*Trigger Warning: Sexual Violence
A question was brought up to me that I have been pondering for a long time: “Would you talk to your child about your trauma and about your past?”
After thinking about my answer, I have decided I will talk to my child about my trauma. It’s not about getting pity, and it’s not about traumatizing my child; rather it’s about being open about my experiences in hopes of showing my child that while mommy is a superhero, she is also human.
It’s about opening up and letting my child know that it’s OK to speak up, it’s OK to come to your parents, and it’s OK to ask for help.
I grew up in the South, and it is tradition or taught to keep everything to yourself. You cannot speak about your troubles because they will fall back onto your family, you are “mental” or “crazy” and something is really wrong with you if you are troubled. You have to keep all your feelings in, look happy, and move forward. At least, that is how it was for me.
Personally, I have experienced trauma. I never thought it was traumatic or thought it was bad enough to where I deserved therapy. But I was wrong, and have suffered from anxiety since I was a little child.
The first traumatic experience I can remember is my sibling having undiagnosed bipolar disorder, and that sibling and my parents getting into horrible fights to the point where my sibling would threaten suicide. My sibling also bullied me about the things I loved doing, such as singing, so I never sang again in front of people.
I also remember is dropping my military father off at the airport to go to Kuwait after September 11th and thinking he was in danger. However, as an adult, I know that he was not in any immediate danger. Still, it was traumatic. I remember the car ride and the song that was playing so vividly: Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing. This was when I developed separation anxiety from my parents. It would get so bad that if my mom went to a school conference or something, I would have a severe panic attack where my whole body was shaking and tensed up, and I would start hyperventilating.
Then, in my teenage years, I was raped and molested. These actions were done by two different people, but they were supposed to be people I trusted. I also was diagnosed with fibromyalgia that I still suffer from today. I also went through a traumatic abortion that wasn’t my decision. Finally, in my college years, while I was living with my now-husband, I suffered a miscarriage.
Through all these experiences, I totally lost myself.
I clammed up and stopped talking. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I felt worthless . . . I felt hopeless . . . I felt I was never good enough.
I know what you all are thinking: “My God, did you call the police?” Yes, the police did get involved. And that is some of the reason I stopped talking. You see, in the South, families are very close-knit. If you go after one, you get the wrath of the whole family. That’s what happened to me. My parents and I got so much backlash from trying to speak up about the truth that we were labeled as a bad family. My parents were bad parents. My sibling and I were horrible people. I was labeled a slut, told I probably brought it on myself, and that nobody believed me. But, I will say this: everything I talked about has been confirmed by doctors and therapists and is on the record.
All this is why I stopped talking, why I stopped enjoying life, why my self-esteem and body image went out the door. This is why I became suicidal.
My parents, though, are the opposite of bad parents. They are the most amazing parents that a girl could ask for. They were my rocks and my solid foundation through it all. I resented them for making me do things I didn’t want to do and for being parents, but looking back on it now, I appreciate everything they did. They believed me. They didn’t give up on me or my sibling. They were there for me and gave me a future and a life. They did everything and anything they could within their means. I never realized this until I was an adult going through therapy, but they are amazing parents and I am amazed at their strength and that they went through all of it for us.
But my parents got backlash, too—visits and messages about how horribly my family was. I got messages that I was horrible and should die or just run away. I thought about it, but I didn’t want anything bad to happen to my family. I wanted to protect my family at all costs. I have watched my dad get punched by a significant other of my sibling in front of me. I also saw my mom defend me in one of those visits. After all that, I promised myself I will protect my family no matter what. I will never put my family in that situation again.
So, I didn’t speak. I didn’t speak to anyone. I didn’t trust anyone. I never talked or hung out with friends again.
I lost most of my friends who were dear to me. I also lost everything I ever loved—dancing, singing, and theatre. I didn’t think I was good enough for anyone’s time and that I was worthless, so I stopped auditioning. I lost so much time during that time.
But I didn’t want anyone to see me as weak. I wanted to appear strong to family members, to friends, and to the world. So, I dealt with it on my own, moved forward in silence, and kept a smile on my face. I didn’t want anyone to think less of me.
So, now you can see why I am a quiet person, why I don’t speak up much. I became a shell of the smiling, funny, talented, kind person I thought I was. I pretty much lost the most important person: me. I thought that this was the way to deal with things. I was always in the fight or flight mode and it got worse when I had my child.
Even before all that, I had to apologize to one of my attackers who has no repercussions even today. This is where my fight or flight comes in. But, I have to see this as keeping the peace where my therapist has said over and over again that if it was confirmed, then that is a big no-no. However, it is so common with victims having to do this and then having to face their attackers over and over again.
These are just some of the things I still have to deal with.
Now, in my adult years, I am going through therapy. It wasn’t always like this though. I always that therapy was for “messed up” people. I thought I couldn’t ask for help because if I did share my story, the police would get involved again or my family would get backlash. So, I never asked for help. But about four years ago, my parents told me I needed to see a therapist. They could physically see my anxiety and depression.
So, I did. I asked for help and I have been diagnosed with severe anxiety, driving anxiety, social anxiety, severe depression, and PTSD. I have been on medication and it has been working. I am also working on getting my dog trained as a service dog, so it will be easier for me to be outside.
In addition to this, I am working on getting myself back. I am getting who I was, who I am, and who I want to be back. It will take time, but I will do it. I will work through this trauma and not let it hold me down.
So I believe it is of the utmost importance to share your story with your child. I believe it will most definitely benefit them to know you as a human and as a mom or a dad. I want to show my child that it is OK to ask for help and to speak up.
I also learned my mom is going through therapy for anxiety and depression. I wished I’d known this sooner or that my mom could have shared her story with me. We could have had a closer relationship where I could have known sooner to speak up and to ask for help.
That is the reason I will talk to my child about trauma—about my trauma and my story.
I want to share with my child my story in hopes that they will know the effects of trauma, the symptoms of trauma, become trauma-sensitive, and look for the signs of trauma. I want to show my child they need to believe in themselves and to never let anyone take their sparkle away. I want to teach my child there are benefits of sharing your story—having a support system, getting the word out there, and shining. I want my child to never lose themselves because it is hard to get yourself back. I want my child to ask for therapy—that is why it exists—and to help people through their experiences.
Feelings are valid. Experiences are valid. Trauma is valid. YOU are valid.
Originally published on the author’s blog