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Sometimes preventing child abuse doesn’t come from calling a hotline. Sometimes preventing child abuse starts with taking a deep breath, and following the path of most resistance… it comes from breaking the cycle, and beginning the heart-work of repairing one’s self.
Breaking the cycle of abuse means taking the risk of losing everyone you love… losing the people who you thought might finally be in your corner. The louder you live the further they go… even the ones who weren’t around when you were the object of abuse. There is something about speaking out that frightens people. Sometimes it’s as simple as they just don’t know what to say… sometimes it’s the shame they feel for being silent witnesses… even the ones who were too young to help… even the ones who were victims themselves will stand with the abuser. For the silent, it feels easier to live with the devil they know. The biggest tragedy of that is how it continues to reward the abuser; it keeps the abuser in a space where they can continue to abuse the people they are supposed to love and protect, because they are under the protection of family.
I didn’t set out to break a cycle. I didn’t think that far ahead. I was in crisis … suicidal… tired, and afraid, afraid the pain would never end, afraid I would follow the warped road map created by my mother and grandparents. On the inside, I felt her reactions wanting to come out of me towards my children. I felt myself becoming short, angry and reactive. I was becoming someone I recognized, and didn’t know lived within me. This all began after my youngest daughter was born. I could see myself in her, in a way I had not been ready to view in my two older children. I had flashes of memory that would strike, eyes closed and eyes open. The flashbacks would occur at all hours with no warning. It was during this time that trigger became a part of my vocabulary, without being attached to a firearm.
I learned, because of the volatility of the environment I grew up under, that my daily life was basically one massive and on-going trigger.
It would be two years, that felt like two lifetimes of therapy—(one-on-one, and group, accompanied by medication cocktails, until the “magic” pill was found) until I found my way… at least for my children. Even then I didn’t realize I was breaking the cycle. It was during therapy in a phone call to my mother that I whispering to her ever so quietly the things I was not allowed to speak of as a child. I was hoping for some validation. I was hoping for love. I was hoping for acceptance. Even at 26, 27 and 28 I wanted my “mommy.” My hopes turned into the loss of what was left, of all of my maternal relationships. My children lost most of my maternal relationships, and the ones they sort of have now, are surface… they are devoid of me and my “lies,” as my Aunt Nancy would say I was “always” speaking.
The loss of my maternal relationships meant I was alone, beyond my husband(ex) and my children. There was no one to call to share my children’s accomplishments, no big family celebrations. There was nothing but a huge space where my mother’s family used to be… barely be.
They say that time heals all wounds… such a lie. It’s more like time makes wounds smaller. Scars remain faded, but unmistakably present. It’s been 25 years since therapy, loss of family days. It’s been even longer since I lived in my childhood home(s), where the abuse took place. I carry those moments, like a chalkboard, that can never really be washed back to new. I accept the faded marks as a part of me, they are in my pores, and can never be undone. I write over them… boldly… using words I draw from the strength I learned surviving the abuse. People ask me “are you healed?” Nope, I’m messy… beautifully messy. For now, it’s enough; it’s more than enough, and more than I ever expected I could be.