This is a post I have carried inside me for years. But I haven’t had the courage to transfer it from my heart to paper because that somehow makes it real. Inside myself, in that place where magic still exists, I believe that as long as a pain or hurt isn’t spoken aloud then I can continue to harbor hope that one single, powerful breath of disbelief can blow every atom of its presence away…far, far away to a place where it will never touch me again.
It is time though, to make it real. Because I can’t heal the pain unless I acknowledge it exists. And somewhere out there is someone who harbors the same hurt. They need to see this, to read it and know they are not alone. And somewhere out there is a parent who needs to break the cycle of abuse in their life. My story, my account, my pain might be the thing that encourages them to say, “My child is worth it. I am worth it.”
Although, technically, my abuse started at age three, it set its roots into the earth many generations before my birth. My family has a lengthy heritage of horrible family dysfunction; alcoholism, drug addiction, spousal and child abuse of every shape and form, infidelity, the fathering of children with one woman while married to another, and even an involuntary commitment to a mental institution by a grandfather tired of his ever demanding wife. And the mental illness, oh the mental illness that ravaged my predecessors as far back as our family history has been recorded.
By the time I came screaming into the world the stage was set for my story, and it was not a pretty one. But it was the only story my family seemed able to tell, given their own histories. I get it. I do. I understand that they were horribly handicapped by their own abusive upbringing in combination with their mental illnesses. They simply didn’t have the skill to break the cycle. They did their best. I know that. I long ago forgave them their transgressions.
Yet as a child in those days and nights when I pleaded with God and the world to stop the pain, to make me good enough not to warrant to be hurt anymore, and I got no response I drew the conclusion that I was not be rescued because I was not worth it. I grew up owning the belief that the cycle of abuse would not stop in my family because I wasn’t good enough. No matter how hard I tried to be a good girl, a good student, and a good family member I could not earn my freedom from the abuse. Because I wasn’t worth it. I got the bushel of hell I got because I deserved it. Period.
As an adult I’ve worked hard to change the cycle of abuse my family handed down to me. Intellectually, I knew it had to stop, if not for myself then for my son. I worked hard to learn ways of coping with pain than inflicting it on another. I schooled myself in compassion, empathy and healthy relationship skills. And I waited to have children until I knew my family’s pain would not visit another generation.
I walked that long, arduous journey alone, over hot coals and through endless deserts. And I broke the cycle, damn it! The abuse stopped with me. My son will never endure a moment of pain at the hands of an abuser within his family. I cannot completely protect him from all those in the world who might do him harm, but I have inoculated him the best I can with education and open discussion.
But that flame of pain inside me that represents my not being worth saving from my childhood abuse still fiercely burns inside me. As many survivors do, I chose to enter relationships with men remarkably like my abuser. It was what I was familiar with, what I felt I deserved. Their treatment of me relit that internal flame every time it threatened to blow out. Instead it burnt higher, the flames licking at my mind, my vision, and my grasp on my personal truth. I want to extinguish it. But it isn’t as simple as licking my fingertips and feeling the flame sizzle to its death between my thumb and forefinger. Because things we learn like that as children not only create their own energy, but become tattooed on our hearts. Scrubbing the words away is painful, HARD work. Extinguishing the flame takes what feels like endless amounts of strength, wisdom and courage.
But I’ve taken the first step. I’ve said it aloud. I’ve acknowledge that the flame of unworthiness still burns and the tattoo of “You Aren’t Good Enough to Save” makes my heart ache every damn minute of every damn day. For all of you who endured abuse like I did and feel that flame and tattoo within you: you aren’t alone. And to those mothers and fathers who grew up in abuse and see the potential for a repeat with their own children: you were worth it, you should have been saved; and you CAN do the hard work to save your own children as they are so very worth it.
This is my first step. For myself, and most of all, for that precious little girl who cried out for saving decades ago and received no answer other than more pain. You were worthy then, sweet child, and you are still worthy now.