This post deals with emotional abuse and may be triggering for some readers.
About one in five people live with the long-term impacts of childhood trauma. I don’t know what your trauma looks like. I know what it's like for me. For me, it feels like having no safe harbour as a child causes wild and stormy seas for life.
I’m 50 now, and maybe making some progress. Some of the people I follow on Instagram talk about their long hard road to recovery. Usually, they’re in their 30s. Here I am, at 50, still struggling almost every day with some aspect of it.
I wasn’t sexually abused. I feel like that’s what most people think of when you say abuse. But abuse comes in many forms and sometimes it is not ‘big’.
Watch: Women and violence: The hidden numbers. Post continues after video.
For me, my mother took every possible opportunity to lay the blame for her anger on me. Her anger was palpable. I’m ugly, fat, the one with the wrong colour skin, the least deserving.
I don’t deserve.
I’m not what I should be. These labels bear no relation to what I actually look like or who I am – I know now they were an expression of the betrayal of her expectations of the way her life should be.
My mum once told me that my dad and the doctor had conspired to swap her birth control pills and my birth was a mistake. She clarified that no, I definitely wasn’t an accident… I was a mistake.
Many of the things she said and did, I’ve blocked out. It’s a protective thing your mind does. I still do it – float off somewhere else when things are hard for me to work through.
I’m being very simplistic in my explanation here because each situation is really complicated and there are usually multiple factors in play.
My dad really struggled with anger management. He did not hit us but his anger was physical and there were many holes in the wall at home. He stood by and let our mother say really horrible, awful things. Over and over and over. He sometimes tried to make things right but he wasn’t present enough, often enough, to make a difference.
So, as I said, I’m now 50. And this Christmas was the first since I separated from my husband and the first one that my kids have experienced where we are not in the same house. Yes, my issues contributed. So did his. Including how he did not notice how much I struggled.