Much of my childhood and adolescence was about surviving. Surviving the best I could given the circumstances. In some ways, I still feel like I’m in survival mode.
First let me say I was not physically abandoned by my family. This is true despite it being threatened with being taken to an orphanage and left there. But developmentally, psychologically… I was abandoned at an early age.
It was often threatened to be driven to the orphanage when I was young. On more than one occasion, I was put in the car and was driven around. All the while, I was being belittled and told that nobody would want me. I lived in fear of those car rides.
But more than that, I was abandoned when my mother looked the other way. She knew what my father was doing. She did nothing to stop it. She looked the other way. I had no one to protect me. My grandmother looked the other way too. In some ways it didn’t seem as sinister as my mother. I think she had almost no power when it came to my grandfather.
My parents were simultaneously over-involved and under-involved in school. On the one hand, bad grades were severely punished and usually involved a message to the teacher asking what happened. But good grades (what I usually brought home) were ignored.
Abandonment is a tough issue for me. I’ve learned to rely only on myself. Not having someone who cared enough to stop blatant abuse scarred me for life. And trust… Well that’s a tricky one too. It all goes down to not having someone who cared and left me to my own devices.
Child abuse leaves scars. Both seen and unseen. Both large and small. Both chronic and acute. Yet they are all scars.
I think that everyone carries some scars. Nobody has a perfect life. But the scars that abuse survivors carry are more extreme. They impact daily living for so many survivors.
I try to hide the scars I have. I was “lucky” that my parents tried to minimize leaving marks. My mom was a guidance counselor and knew the things that CPS looked for. I was a cutter for many years, and thankfully, I didn’t scar a lot. Those are the seen scars. The unseen ones are still there, though.
There are times when those scars get ripped open again. Flashbacks, physical memories, panic attacks. All are our mind’s way of reminding us of what happened.
My scars make me who I am. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I can’t get rid of my scars. As physical scars are permanent, so are psychological ones.
It feels like I could never go a week without getting punished for something. Those rare times when I brought a bad grade home (spelling assignments, I’m looking at you), it seemed the punishment was more severe. And I wonder where my extreme perfectionism comes from…
Bringing home a bad grade was my worst nightmare. It was usually followed by the wooden spoon, no dinner and no books. The dinner and the books, although crappy, weren’t probably abusive. I can’t say the same about the wooden spoon.
The hitting was almost always done with my shirt on. She couldn’t risk leaving any marks. Sometimes it was the spoon base. But more often than not, it was the handle end. In some ways, I preferred the spoon end. It didn’t sting as bad. And, in my (probably) distorted view, she seemed to tired out more quickly.
It came to the point, I no longer cried. I laid there, dejected. Resigned to my fate. There was no fighting back. If anything, tears made it all worse.
Thankfully (I guess) I did well in school except for spelling. I still can’t spell to save my life. I’m thankful for the invention of spell check, even if I do still stump it. So school related wooden spoon contact was rare. Not that there weren’t numerous other things I was punished for.
I spent a lot of my childhood hiding, both mentally and physically. I clearly remember hiding, although I don’t remember a lot about other things.
I used to try hiding from my mom when she was drunk. I didn’t want to be hit or berated. I just wanted to be left alone to do homework or read. Hiding didn’t always work. I think me trying to hide made her angrier.
Many a night, I tried hiding in my closet. I sat there hoping that my dad wouldn’t come that night. But eventually I had to come out and go to bed. I could only hope at that point I would escape whatever was coming that night.
I spent a lot of time hiding my depression, suicidal thoughts, and anxiety from my teachers at school. I trusted no one. I guess I thought it would be more of the same pain.
My earliest memories date back to living in the city of L. I can so clearly see the red carpet in my room and the flowered wallpaper. The color of the carpet places my age at about 3-4. We moved to MH when I was four.
The thing I remember the most is my father undressing me. And as he was doing it, rubbing my chest and vaginal area. I felt so scared. It didn’t feel good. It didn’t feel right. I remember crying. He would try to get me to stop crying by offering me candy. And it worked. I was a kid and bribery obviously worked on me. I remember being cold and shivering. It was an old house and my room was drafty.
It was a nightly thing. I get a feeling in the pit of my stomach just thinking about it right now.
Creating a Dialogue With Your Inner Young Child
From: Cathryn L. Taylor M.A. The Inner Child Workbook
1. What is her favorite food?
Fried chicken. But only her grandmother’s chicken.
2. What is the activity she would most like to do?
Read. She could read all day and all night.
3. Has she done this before? Is so , what happened? If not, ask why.
She reads all the time. Her favorite book is still Green Eggs and Ham. But now she can read it on her own.
4. Ask her to tell you about her fear of being blamed and criticized or of doing or saying something wrong.
She is always afraid of doing something wrong. She’s terrified she’ll bring home a bad mark on a school paper even though she’s only in Kindergarten. She’s terrified that she’ll be taken to the orphanage for real this time. She’s afraid of messing up her dances. She doesn’t want to disappoint Miss R.
5. Does she feel overly responsible? Why?
Always. B was just born. She’s supposed to take care of him when mom is drunk.
6. What does she need most from you?
She needs me to understand that she wasn’t a bad kid. She was a good kid in a bad situation.
I’m exhausted now. I’ll try to finish the remaining questions in the near future.
I had a horrible dream this morning. I was dreaming that I had had a baby. It was the most independent and easy going baby. She basically came out of the womb self sufficient. I was a horrible mother. I neglected the baby. I didn’t want anything to do with her.
Not too hard to see where this comes from.
I don’t know if I ever finished this. As best as I can tell I was about 7. For Christmas Eve I got a pair of footed pajamas.
I woke up in the middle of the night, freezing. My dad was in there. He had undressed me. He was really aroused. I think because that style of pajamas is for babies. All of a sudden he had a baby to “play” with again.
I didn’t let him know I was awake. I tried not to shiver too much.
Christmas morning, my mother comes in to wake me up and I was totally naked. I don’t remember what she said to me but I remember the yelling. I had no explanation for being out of my pajamas. I learned long ago not to tell her.
2012 is a year for overcoming one phobia. Dentists. Nothing bad happened in the chair. I think it stems from my father putting things in places they don’t belong on a child.
It’s taken me almost 20 years to do this. I got nice drugs from Dr. P. I was almost crying in his office yesterday. Actually I was nearly in panic mode, but I tried my best to hide it. No IVs for me just to get a dose of Valium. He gave me Propropanolol. It’s a BP med, but helps anxiety.
Most places open at 9. I showed up at 9. He didn’t open until 10. At least the door was open. I basically sat there crying silently for an hour.
But I made it through. I’m having a dead tooth pulled next week and a temporary crown put on. Then I’ll get a bridge for the four front teeth to get ride of the gaps. I have the option of IV sedation, but given nurses’ success in inserting IVs lately, I think I’ll pass. And he said if it was his wife, he would still recommend the local. Good drugs Dr. P. I’m going to need them.
I feel a huge sense of relief. I’m still very anxious about going next week, but I think it’ll be easier to step in the door. And I know it’s OK to cry. Some doctors get all upset. This guy (missed his name) just tried to talk me down from the ledge.
Part of it is feeling trapped. Being in the chair is vulnerable. You’re on your back, the table is over you. Some guy has hands in your mouth.
But I did it. And I have a feeling I’m going to need constant reminding of that.