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.
The Emerging from Broken book is ready for download! If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you, get this book today! This 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to healing. Get yours here through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing –