This is the final chapter of my own “coming out” to an Abusive Childhood from my book SPIRIT UNBROKEN: a journey of hope, survival, and beating the odds of Child Abuse (c). It was penned almost a decade ago and now is in its second printing. Since then, I have worked tirelessly in my writings: (books, articles, and Blog,) conducted interviews, and helped charities make others aware of its prevalence in our time. It has been a wrong that has pervaded American Society on all fronts for years. Over the past months, I have received many requests to put this chapter from my book “on line” in a fashion that others could “Forward,” “Print Out,” or “Save,” to reread… down the road. I’d like to think that I was one of the original #METOO, but it has long been just “this is me.” God has brought me an amazing sight.
As always all proceeds from my writing goes to National Child Abuse Organizations. www.suebrownauthor.net
There was some point in my adult life, where I totally and completely… got it! My life, with my Abusive Childhood, was meant to be mine … and no one else’s. I had been able to handle it and succeed; someone else might not have come out of it as well. What was supposed to be learned from this realization and what was to be done with this knowledge now that it was uncovered?
For one thing, I was thankful for things in my life… exactly as they had been given. That surprised me! Never has there been any anger or sadness, but rather a calm acceptance that our individual life’s journey is not supposed to be easy. Growing up with dysfunction in my family had happened to me for a reason. I am a survivor… in progress.
Perhaps, my abilities of being able to tell my own history, candidly, and my personal philosophies for survival and moving past the abuse needed to be shared with others. These thoughts have allowed me to tell my story. At times, it has been uncomfortable; those who know me are undoubtedly amazed that this was a portion of my life. But the hopes that others might gain insight and benefit from my own journey have overshadowed this discomfort.
What has been accomplished in my time is not so remarkable; it’s actually pretty average. As a child I yearned to be normal, as an adult…I really am. Notable though, is that I survived, how I came from that place, and where I am today! However, I’m not alone in this journey… there are many of us. I share my story for those that are not able to share theirs.
Although not a medical professional by training, I am an unwilling participant of Childhood Abuse. My knowledge is from first-hand experience and personal interactions with others who have also experienced abuse. Personal involvement has led me to observations and information. What’s offered here is a very straightforward and positive way of looking at life, especially a life that has been painful. Our past histories of abuse and dysfunction cannot be erased, but we can create a healthy future for ourselves.
Statistics bear out the fact that dysfunctional families and abusive experiences have happened to so many more victims than ever is openly acknowledged. By sharing my own dysfunctional childhood and the insights that have allowed me to move forward, perhaps others can get a small glimpse of themselves. Not only do I sympathize, but I can also empathize…I’ve been there, seen that! I do not suggest that this is the only way to heal, but rather it can be regarded as additional support.
Abuse is clearly defined as an “instance of injustice or corruption.” For some of us, the instances came with great frequency and proportion. Abuse knows little differentiation between sex, age, race, or social status. I’ve met and spoken with victims from all walks of life. To have suffered at the hands of abuse, even once, leaves marks that haunt its recipient in untold ways from that point forward.
It matters not whether the abuse is emotional, physical, or sexual…the results are always the same. Issues of self-worth, self-doubt, and inadequacy plague the recipient for years after. The trauma does not leave scars, but rather wounds that are only scabbed over and can be ripped open at any moment!
My belief is that, at the end of our time here on earth…things have been balanced in everyone’s lives. Equal proportions of both challenges and gifts are given to each of us. However, they come in different packages and at various times of our individual existence. This conviction in no way excuses or explains abuse and dysfunction within a family however it does allow distance from these events. Again, this is not a religious belief, but rather a personal feeling. No one has it all, despite outward appearances to the contrary.
For example, whereas someone’s early years might be riddled with challenges, such as an abused child’s… that same individual’s life might be blessed in other areas, in the years that follow. Perhaps, as adults, they will be given the opportunity to have relationships that are beyond comparison.
Maybe, because of other given talents, they will live a long life with a productive career, which others can only envy. Again, an individual might be challenged mentally or even physically, but in return posses a richness of spirit of which others can only dream. There are many possibilities here, but you get the picture.
Think further of friends and family members that you know well and yet, are suffering some personal trial or hardship despite outward appearances. Not enough emphasis can ever be placed on the concept that things are not always what they seem. This applies to everyone.
Our view of others, from the outside, rarely comes with the knowledge of their individual challenges within. This is the exercise I find most helpful when trying to put things in perspective. Does anyone really have it all? It seems unlikely.
Other good examples of this concept might be media celebrities or athletes, who despite fame and fortune have their own tests and personal pains. It matters little whether the burden is from their childhood, a current drug addiction, or a seemingly incurable disease. As of late, more and more of the “famous” have come forward to share with the public the adversity in their own lives. Their honesty about their own personal tests and challenges makes us feel less alone; we can identify. Once again, the blessings…and the burdens of life… are equalizing.
Whereas someone might have viewed me during childhood and adolescence as… having it all, judging from outward appearances…my writings have indicated otherwise. However, to balance my lack of a healthy and normal childhood, some truly wonderful skills and attributes have been given to me.
There are several that are of exceptional personal value. I try not to dwell on these gifts, aware that in the greater scheme of things…they can be taken away at any time. Perhaps, this almost temporary state of given gifts is meant to humble. Life for me is a total package.
My closeness with my daughter is one of great comfort. It is a relationship of mutual respect and admiration. We don’t see eye to eye on all issues, but parents and children rarely do. Instead, there is a tolerance of individualities. I can’t imagine my life without parenthood; what a joy it has been. In my adult years, it has been a gift beyond compare. Sadly, I often think, had she been able to, how my mother and I could have experienced this joy, as well.
A good mind and a healthy body have been given to me. Each and every day, I do things to improve and increase their efficiencies. A free spirit that allows me to follow my heart’s calling also is mine. Again, I can feel this inner freedom despite my background. Its presence is a small miracle.
At times I cry, overwhelmed with my blessings; maybe this is part of the balance of my own time here on earth. Despite any adversities in our individual lives, each of us has been given gifts. Although it might be difficult in the beginning, try to review your own gifts, as they are numerous. My own took me by surprise.
Earlier, I examined the concept of choice. This concept is both powerful and liberating, especially for those that have experienced dysfunction. There appears to be minimal control over many things that happen to us during our time here on earth. We might be treated badly, now or maybe we had even been abused during our youth.
Perhaps, a family member or we might be diagnosed with a serious illness. Or possibly, a significant other might awaken one day and decide they are no longer in love with us. Real events in real lives! These situations, for the most part, are beyond our control…they happen to everyone. Most assuredly, they make us feel victimized and powerless.
However, what we always, always can control is how we react to these challenges! Those choices are ours. We give ourselves dignity and integrity by each and every decision we make. This knowledge came to me with maturity. My choices as a young child were limited. Living away from my mother and Richard appeared not to be an option, at a young age. Child Abuse was not yet recognized by the masses and as admitted, I told no one.
Although it certainly was not a new societal phenomenon, there was little if any early intervention. Today, with increased Public Service messages, supportive educational systems, and heightened public awareness that Abuse is not acceptable…children are coming forward. They are making that choice to get help for themselves… and their families. This is encouraging.
By my teenage years, I was fully aware of my choices and what should logically follow as each of them was made. There were no guarantees that my selections would reap the desired outcome, but I was aware that the odds were significantly better than if I made no choice at all.
The decision to work hard at my schoolwork was a conscious decision, although at the time I believed it to be to gain love at home. Many years later, I acknowledged that it also made me feel good to be one of the best students. Although a subconscious choice at the time, it was a good one.
Similar to an athlete from a challenging background, that sees his natural talents as a ticket to a “better life”…I saw my mental efforts in school as the only way out of my home. Even at this time, choices were being made that would shape my future. Look for areas where you already excel and expand on those talents. You are the only one that can make those choices for yourself.
Your success as you grow and improve in these areas, will not only affect how others look at you, but how you view yourself! The paths to a healthier existence are always available. With dedication and perseverance, new doors and opportunities will present themselves. I don’t think it’s ever too late to choose a better life for yourself!
Admittedly, as a single woman, and previously as a teenager, I chose not to have multiple and frequent relationships to validate my own self worth. The reason why was not clear to me as a young woman, but it is very obvious to me now. Self-esteem comes from within, not from relationships on the outside.
One of my favorite teaching units was Existentialism. It applies so well to today’s society, even though its roots are almost a century old. For those who have experienced any type of abuse or personal violation, it is also excellent. Several of its philosophies, already applicable to adults, are perfect for older children and adolescents contemplating their own existence in this world.
When we think about our own existence, it’s almost impossible not to wonder what our designated role, here on earth, might be. Are we doing what we are supposed to be doing? I often think about this.
In its simplest form, Existentialism is about each individual creating his own being within his given environment and circumstances. There is no plan for life and no definition for being. We simply exist. An individual can passively remain in that condition, hardly aware of the world around them, by taking the path of least resistance.
One can feel the awful absurdity of this predicament, where there are no rules and no one to tell them what to do! Although it might seem like freedom, it rarely is. There are feelings of extreme loneliness and abandonment…similar to the feelings that often accompany abuse.
The anxiety produced by this awareness of futility and aloneness can lead to sadness. However, taken a step farther it can also lead to the positively liberating realization that we alone are responsible for shaping our own essential being! There is great power in knowing that our life is our own, to make of it what we will! Young people love this concept and adults can embrace it as well. It is here that each of us can exercise that option of choice and give meaning and form to our own life.
Teenagers make choices daily that affect where they are in life, right now and what they are to become. Teens, as well as adults, are not defined by what is done to them or by what others tell them they are. Instead, we appear to be products of what we have created for ourselves.
Think of the possibilities. Any dysfunction in our lives need not be carried forward; we can choose to leave it behind at any point. It is not possible to make the correct choices each and every time, but we do need to begin to make decisions for ourselves.
This invariably led to heated arguments regarding peer pressure and other societal pitfalls. The end result for the teens was an increased awareness, that in nearly all circumstances… we do have choices! In the areas that are beyond our control, we at least have the ability to choose how we react to those events. In these decisions we further refine our integrity and honor.
Many of the principles of this thinking are exceptionally helpful for victims who might think that since the abuse was in the past, that everything that follows in the future might be meaningless and beyond their control as well. This is rarely the case.
Think of how many times, daily, we have choices within the home, and in the workplace or school. We have free will to make the choices that will affect not only ourselves, but also those around us in positive ways. That’s a powerful concept.
For example, it’s impossible for me to keep track of the number of times that I’ve walked away from confrontation. Choosing to do this is not because I’m weak, but rather because that choice can be made and the outcome of doing so ultimately makes me feel better than one of conflict.
Feeling good is relatively simple to accomplish. Put what’s happening to you in perspective with what’s going on in the world around you. There are always individuals whose tests and hardships are more difficult than our own. Perhaps, we are having a trying day or there is an immediate situation of discomfort. Things are going to bother and aggravate us, but they are part of living. However, we can control the extent to which we are bothered and just how we choose to react to the stimulus.
I like to look at the big picture. You know…the outcome that might be at the end of each event and situation. Is this the worst thing that has happened to me…ever? Is there something that can be done to make it less negative? What can be learned from this?
Reflecting on the things that really are important in my life, or things that I enjoy, usually makes me feel immediately better. Sometimes, challenges help us grow or we discover something new about others or ourselves. I dealt with this almost intuitively as a child. Occasionally, as an adult, I need to remind myself of the benefits of this practice…it’s not always easy.
“Are you always in a good mood?” I’m frequently asked. Sometimes, it’s asked with sarcasm. Maybe it is thought that someone who always appears happy… must be putting it on! Rarely, if ever, is there a bad mood in me. I do sometimes get a bit blue or melancholy, but it is short lived.
For me, being in a bad mood just takes too much energy and time. Also, everything that follows in that day is marked with negativity. Perhaps, my own memories of walking on egg shells around the moods and tempers of my mother and Richard has helped me determine my own path. My thoughts are more of why would you want to be in a bad mood, when it’s easier to be happy?
A constant check and recheck of what’s really important in life and what’s not…helps me keep things in balance. I’ve done a total one hundred eighty degree turn from years before. For so long, I had tried to please everyone, but myself. That was a throwback to my childhood.
Although it still is important for me to please others and be appreciated, it is now equally important for me to be pleased with myself. If something doesn’t feel good mentally, physically, or emotionally… I try my best to let it go. Admittedly, I’m not always successful, but I make the effort of trying.
Part of my recent journey has been discovering things about myself. Why do I think, feel, or do something in a certain way? As expected, many of my actions and reactions are the direct result of years past. The memories are painful, but worth the exploration.
My best thinking and self- examination are usually done at the ocean. For years, I’ve found great solace in its waters. There is a place like that for each of us; this is a place where we feel good about ourselves and complete. It’s important to go places and do things that make us feel good about ourselves.
The ocean makes me feel clean and whole. It’s like a baptism of spirit each and every time I visit. In the presence of the vast and perfect balance of these waters, my anxieties and personal issues seem small and almost trivial. My individual life in proportion to all the people on earth is analogous to one drop of salt water in the entirety of the seas. When I put the painful memories of my past in perspective, it is not nearly so overwhelming. Each of us is making the same life’s journey, but the routes and durations are varied.
I’ve shared my own story in the hopes that maybe one event, one belief, or one practice touched each person that read these writings. I wonder if this is what was always intended for me. Regardless of our age, station in life, or how far we are currently removed from the abuse…it never really goes away. We are always Abused Children.
It is possible to put the abuse and dysfunction in perspective and internalize that we were not responsible for anything that was done to us in our past. However, we are fully responsible for the quality of our current life and how we affect those around us each day. My own life continues to challenge and amaze me… for this I am always thankful.