
It was like a huge clean up project; I might not have been the one that caused the damage but it was my work to fix it. Love, healing and wholeness were my rewards; I found myself and I embraced the unique self that had been rejected, first by others and then by me, all my life.
Please feel welcome to contribute as much or as little as you wish in the comments.
Freedom calls from the other side of broken,
There are little messages that we get when we live in an abusive or dysfunctional environment, or even if our home environment is not abusive, but we are being devalued or mistreated in any way somewhere outside of that environment. Remember that all abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and spiritual abuse is all equally destructive to self esteem and self worth.
Our self esteem suffers so much when we are being abused or mistreated and it is extremely confusing to a child. Other messages factor in to complete and to complicate the picture. So a lesser message piggy backs on an already seriously damaging message and confirms the suspicion I already have; I just wasn’t worthy.
My parents divorced when I was 13. My mother constantly said she didn’t have enough money to live on. I don’t know if that is true, I didn’t have access to the books, but as a child we can only base our judgements on what we see and what we hear. We base our conclusions on what we believe to be the proof.
My mother said that she didn’t have enough money to raise us kids and that our father didn’t give her enough child support. She constantly complained about the power bill; we were not allowed to have heat in our bedrooms and she complained about groceries. To this day her voice rings in my head “I never wanted to be a single mother” This was a statement that she made as an excuse for everything. As a child the message that I heard is that she didn’t want me and that her love for me was conditional and the condition was that unless she had someone to help her raise children, she didn’t want children. By the time I was 15 years old, when she said that she never wanted to be a single mother, my mind replied “ oh ..so that is why you are not a mother at all”
My father acted like he paid child support so that was all he had to do. I remember when I got my first period, I was 13 and I had to go to my father’s for the weekend after school. I needed money for sanitary napkins. When I asked him for some money, he would NOT give it to me unless I told him why I wanted it. What a nightmare that was. As an adult I told myself that it was his right to know why I wanted a couple of dollars. But the problem was the belief that developed when I was just a young teenager who didn’t want to tell her father that she needed pads, complicated by the fact that I believed he didn’t trust me with two freaking dollars to go to the drug store. And so the conclusion that I drew was that he didn’t have to, or want to give me anything extra then what he paid my mother for child support, that I wasn’t worthy OR trustworthy.
I stole my clothes when I was in grades 7, 8 and 9; not because I was a bad kid but because my mother didn’t buy them for me. I didn’t steal tons, just what I needed.
Remember I am talking about my belief system and how it formed. So here was the conflict. My mother had an amazing wardrobe both for work and for social. She has several full length evening gowns and shoes which she wore every weekend to attend the singles dances she liked to go to. She had money for her, but not for me. My mother had a diamond dinner ring made for herself from the diamonds out of the wedding set my father bought her. I knew that it cost her about 750.00 to get that ring made. Jeans were $20.00. How come she didn’t have enough money for me, but she had enough for her?
I learned my “worth” by the messages that I received. I was not as important as her dresses, her diamonds, her boyfriends, her girlfriends. I was in her way and I cost money, precious money that could have been put to better use and spent on herself.
And my father washed his hands of me the day that he left.
Those are the messages that I got, right or wrong and when I write about this stuff, it isn’t for the purpose of exposing my mother and father, but exposing MY belief system. (I don’t have any resentment anymore.) Those were the conclusions that I drew from the decisions that they made, from the things that they did and said. And from those messages, I drew the conclusions that I did about myself, my value, my worth and lack of it.
What are the conclusions that you drew about your worth or lack of it? Can you link it to a message you got that caused you to draw that conclusion?
Exposing Truth ~ One snapshot at a time.
There are many posts on this blog related to the belief system development, self esteem and self worth. Please use the Category buttons to access other posts for further snapshots.
I get asked a lot about “how” I can write what I write. Occasionally I get asked if I use my real name and if my parents are still alive. I get a lot of private emails expressing shock, admiration or awe and appreciation for the courage that I have to write the things that happened to me. So this post is about why I do what I do.
Darlene Ouimet is the name that I was born with. My parents are both still alive. My father is aware of this blog although I don’t know how often he reads it. If he told my siblings about it, then they know about it too. I don’t know if my mother has found it yet but I wouldn’t mind if she reads it.
Emerging from Broken is about the truth; it is my story and the reason that I do what I do is so that others can realize some of the ways we come to believe that we have caused our own pain and that we are somehow defective compared to other people. This blog is about overcoming depression ~ sometimes lifelong depression, by looking at the root causes and how confused we got about those roots. It is about overcoming trauma, sexual abuse, physical abuse, child abuse, psychological abuse, dissociative identity disorder, bi polar, post traumatic stress and every other mental health issue that you can think of. It is about freedom and wholeness and how it is possible to life a full life, and it is about thriving instead of just surviving. It is about emotional healing.
I write because what happened to me was wrong. The sexual abuse, the emotional abuse, the domestic violence, being put down and walked on and bulldozed over was wrong. The way that my parents regarded me was wrong. The way that I was abused and mistreated was wrong and it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t cause it and I didn’t deserve it and other people need to know that what happened to them was wrong too.
When I went through the process of clearing the old foundation and building a new one, I found out that I believed a lot of things that were not true about myself, and those things were in my way. I realized that I was having depression after depression because of those things that were in my way and when I got them out of my way, my whole life changed. I write a lot about my Mom; my mother was not one of the things in my way; it was what she taught me about myself that was in my way. Some of the belief system she passed on to me were in my way. When I emerged from broken, I was excited because I thought my mother would want to live the rest of her life free from chronic depression too. But that was not the case. She didn’t want to hear about my victory. I don’t think she acknowledged it at all. She just thought maybe I was having an affair with the therapist. (Remember I told you that she taught me that my only value was sexual.)
I didn’t ask my mother to leave my life, she left it because she didn’t want to live in a system of mutual respect. She liked the control she had over me. Well that is my version anyhow. Her version would be different. She might think I write for revenge, but this blog could just as easily be seen as a love letter to her. That is my version anyhow.
So to answer the question how can I write what I write ~ well it is the truth that set me free. If I can touch just a few others with that truth, then I have lived for one more purpose. If I can trigger a memory or a thought that strikes a chord with someone else, that enables them to realize a lie that they believed too, then I have done my work for that day. I believe that the freedom I live in today is a rare gift that I believe was intended for each of us to have. I think that gift was taken from us by abusive and controlling people who misused their power. I am passionate about sharing this message; often I feel almost driven to share it.
Sometimes when I hit the publish button on a blog post I feel a bit sick. Sometimes I am scared that my mother will fly into a rage and blame me for her fragile state of mental health, as though my truth has the power to kill her. Sometimes I feel sick because of the fear I had as a child of my abusers and their power over me and the belt my mother used and back then I knew that my parents had the power to decide if I lived or died. But today I don’t believe that anymore; I know it isn’t true anymore. So I write. I write to remind myself that I am free and how I became free and I write to tell others of this sweet freedom and the heady experience of emerging from broken and living in fullness. I write because it reminds me that I am alive and what a gift that life is when for so many years I was dead.
Please share your thoughts, struggles, victories or anything else you would like to share,
“Most people have been mistreated to one degree or another in their lives, but the experience of being mistreated alone does not cause someone to develop a victim’s outlook. It is only when a person is abused and then left to deal with it on their own that the victim mentality begins to form. The abused child begins to organize his/her world around the wound.” Mic Hunter author of “Abused Boys the Neglected Victims of Sexual Abuse”
This is so true and it is such a good point. In my experience this is not about any one kind of abuse; this statement is true for all types of abuse. It is also important to understand that it does not matter how many times we experienced a trauma or traumatic event. If we did not have help to deal with it at the time, the consequences are deeper, greater and more difficult to live with. When we are children, we have no choice but or organize our world around the abuse. We have to accept it somehow; there is no other option. When we can’t fathom the “why” did this happen we can easily sink into depression, develop behavior problems, physical illnesses, nightmares and all sorts of other manifestations result. When we can’t make sense of what happened or is happening we find other ways to cope.
In my case, coping methods often caused new problems, and I developed coping methods to deal with coping methods, all because I thought they kept me safer; I had childhood depressions, I got physically ill, I withdrew, I made up stories to get attention. (which made it easy for everyone to say that I was the problem in the first place) I was too young to deal with the abuse myself and when my thinking started to derail, (as it is bound to do when we are coping with overwhelming burdens on our own) it just got worse.
Not being seen as an individual who had emotional needs, just by itself, is cause to develop coping methods. If not being heard, not having a voice or trying to have a voice and having no impact is devastating to an adult, how much more so devastating would it be to a child? It is no wonder that we develop coping methods. It is understandable that depression, eating disorders, ill health, stomach aches, nightmares, nervous habits and behavior problems develop.
I tell a story (Psychological abuse ~ How Self Doubt Grows) about how I was not protected from a psychologically abusive teacher when I was in grade five which clearly represents the progression of the struggle to be heard and protected. I had to deal with and process this psychological abuse on my own. I didn’t come up with TRUE conclusions. I sunk into a depression and got really sick. Because this situation was not dealt when it started, the teacher, the abuser, got away with it and her devaluing attitude and psychological abuse towards me got worse. I concluded that my only course of action was to ‘try harder’ to win her favor.
Abusers enjoy watching their victims struggle to suck up to them. As a victim I thought it would work to bend myself into a pretzel for the controller or the person who was abusing me (this is true for physical abuse, sexual abuse and all psychological abuse) and as a victim I believed when it didn’t work that I just needed to try harder, work harder to find the right “key” the right way to prove that I was worthy of the abusers love. Abusers become like a puppet master, enjoying the game of seeing just how far the victim will go to please the abuser. Just how much of the spirit of this victim can the abuser break? It is as though the abuser establishes their own value by how much control the victim gives them and how hard the victim tries to be what they want, but it never ends. It is never enough. These puppet masters always want more.
When I began the process of looking at the things that happened to me and how I processed them as a child, and then looked at how my belief system developed, I realized that in some ways it was the after effects that were the most damaging in the long term. So many of the beliefs that I adopted as the truth, were developed because no one helped me deal with anything. As children we cannot deal with any kind of abuse or devaluing behavior on our own with any kind of effectiveness. As adults we must remember that we were merely children and it was not our defect, nor are we to blame, that we could not overcome the traumatic event on our own.
Please contribute or share your feelings about this post.
Exposing Truth, one snapshot at a time;
Sometimes we get stuck on the “why’s” and the why questions. We can talk endlessly about what happened, we can realize that it was not our fault, we can face the pain of having been devalued, used, unprotected, powerless and disregarded, but the why questions still remain.
~Why did my mother seem to take pleasure in humiliating me?
~Why did my own mother publically tell men they could sleep with me? She even told my cousin that he could sleep with me because I was on the pill.
~Why would an adult sexually molest a child?
~Why did my mother’s boyfriend come into my room when I was a young teen, and why didn’t my mother believe me? Why did she blame me?
~Why did my mother hit me with a belt and then say that she was going to give me something to cry about?
~Why didn’t my Dad do anything to protect me? Why didn’t he notice?
~Why did my teacher hate me and threaten me every day until I was too sick to go to school? Why didn’t my parents believe me when I told them?
Thanks to the Emerging from Broken facebook page readers for participating in this post. Here are some of the questions that came in from readers on our Facebook Page:
~“Why are churches so closed minded about sexual abuse? Why do they put programs in place to prevent abuse, but not put programs in place to help victims?”
~“Why is it that in churches they tell you that if you read your Bible and pray, all the things from the past sexual abuse will just go away. They think you don’t need counseling or anything; you just need to get over it. Why is that?”
~”Why are the accomplices (those who ignore or allow or even assist in the abuse or hiding the abuser) are not charged or punished in the case of sexual or domestic violence abuse. Maybe more would speak up if a precedent was set. I know a lot of these people were/are victims or survivors too, but that is no excuse not to protect your own child.”
~ “Why is it that you feel as though you have just told someone you were abducted by green aliens when you talk about being sexually abused? They look at you as though you just said something that only a delusional person would say. AND that you have the audacity to put them in a position of having to respond.”
And this last question along with a very personal comment; ~ “Why is it that sexual abuse is one of the most heinous crimes out there, but most of the abusers never serve a maximum sentence? My father got out on good behavior; of course he did! There are no children in prisons to molest so he was on his best behavior! “
These questions are really just a handful of the “why questions” that we all have when it comes to having been abused, hurt or devalued in any way. Some “why questions” have possible answers but do they make us feel any better? When we hear that some people don’t care about their own children, but only their own selfish desires it only adds to the frustration that we already feel. Some why questions have no answers and sometimes the reason that we keep looking for answers is not just because we want so badly to understand but also because we believe that if we could understand that we would be able to move on. But think about that for a minute.
There is a danger in getting stuck on the WHY questions. Part of my victim mentality was made up of always seeking to understand others, and what that transferred into was that I made excuses for some of my abusers; there are as many excuses as there are abusers but really do any of the excuses help? I whispered in the dark to myself that my mother really did care, she just didn’t understand. I assured myself that my father didn’t know so he couldn’t do anything about it and that deep down he loved me as much as he loved my brother, it was just that he wasn’t interested in me because I was a girl and I assured myself that all fathers are this way. I told myself that some of my abusers were in an “altered state of mind” and really they just had no conscious clue what they were doing. I felt sorry for some of the women abusers that I had and told myself that surely they too had been abused and therefore it was not really their fault. I thought that I needed to try harder to “love” them and do what they wanted so that they would stop hurting me.
And as I have said so many times before I had been groomed and trained to believe that the reason that I was devalued is because I was not as valuable and because I deserved no better. I was convinced over time that I had done something; brought it on myself. I tried to understand my mother and I felt sorry for her, so I excused her behavior for many years and in excusing it, I allowed even more of it. I thought that if I found the reason “why” I could find the proof that really they did love me and then I could excuse them if only I understood. In reality, I was still looking to prove to myself that it really was my own fault or that I was still missing the “key” that would make them stop hurting me and start accepting me.
I had to let go of the why questions for a while. I had to in order to heal.
Today I still have why questions, but I also know that some questions don’t have answers and even more important than that, if there was an answer, it wouldn’t change anything, it would not make it alright, and it would not heal me.
Please feel free to add your own “why questions”,
Debbie V. wrote a comment today on my last post (Survivors of Abuse) that just hit me in such a way that I thought I would respond with a new post about this topic.
Debbie said “I am working on what you are speaking of. I know right where it began, I can even remember the feelings I had as a child….embarrassed and ashamed “who did I think I was anyway”??? And how the adults felt looked like “job well done” when I’d been taken down a notch…..what crap. I am grateful you asked me to relate experiences I had as a child to my own daughter…as in ~ what would I DO if someone did to her what was done to me or how would I process that. It makes things VERY clear to me now. I can’t BELIEVE anyone could do to children what seems to be done over and over and over again.”
It isn’t always easy for survivors of abuse to hear the stories of abuse suffered by others, but it far easier to react to the stories of others then it is to feel our own feelings about our own stories. I sought out people that suffered worse abuse then I did, so that I could reinforce the fantasy that it wasn’t really that bad. Who told me it wasn’t really that bad though? THEY DID; it was the ones that abused me and the ones that didn’t have the guts to protect me that convinced me that it wasn’t really that bad. I believed deep down inside of me that for some reason something was just wrong with me and that I deserved what happened to me. This is how they get us to keep the lies and maintain the secrets. Do not bring shame on this family by exposing the truth. So many of us remain in denial about the way we were treated, not protected, not valued, because it is so painful to accept the truth about our lives. But that truth is the truth that will set you free.
What Debbie is referring to in her comment is that in a attempt to make her react to her own terrible story of abuse as a young child, which included being grabbed by the hair and beaten, and having her skin twisted so hard that it came off, I asked her to imagine her reaction if her own young daughter came to her with that same story. How would you process it if someone you loved came to YOU and told your story as though it happened to them. Would you shush them? Would you make light of it? Would you say that they were exaggerating, lying, or trying to get attention? Would you say that they must have done something to deserve it? Somehow I don’t think you would. I think you would be outraged. I think you would weep tears of anger and frustration for them and for the innocence that was taken from them. I think you would want to do whatever you could to reassure them that it could not have possibly been their fault, that it could not have been deserved and that it was the abuser was wrong to treat someone that way.
We don’t allow ourselves to feel the pain of the treatment we received when we are sure that the pain of accepting that being devalued to that degree would be worse than any other pain. We want to stay in denial that our own family could not possibly have neglected to protect us, or worse yet, our own parents could not possibly have used and degraded us in that way. I think my biggest fear was that if I faced the whole truth about my past that I would find out it was true… I really was not loveable or worthy of love. Blaming it on myself was safer then accepting that I was nothing.
And it is very painful to go back and face the events of the past. We were children; innocent children who were told that we deserved to be beaten; we were told (not always in words) that we didn’t deserve protection, that we didn’t deserve love and that we needed to be disciplined because we were bad, unruly and wrong. We felt defective. In psychological abuse, or emotional abuse we were told not to feel, we were told that we were stupid, in the way, whiney or silly and it was clear in our fragile minds that we were not valued for who we really are but only for what we could do to make someone else look good. In sexual abuse we were told that we needed to be taught the ways of the world, we were told that it was love, or that we were special and if we told on our abuser we lived in fear for our lives or the lives of our siblings, parents or pets. We lived in fear. We were told that we were lying or that it was no big deal, or that we must be insane to make up such a story. Some of us were brought in front of a church so that everyone could pray for us, further reinforcing our belief that the problem was within our own selves. This is not love.
And so we grow up thinking that it was our fault, that we are the crazy ones. And when we struggle with mental health issues, low self esteem, and all manner of depression, then they point at us and declare “there is the proof. We always knew that it was you, you have always been the problem!” By that time, we are in such a fog and so used to living in the spin that it doesn’t take much for us to believe once again that they are right. We take medication; we often land in institutions, all the while never realizing where it all started.
I am encouraging you to take a step outside yourself, tell yourself your story as though you were hearing it from someone you love, and see how that makes you feel. It is okay to be angry. That anger is justifiable; blame and anger are important stepping stones to freedom and the pain is temporary when you face the whole truth. Hear your own story and realize that you deserve to know the truth. You are enough, you are loveable and you are worth it.
Thank you for reading my rant today. I encourage you to post your comments about how this post affected you; how does it make you feel? Did I get too blunt? Push too hard or was it exactly what you needed to hear?
All my love, Darlene Ouimet
These past few years I have realized a commonality between almost all of us who struggle with any or all issues, whether those issues have to do with the causes ~ such as physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or if they have to do with conditions ~ meaning symptoms or diagnosis such as depression of any kind, dissociative identity disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, bi polar, borderline personality disorder or mild or serious low self esteem. I am not discounting or stressing the importance of any one type of struggle here because I’ve realized this common bond we all seem to share. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that I am talking about the belief system that develops in our lives when we have been abused, neglected or devalued. That belief system seems to have something to do with the resulting problems that interfere with the individual having a life filled with joy and freedom.
I started this blog to write about the healing journey and the difficulties with it; a place to talk about our common bond and to stay away from emphasizing the differences or highlighting the diagnosis. I had been diagnosed with a few different things, and the diagnosis was not what helped me to recover. I found a way out of the brokenness that I lived in for so long and want to share my journey because I realized that the road so many of us travel on the journey to freedom is similar. It is noteworthy to mention that we also have a lot of commonality in the places that we get stuck.
I talk a lot about how I got broken in the first place; Other people got to decide what I was worth or not worth, what I could be used for or what I was good for and even what I was good at. With sexual and physical abuse, someone took control of my body and did things to me that I did not want done to me and I had no choice, although I was told and even convinced that I did have a choice. With neglect or with a parent who never noticed or took interest, I learned that I was not valuable, not important enough to be cared for. I was groomed and trained in guilt and shame, convinced that all of this was my fault; I was influenced and I convinced myself that I could do better or try harder and then it would stop. As I grew older, those childhood beliefs became even more skewed because now I am told that I have a choice about how I view it, and that I should just accept it and get over it or not talk about it because it was a long time ago, and because I still have the deep rooted belief that I was not really loveable due to something I might have done or something that was missing in me and I became even more distressed. I was so sure for so long that it was my fault that I struggled. On top of all that, as an adult there were a lot more voices and influences telling me what was wrong with me, what I was doing wrong and what was in my way. These are the well meaning people, books and leaders that told me I didn’t have enough faith; that I needed to be more grateful, that the past belongs in the past, that I needed to forgive and forget….. Well I’m sure you get the picture.
I spent years practicing positive thinking, telling myself that I loved myself, telling myself that “God don’t make junk”; never speaking of the past, never acknowledging depression, resentment or anger. I practiced gratitude, prayed for people that were my enemies, went to extremes with my physical health and joined self help programs. For 8 years I studied Greek and Hebrew word origins so I could study the original meaning of the bible, I confessed all my sins, and practiced accountability. I submitted to my husband, which in my case meant that I gave up my identity and individuality and became a servant to my family. If I had any dreams I gave them up in favor of his dreams. My struggle only increased.
I learned to cover my real feelings up. I smiled to the world and dissociated much of the time and I beat myself up whenever I was discouraged or ungrateful. I was unhappy and I felt guilty about it because I could not see past all the things I was told and believed that I brought on myself. Consequently I never got over it until I really took a good look at all of it. I took a look at the whole picture. There was no way that I could just get over it or put it behind me, especially with all the mixed up beliefs in there.
There was something missing between the events of my childhood and the “getting over it” and “letting it go” part. The bridge was broken and the keys were on the bridge. There was no real acceptance, no real freedom, no real forgiveness and no real life, until I got the bridge repaired and found those keys. I am grateful every day that I did.
Stay Tuned for part 2 ~ “Mental Health Recovery ~ Ten Necessary Changes“
As always I love to have your comments!
My husband usually says that he was not physically abused but once in a while in the past few years he has admitted that there were a few occasions when he actually was physically abused by his father. He is willing to call what happened “abusive”. I have always found it fascinating that he didn’t consider what happened to him as abuse prior to these last few years. The events didn’t fit with his definition of the word abuse before.
This one particular time, he “pulled a case of beer” which means that he bought a case of beer when he was underage. He went to the school dance and he drank too much and his Uncle kicked him out of the dance. When his father found out, he literally kicked the stuffing out of him. My husband thought he deserved it. Now, depending on your own background some people can almost see why my husband thinks he deserved it, but did the punishment fit the crime? Does anyone have the right to do that to someone else? Today, we have laws about that kind of thing. I can almost guarantee that in my father in law’s mind, he thinks that it was his right as a father, to beat up his son in this way; to just hit him like that and put the boots to him. If my husband had come round the corner of the barn, and saw his father kicking his sister that way, he certainly would have considered that to be physical abuse, but in his own case he didn’t think it was really abuse.
Where the heck does this belief come from, that we actually might deserve this kind of treatment? Even more of a mystery is that when other people tell us these stories, we are outraged. We try to convince others that what happened to them was or is abuse, and yet we don’t think what happened to us was. We so often don’t validate ourselves the way that we validate other people. We don’t react to our own stories the same way we react to other peoples stories.
How did we get convinced that it was our fault, or that we deserved it? I have come to realize that this kind belief does not develop overnight, but over time. Like many of us, I was conditioned over time to accept different definitions of certain words as the truth. My husband believed that getting a beating as severe as the one he got was his deserved punishment. That was his truth.
As children we might believe that it is our always our shortcoming when our parents are disappointed in us and that becomes our truth. Along with one false definition, we develop other false definitions. It is like lying, one lie needs to be covered up with another lie and eventually we develop a definition of love that isn’t accurate, our definition of respect is the wrong, and therefore it shouldn’t surprise us when our definition of abuse gets skewed too, but these definitions become our truth. I encourage you to think about what your truth is and where it came from. My motivation for writing this post is due to how often I hear people defending abusive parents.
In my process of recovery, I had to learn the true truth, the real truth about myself; with help, I had to re-wire my brain as well as change my definitions of words like abuse, love and respect and I had to re-parent myself so that I could thrive in wholeness and freedom.
This post has been inspired by Sarah who left a compelling comment on my last post. I have copied and italicized her comments and answer them point by point.
~Sarah~ “What if you are an adult child of someone who was abused as a child who never sought professional help? My parent was depressed and put us through so much as a children yet I don’t feel I can call it abuse as we weren’t sexually abused or physically.”
~ Darlene~ Abuse is not just physical or sexual. Having said that, the word we use to describe our situation past or present is not nearly as important as it is to get help and shine some light on the situation. I try to use terms such as emotionally unavailable, or emotional abandonment but it all comes down to not having had a sense of value instilled in us. I was well fed, and well clothed. On the outside I imagine that we looked like the perfect family, yet my first major depression was at the age of 10. It may have been easier for me to blame sexual abuse for all my problems, but I have met so many others who share my story of struggle and depression who had never had either sexual OR physical abuse, that I began to realize that my problems went deeper then the type of abuse. I think emotional abuse is extremely hard to cope with no matter what you call it. How does a child understand the things that you are describing here Sarah?
~Sarah~ “this parent uses their abuse as an excuse for why they weren’t emotionally present and as a reason for all the irresponsible choices they made for us as children. As an adult I’m dealing with anger towards them for the way they treated us and the poor decisions they made. This parent is still focusing so much on their childhood and is seeking sympathy from their children for what they missed out on. This parent fails to see how much we missed out on when they didn’t seek help.”
~Darlene~ my mother constantly told me that I had it so much better then she’d had it. And that was true. My mother was a better mother then her mother was to her. The quality of my life was at least 10 times better then the way that she grew up. It never occurred to me to say “SO???” Does the fact that her life was worse than mine justify that she didn’t take proper care of me?
I was taught my whole life that I was responsible for my own feelings, and I found this a difficult concept to grasp. I didn’t think I had the right to be angry with my parents. I sought help via support groups in my early twenties and it was drilled into my head that my feelings were my choice, that I was responsible for who I was as an adult, that I could not blame my past for my present. I believed all those things and I tried positive thinking, affirmation, self help books etc. Many of these things helped for a little while, but they were more like a Band-Aid for a critical wound. I was shocked when my last therapist told me that there was such a thing as “justifiable anger” I had never once thought of that in relation to my parents OR to my past.
~Sarah~ “The (adult) children are afraid of confronting the parent about their behavior out of fear they will be really upset.”
~Darlene~ The most important thing for me to say on this point is that the fear I had about standing up to my mother, was a fear left over from childhood and I didn’t realize that fact. I was so afraid that my mother would abandon me, or reject me if I told her how much she had hurt me. In my therapy process I realized that as a child, rejection and abandonment means death. As an adult it just hurts. As a child, my mother’s love, attention, acceptance was the most important thing in the world and I tried very hard to get it. As an adult I was still trying very hard to get it.
~Sarah~ I’m contemplating seeking therapy as I’m at a point in my life where I have no idea how to deal with this situation.
~Darlene~ It was in therapy that I learned my value. It was in therapy that untangled the mess at the center of my soul and realized the truth. In the end, I had to learn how to re-parent myself. In the end, I was able to find the real me, the individual that I was born to be and move forward with my life. I left depression and dissociation behind me for what I believe to be forever.
It isn’t that I blame my parents for the struggle that I have had. Realizing where they had failed me was only a pathway on the journey to wholeness and freedom. What I’m trying to get at in this blog is that in order to get to the bottom of my depressions, and mental health issues, I had to see where I was squished, where I was invalidated and unsupported and where my emotional growth was stunted. I had to acknowledge those things before I could get to the “me” that was hiding underneath the confusion and emerge into wholeness and freedom.