Tag Archives: parents

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.