I’ve been binge watching The Wire for a couple of weeks now. I know, I know I’m way behind considering this show came out in 2002. But what can I say, better late than never. Right?
Anyway, the show is incredible and I’m in awe of the characters. Especially this kid in season four called Namond.
Now, Namond is a teenager who’s mom is forcing him to sell drugs on the corner. And let me tell you something this woman is a W.I.T.C.H.
She is selfish, ruthless, condescending and she abuses Namond verbally and physically.
There’s this one scene where she slaps him across the face and it triggered something in me.
It took me right back to being a seven year old girl in my living room ducking for cover as my mom tried rip my hair out of my head.
Now it’s been over 30 years since I lived under my mom’s roof but I’m always amazed at how raw my memories of the abuse can be.
It’s so very hard to forget a violent childhood. And yet so many people think that just because the trauma is in your past that you should be able to just snap your fingers and get over it.
But what they don’t understand is how difficult it can be to move on. For some of us, it can feel like the abuse is with us everyday. No matter how much time has passed.
If you grew up in a violent home and you’re frustrated because you just can’t “get over it” then this post is for you.
Today, you’ll learn 4 reasons why it can be painful to move on from a violent childhood. Plus, I’ve added in a little something extra that I think will help shift your perspective on trauma and recovery.
It doesn’t matter if you’re 38 years old or 54 years old, there’s no rule that says you have to get over something as traumatic as abuse just because it’s in your past.
Once you’ve had a chance to read, let me know:
What’s been your biggest obstacle when confronting your violent childhood? If you feel you’ve been successful in sorting through your past, what can you share that might help someone else?
Leave a comment below and let me know.
Remember, your voice, experiences and insights are vital to this community. And what you have to share is not only unique but it may be exactly what someone else needs to read. And that someone could be you.
Until Next Tuesday.
#1 Your Body And Brain Knows
Trauma is an equal opportunity offender. Not only does it impact you mentally and emotionally but it also does a number on you physiologically.
And trauma that’s left untreated will keep you and your precious nervous system in a perpetual fight or flight state.
That’s why so many ACOAs and survivors of abuse talk about always feeling on edge. Thanks to the constant threat and experience of abuse – our minds and bodies are constantly looking to avert the next real or imagined disaster.
And because our bodies have such fantastic memories, we end up perpetually living in survival mode. Which leaves little energy left over for the basic joys of life. To play, learn, love and even relax.
So when people tell you to get over it because it’s in your past that’s true chronologically but physiologically the trauma is still very real and raw.
Unfortunately, if you’re not aware of this connection, you could miss an important piece of your recovery. Even if you’re aware of it, it isn’t something that can be fixed overnight. It takes time to retrain your body and change how you interpret your environment.
And then there’s your brain to consider. According to childwelfare.gov,
Child abuse and neglect have been shown to cause important regions of the brain to fail to form or grow properly, resulting in impaired development. These alterations in brain maturation have long-term consequences for cognitive, language, and academic abilities and are connected with mental health disorders.
Although I thought I wanted to be a doctor when I was younger, I’m certainly no expert when it comes to matters of trauma, the brain, the body and nervous system. So, if you’d like to explore these connections further check out Bessel Van Der Kolk’s book, The Body Keeps The Score: Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma.
#2 Abuse Can Bruise More Than Your Bones
I know now that the challenges I’ve had with depression and anxiety are directly connected to the trauma I experienced as a kid. But I knew nothing about that connection when I was younger and I really wish I did. I wouldn’t have wasted so much time thinking that there was something wrong with me.
If I would’ve known that decades of research has shown that abuse can impact mental health and plant the seeds for:
- Eating disorders
- Personality disorders
- Sexual difficulties
Then I wouldn’t have allowed myself to feel so guilty whenever someone told me that I just needed to get over the abuse.
And I would’ve had more respect for what I was going through and been more patient with myself during the recovery process.
The bruises of abuse can often be hidden under the skin and unfortunately the ones that hurt the most are typically the ones that people can’t see.
#3 People Underestimate The Power Of Abuse
Check this out, according to correctionalassociation.org,
The overwhelming majority of women in prison are survivors of domestic violence. Three-quarters have histories of severe physical abuse by an intimate partner during adulthood, and 82% suffered serious physical or sexual abuse as children.
Once you realize that over half of incarcerated women suffer from trauma, you can no longer deny the negative, long lasting impact that abuse can have over someone’s life.
Whether you’re talking mentally, emotionally, physically or even socially, we must recognize that trauma doesn’t discriminate. And given it’s power and reach, doesn’t it make sense that it would be a difficult to just – get over it?
#4 Trauma Has Side Effects
Chances are that if you grew up in a violent environment, like me, you didn’t have consistent access to loving, caring and nurturing support.
And even if you found support later in your life, there’s nothing that can replace what you didn’t get from your family.
For example, I’m incredibly grateful to all the therapists I’ve had that held me up when my family couldn’t.
But it doesn’t mean that it didn’t hurt that my therapists were more often than not the only family I had.
This made me wonder what was wrong with me? What did I do wrong? Why didn’t my family want me? Am I a bad person? Do I deserve to be abused?
The violent childhood I experienced did way more than just hurt physically, it also chipped away at my self-esteem. It created the perfect environment for self-hatred to grow and bleed into every corner of my life.
This is an unfortunate side effect of trauma and abuse. And it isn’t something that’s easily visible, it’s a facet of trauma that only you know because you’ve experienced it.
So getting over trauma and abuse isn’t as easy as just leaving the painful memories behind.
That pain can live inside you and linger long after the abuse is over.
So what does that mean for us then?
Does it mean that it’s impossible to heal from trauma?
Should we just give up and stay stuck in the past?
Of course not. But I think there’s a difference between looking at trauma as something you have to get over versus something that you’ll continuously work through.
I used to think that if I worked hard enough at it I could wipe my traumatic childhood completely from my memory. And after that I’d live a glorious and happy life where all of my issues attached to that trauma would melt away like hot butter.
I didn’t realize until recently, that it was precisely these unrealistic expectations (and the ridiculous expectations of people that thought I should just get over it) that were keeping me stuck.
I kept beating myself up for not yet reaching that coveted place in my recovery where I would finally be over it.
But once I took the pressure off myself to reach this imaginary recovery finish line, that’s when I finally gave myself permission to work at my own pace. To heal according to my own timeline. And to focus on the progress I’ve made instead of how far I still am from that ridiculous finish line someone else created for me.
Wherever you are right now in your recovery is perfectly okay. Instead of wasting your energy on where you think you should be, focus on the progress you’ve made. And the progress you’ll continue to make as long as you stay in the game.