Surviving Childhood Abuse
By December Rose
Do you ever lie awake at night staring at the ceiling? Wondering why your life hasn’t turned out the way you dreamed? Why everything you get yourself involved with has to just get complicated? Do you ever just find yourself sad and distant in environments where you should be happy, and routinely letting the monster in your head run wild?
I’m grateful that five-year-old me dared to dream, and kept a hopeful heart even when she was sickened with grief and torment watching her mom succumb to depression and destruction. Learning to change her baby sister’s diaper while hearing her mom wail in agony because of life’s misfortunes, five-year-old me was getting groomed to put everyone’s needs before hers; to be a people pleaser seeking approval and validation, and worst of all, believe she wasn’t enough to keep her mother happy. She walked on eggshells to be on her best behaviour to avoid reprimanding beatings, but her best could never be enough. How could it ever be, when a parent-child love can’t transcend depression of an unwell mother who had lived through domestic violence as a child?
Going home day after day from school well into my late teens was going home to the same chaotic, name-calling, hoarded, nightmare environment I wished I could just wake up from. Seeing your parent (someone you love who’s supposed to love and protect you) suffer, and realizing that you’re on your own to fend for yourself, be your own cheerleader, and be your parent’s emotional, mental, and physical outlet, is overwhelming to say the least, especially when there’s no one you can talk to who can help. Even when there were people that could help, I was too afraid word would travel back home and make an already toxic situation even worse. When the anguish officially began tanking my health and entire life (being in and out of abusive and manipulative romantic relationships that triggered anorexia, self-destructive habits and thoughts), I started seeing a therapist.
Having a healthy space to vent to someone completely objective of the situation helped give me clarity, answers that I longed for, and a path to recovery. I got to a place where I started to feel okay. That despite everything, my future didn’t have to be a reflection of my past; but deep within me nothing had truly healed. A friend once told me “a plant can’t ever bloom to its fullest and most beautiful potential in bad soil”. My soil was poison.
At twenty-two, I was sexually assaulted on what was supposed to be a friendly date. I couldn’t bring the news home because no matter what “it was my fault”. Things had been my fault since I was five. Why would now be any different? I became angry, bitter, frustrated that maybe I had become so broken that I would never be able to harvest healthy relationships in any capacity, and that happiness wasn’t on the horizon for me.
I’ve often heard that the first step towards healing is recognizing there is a problem, and that you need help. When your parent recognizes there is a problem, but chooses not to do something about it, forgiveness wouldn’t seem like the obvious choice. However, I finally realized, forgiveness wasn’t for my parent. It was a gift from me to me, to set myself free from the bondage of a dark past. The horrors remain in the shadows, and creep up all the time. The insecurities are hard to squash, but with situational perspective, context of suffering, and determination, it can be kept at bay.
Since being able to physically remove myself from the place I had long called “home”, I have finally started to make peace with the past, and work at creating the life five-year old me never stopped dreaming of; writing, singing and sharing a piece of my heart with every listener, one song at a time.’