My parents would tell you they provided a loving, nurturing home. I’m sure all of my brothers and sisters would agree with them. For my brothers and sisters, the story is different. I saw them receive care and love at times when I received none.
No one’s childhood is perfect. I’m sure if any of us tried hard enough we could point to an event or moment in our youth and say, “This is why I’m so messed up.” I am trying to accept that our parents do the best they can with what they have. I cannot expect them to be any more than what they are.
In my case, my parents were stretched thin. There were lots of brothers and sisters to take care of. Instead of being one of those children, I became a second mother – an authority figure to my siblings and a second pair of hands for my mom.
This in itself is not traumatizing. What was traumatizing was the molestation from my older brother. The consistent lack of emotional availability from my parents. And the religious abuse – conforming to strict standards of modesty and behavior to “keep my brothers from sinning.”
Of course, “brother” in this case meant all men in general, but it was a particularly sharp jab to me. Especially since my older brother, as my elder, had control over what I wore. He and my dad were responsible for making sure I stayed modest.
You must understand – I had no escape. I fantasized about running away – wrote novels about teenage women who escaped horrible lives to become heroes. But there was no escape for me.
It was not just living a life that I hated. It was living a life that required me to hide my core beliefs and values. And I hid them so well – buried them so deep – that even I couldn’t find them. My parents were inconsistent (treating me differently from my brothers and sisters) and unresponsive (my emotional needs were not met) at a critical time in my development.
From Trauma Recovery:
[Complex PTSD is] considered the most severe form of PTSD. It is directly connected to trauma that occurred and was experienced at an early age in development. The trauma was chronic and ongoing. The trauma would have had a direct impact on brain development as well as the attachment process. The trauma itself involved an individual in a close relationship (i.e.- parent, caregiver, person in a position of authority). This traumatic experience is profoundly disrupting as it can impact the individual’s ability to form healthy relationships across the lifespan.
It is important to note – I am not self diagnosed. I have spoken to multiple therapists and doctors about this. The disorders I struggle with (self harm, alcoholism, drug addiction, disordered eating) are directly related to the trauma that occurred during my childhood.
Everyone is different. Trauma impacts people on multiple levels – emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually, and in their relationships.
Most of my impacts are mental/emotional. It’s hard for me to be emotionally available to people. It’s hard for me to form and value relationships. Spiritually, I am only just now coming to a place of true faith – faith that is not based in fear.
I do experience all of the symptoms listed in the image above. I’m always on high alert, and I can’t fall asleep without making up a story. I’ve made up stories to fall asleep to since I was 5. Nightmares are normal, as is pain when I’m trying to take a deep breath.
I’m writing about this now because I can’t keep burying it inside. I nearly drank myself to death. I’m six months sober now, but my eating disorder is active and ugly. I think about cutting myself every day. I’m having thoughts of suicide again.
Sharing is scary, but it takes power away from the demons.
Since I worked my AA fifth step, I have been able to let go of my resentment against my parents. I have become willing to accept that they did and do the best they can with what they have been given.
I am also learning to extend myself the same kindness and consideration. I am doing the best I can with what I have been given. And I am grateful for what I have been given. I am grateful for the sober life I am living today – and I’m grateful to be sharing my story.