Monthly Archives: August 2017

Steps to Healing from Early Childhood Trauma

I’m not new agey or touchy feely, or into incense and bells. And, while I’ve bought a couple of self help books in my life, I can’t say I’ve ever read one from cover to cover. (Except Chump Lady’s book).

But the time has come to begin to heal myself and I’m just slightly aware of what I need to do. Lucky you, I plan to share this adventure here.

To be honest, as broken as I am, I am still sort of a walking miracle. I should be dead, an alcoholic, in jail. So even though I feel like a loser for just getting on my feet financially and buying my own home again, I am so lucky I was able to do it.

When the cheater ex left me penniless and suicidal almost four years ago I said to myself, “You cannot let him win. You simply can’t.” And from that moment I decided I had to pull myself up from nothing.

If you had said to me at that time that I’d be working full time, in fact get a promotion and raise at said job, and even buy my own little home, I would have said you were nuts. But here I am. Don’t get me wrong. I struggle to get buy and drive a 17 year old car. My house is only 877 square feet and is nothing fancy. But I like it and I’m here and it is mine.

So now and then I have to stop and acknowledge that, and give myself a little credit for not giving up. At that time I had been on disability. I could have signed up for assisted living and spent the rest of my life there living among other mentally ill, broken, forgotten people, but I decided that was not the life I wanted for myself.

I react badly/weirdly to things and I get very defensive. I have lots of quirks that make my heart pound and make me want to run away. These are the times when I remember that I am a damaged and broken person and need to cut myself some slack and be gentle with myself.

Other imperfect people walk this earth with me, but they don’t feel there’s a spotlight on them — they know it’s okay to be imperfect. They can laugh and shrug off mistakes and have the inner confidence to move right to the next thing without missing a beat. But for me, with all my insecurities, I get crippled and set back constantly.

I found this article from Psychology Today and actually read it:

Six Ways Developmental Trauma Shapes Adult Identity

Identity formation is an important part of normal development, and takes place across the lifespan. Identity — including one’s sense of being good enough, integration of emotion and intellect, basic awareness of emotional state, feeling secure and coherent as an individual, and even the basic experience of who one actually is — is disrupted by developmental trauma, because basic survival takes precedence over, and uses resources ordinarily allocated for, normal development of the self. Early trauma shifts the trajectory of brain development, because an environment characterized by fear and neglect, for example, causes different adaptations of brain circuitry than one of safety, security, and love. The earlier the distress, on average, the more profound the effect.

My neglect began the moment I was born six weeks premature and never stopped. My mother neglected me and physically and emotionally abused me. My parents fought violently in front of us. My mother outwardly despised my sister and I and unnaturally adored my brother, focusing all her attention on his academics and sports.

Sometimes I think if she had just treated the three of us equally, I could be more understanding. But she knew how to be a decent mother. She just chose not to be one for my sister and I.

I adored dad, but he’s not without fault. We lived in terror of his temper and violence. I think mom didn’t like that I felt close to dad. But dad could have stood up to her and at some point he chose not to. She’s an incredible bully and no one can pout for a longer period of time. I guess he chose his battles. But I told him recently that he didn’t do us any favors. We walked on tiptoes around mom so that she would not get upset when he should have stood up to her and told her to fuck off.

I also lived in fear that they’d get a divorce and I’d end up living with mom and some pale skinned Christian who would sexually abuse me. I don’t know why I had such an specific fear, but I did. Mom was the Christian who dragged me to church every week. Dad would not go near a church ever.

Dad did a few things for me that I will always be grateful for (he built a darkroom for me, for one). But I was so used to getting crumbs that I felt grateful for anything. I remember going to my parents asking if I could buy a high school class ring like all my friends were and I knew they simply would not part with money for me. There was never any money for me so there was no point in asking for it.

But it didn’t occur to me until much later, that they always had enough money for my brother’s letter jacket, class ring, sports fees, sports clothes, proms, dances, trips, and even the year he went to study abroad in college. I think my sister and I felt we had to suffer because the money needed to go to our brother — the one with potential. It was only right.

While my classmates were getting their hair done and putting on their pretty necklaces and buying blue sweaters for our high school senior photos, it never occurred to me to go to my parents and ask for anything. I just made do with what I already had.

But by then my relationship with my mother was so horrific, that I’d have died before asking her for anything.

I don’t want to spend any more time today rehashing my childhood. I do want to begin to form a plan to become more of a whole person.

  • I want to ease some anxiety
  • I want to have a couple of friends
  • I want to become physically healthier
  • I want to learn to love and accept myself

I think my list is simple and attainable, nevertheless I don’t think this journey will be quick or easy.

The article I linked to above has a follow up article:

Six Ways To Beat Childhood Trauma & Stop Self-Sabotage

The author has suggestions on self care, mindfulness, recovery groups, and cultivating patience and compassion.

So this is where I am going to begin:

  1. Taking more time to make meals that I am deserving of and then enjoying those meals.
  2. Find ways to move/exercise more both alone and with others.
  3. Go find social interactions whether through Meet Up, or Overeaters Anonymous, or church, or hiking club.
  4. Find a good therapist who knows how to help people who experienced trauma.

I’m open to any advice and encouragement and would love to hear stories of how others have found ways to thrive in spite of the neglect and abuse they endured.

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I Never Ask Anyone for Anything

I virtually never ask anyone for anything. So on those very rare occasions when I do, it’s incredibly hard for me.

I think it’s wrong that I am not comfortable asking anyone for anything and I’m not sure how that came about. I think it has to do with fearing they will let me down (and they often do) — because I’m not worth helping. I’m not worth remembering.

I’m traveling for work tomorrow and will be gone for a week. I wasn’t going to ask my elderly parents for a ride to the airport, but my mom kept insisting. I should have known better. She loves to plan and nit pick about the plan — but she does not actually like helping someone. Why on earth does she keep insisting on helping?

And I get nervous since I don’t travel much and I like to make a simple plan and stick to it, not pick, pick, pick at it.

But a couple of days ago, against my better judgement, I said, well, if you really don’t mind, I would appreciate a ride to the airport on Sunday, but in a week, when I’m home again, I’ll call a cab, because it’s too late to have you guys out. I absolutely insist on that.

She said what about the house? (We live two minutes apart). I said, well, if you can drive by it a couple times and make sure it hasn’t burned down and maybe get the mail when you do, that’d be great. I said, if you guys can stop by for a few minutes on Saturday I’d like to show you the lock on the garage door. Oh sure, she says. No problem.

It’s like the moment I accept her help I open myself up for her rejection. It feels all too familiar. It takes me way, way back.

So this morning she calls and starts talking about me coming over there for dinner and how they are going to help my sister out this morning. Maybe after we eat tonight they can follow me back to the house to have me show them the garage door lock.

I said, no. It’s not necessary. We’ll be too tired by then. The house will be fine. Forget it.

This is part of my fight or flight reaction. The minute I feel her rejecting me (by making things complicated, controlling the situation, etc.), I back completely out and act ridiculous. Never mind. The house will be fine.

Later on she asks me if I want her to pick me up to take me to the airport in the morning. Huh, I thought we had already agreed on that, but since you’re asking me, you must not want to (of course you don’t want to. You don’t even like me.) So of course I said, No thanks. I’ve already made arrangements.

And she says, Okay, hon. Have a great trip and keep in touch! We hang up.

And I point my middle fingers up at the ceiling and call her names wishing my windows weren’t open. I’m sure my neighbors have realized I’m insane.

So here my mom has managed to make herself look so FUCKING HELPFUL and making sure she didn’t actually help me at all.

I’m sure from another angle it simply makes me look like an idiot. I could have cooperated with all of her change of plans and still had a ride to the airport and someone to check on my house — but I don’t want to be beholding to her. Ever.

When I was a child we fought so horribly when my dad wasn’t home. She’d scream at me. I’d scream at her. She’d end up in tears, curled up in a fetal position on her bed. In an hour she’d come out with her nose bright red and gather my sister and I for a trip to the mall because that’s how she made up for what she said to us, by buying us stuff.

So when I was 15 I got my first job so that I could never accept anything from her ever again. She was NOT going to buy my love or my loyalty or my forgiveness. I realized I could be incredibly stubborn.

And I have stayed in that mode for my entire life. My entire 60 years of life. I behave like an immature child because of a very fucked up childhood. I have never grown up and I feel so ripped off about that. I feel so shorted. I want to be an adult so much.

I remember I was 11 or 12 when I thought to myself, she’s fighting with me like another kid and not like an adult. I distinctly remember thinking that.

So when I’m mad at her as I am right now, I am that hurt and damaged child all over again and the pain is very, very real. I feel alone and helpless. Unloved.

Why didn’t she love me then and why do I kiss her ass now so that she doesn’t get mad at me?

If I manage to outlive her I truly feel that I will feel sadness over the mother I never had and relief that the game is finally over.

About an hour ago my dad called and said, when can I come by and have you show me the garage and the plants?

I said, “Dad, I already told mom I don’t need anything. The house will be fine.”

She hadn’t even fucking told him?

And why did I tell him that when temperatures have been in the 90s and my few potted plants will die? Because I’m not worth it.

My anxiety was obvious to him and I let a little slip out, “I just wanted five minutes, dad. Not dinner. She always has to complicate things.”

He says, “Okay, I hope you can calm down and relax and have a good trip.”

“Thanks” I said.

I wish that too.

So now I’m depressed and I’m so alone, as always.

When I moved to this house I had no one to help me. I paid my parent’s neighbors, a father and his high school aged son $75 each to help me and it only took about an hour and a half.

I moved myself into this place alone and I’ve done almost everything here on my own. I need help very much, with window coverings and putting up a shelf. But I have no one to ask.

I hear my neighbors having a barbecue in their backyard and their friends are laughing. I am mentally ill and I will always be alone.

I wish I could say I could go one single day without wondering what my cheating ex is up to with his 20-something girlfriend (wife, by now, probably). She’s probably not introverted. She’s probably not lonely and alone.

Ok. I’ve brought tears to my own eyes. And all I can do is think of the innocent child I was and love her across time. I deserved to be loved. I deserved to be acknowledged. And I deserve it now.

When I get this low, realizing that after all I’ve been through I have ended up alone, I try to refocus on my job and try to be the best I can at it.

I also realize that I really, really need a good therapist.

I haven’t been to church in over three months and I miss it, but I realized no one misses me when I’m not there. A single older woman is a dime a dozen at church. If I’m not serving in the kitchen, I feel I have no purpose there. The couples have all coupled up. I am invisible.

As a severe introvert I don’t blame them — it truly is me.

But I do try to remind myself that God loves me and in that I am not alone.