Childhood Trauma — The Path to Healing

Sep 9, 2021JOURNAL

The scars of childhood trauma can run deep, casting long shadows over our lives. But like a flower pushing through cracks in the pavement, the human spirit has an extraordinary capacity for healing. This journey, though challenging, is paved with hope and the promise of reclaiming your narrative. Let’s delve into the tools and resources that can guide you on the path towards wholeness.

CHILDHOOD TRAUMA — MY SECRET

My mother abandoned me when I was in preschool. She moved a thousand miles away to Florida. While she was away, I was passed around between family members. I don’t have any memory of her leaving. But I remember her returning. She had been a thin, pale, but returned a suntanned buxom blonde — smelling of cigarettes and Scope.

Not long after my mother returned, she hit me for the first time. I had awakened that day with a whole heart. I went to bed with half of it missing. I was a shy and quiet six-year-old. I kept the abuse a secret.

Friends who knew my mother thought she was amazing. She was beautiful and dramatic, a beloved elementary school teacher. But no one saw the monster she became behind closed doors, weaving between good and evil with ease.

My mother married four times — maybe five. My dad was her first husband, divorcing when I was two. The second marriage to a compulsive gambler lasted one summer. She met her third husband in a Cancun nightclub. They returned to the US together after her three-day Mexican vacation. Their marriage didn’t last long enough to process the green card. The fourth marriage to a renowned cocaine dealer lasted three months. Ancestry.com hints she had a fifth husband I didn’t know about.. If you’re out there Number Five, you dodged a bullet.

My mother is mentally ill. She struggles with addiction. Our home was often littered with overflowing ashtrays, empty vodka bottles, and residue-caked straws. Several of my therapists have since, independently and informally, diagnosed her with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This means she’s incapable of feeling empathy and has no regard for anyone other than herself. She’s a manipulative habitual liar who enjoys violence — void of remorse.

CHILDHOOD TRAUMA — CODEPENDENCY

After each of my mother’s violent eruptions, I cleaned up the mess. I was an eager-to-please child who yearned for love and validation. I often fantasized about running away, but felt a conflicting obligation to protect her — even from herself. 

I’ve discovered my mother lifeless from overdosing several times. I’ve watched ICU doctors place her on respirators and feeding tubes. Time and time again, they said she wouldn’t recover. But, she always recovers — and tells fantastical tales faulting others for her near-death experiences.

My childhood revolved around codependency. A people-pleaser, I navigated the world with neurotic compulsion. I strove for exemplary grades and being the consummate good girl. For eighteen years, I lived every minute as if I had something to prove.

The day I left for college, my mother launched her best and final assault. Her diabolical mind was refusing to relinquish control of me. In short form she instigated an argument, pulled me by the hair, and repeatedly hit me.

For the first time in my life, I returned a blow. One strike across her face and the consummate good girl who slept in a locked bathroom felt free. I placed the house key on the kitchen counter, pulled the door to her hell house closed and planned to never look back.

A few months later, my grandmother called me at college. She told me Cadillac was suicidal. I drove two hours to find her strung-out and despondent. Her fragile frame weighed ninety pounds. She was in need of a shower, a meal, and a hardcore detox. So, I threw on my codependent cape, rented a U-Haul and brought her home with me.

This was our codependent waltz. She created problems, blamed the world for her problems, and expected me to solve the problems. —Which I did.

CHILDHOOD TRAUMA — THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE

In my thirties, I began experiencing extreme fatigue and debilitating abdominal pain. I spent the next fifteen years trying to figure out what was wrong with me. I met with numerous specialists, Spent thousands of dollars on medications, and regurgitated my childhood trauma to multiple therapists.

I have two of those therapist to thank for initiating my true healing. They each recommended books that helped me understand my mother’s mental illness and the reason for my physical illness. The first book was “Understanding the Borderline Mother.” The other wasThe Body Keeps the Score.” Like a one-two punch, these books launched my journey to healing.

As I continued to emotionally and physically heal, I maintained a superficial relationship with my mother. By this time, my family and I moved to California while my mother remained in Texas. 

I shouldn’t have been surprised when I received a call from a Texas hospital. My mother was in a coma. She had been found drunk and unconscious with a head injury. The ICU doctor explained she was on a respirator and feeding tube. She was not responding to “squeeze my hand.”

The boys and I flew 1,600 miles to tell my mother goodbye. But, by the time we arrived she awakened from the coma. She always seemed to defy the odds. Over the next three days, we rented an independent living apartment, packed her up, and moved her in.

I slaved to make the new apartment her happy place. I wanted this to be a fresh start. Her sobriety lasted thirty days. She’s been the neighborhood drunk ever since. 

CHILDHOOD TRAUMA — CODEPENDENT NO MORE

I reluctantly continued communication with my mother. She dominated our phone conversations with narcissistic blabber. She eventually met a widower who lived in her building. She referred to herself and him as “the homecoming king and queen.” Living through her numerous toxic relationships, I saw disaster on the horizon.

Two days before my 50th birthday, she called obsessing about a birthday gift for the “the homecoming king.” I gave her some ideas and we said goodbye. I had no idea it would be the last time we spoke. 

Have you ever heard of a mother ghosting her only child on her birthday? As a mother myself, it’s an unfathomable thought. The sun rose and set on what would be my 50th trip around the sun and not a peep came from the person who brought me into this world.

My mindset shifted that night. And as I drifted to sleep, my codependency withered up and died.

I’ve learned the only way to heal from trauma is to remove the head of the snake. You cannot continue a relationship with a toxic person who repeatedly hurts you. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Which begs the question: Which one of us was insane — her or me?

CHILDHOOD TRAUMA — A NOTE TO MY MOTHER

The trauma I endured at the hands of my mother manifested years of physical illness. I’ve suffered with asthma, IBS, PCOS, endometriosis, infertility, miscarriage, diverticulosis and adrenal damage. This is how trauma wreaks havoc on our bodies. 

When we feel sick, we need our mothers. But, what if the actions of mother made you sick?

I continue to endure emotional peaks and valleys. The overwhelming internal narrative that I gave up on my mother can be all-consuming. My mind knows I’m healthier without her. My heart, on the other hand, clings to unrealistic hope.

When my mother dies, I wonder how I will grieve. Will I feel relief that she’s finally free of herself? Will I feel pity because she never knew happiness? Or will I feel regret for the missed opportunity of having a mother?

I tossed and turned over whether to publicly journal my story of childhood trauma. I feared people would think I’m mental. How would my mother feel if she read it?
I considered deleting every word and maintaining secrecy. But we’re only as sick as our secrets, right? And if my mother wanted a glowing review, she should have damn well behaved better. 
In the end, those struggling from trauma motivated me to click submit. —But not before writing one last note to my mother.
To the Woman I Once Called Mama,
 
I love you. And I love the mama I hoped you’d become. I’m no longer your malleable little girl. I clawed my way out of the burrows of a broken heart and body. I sculpted myself and my children into happy and whole human beings. —Human beings you will never have the privilege of knowing.
 
Sincerely,
 
Your resilient, kind, compassionate, generous, intelligent, flourishing, take-no-sh*t daughter

CHILDHOOD TRAUMA — THE PATH TO HEALING

If you are struggling with the effects of childhood trauma, please know you are not alone. There are countless resources available to support you on your journey.

Healing begins with acknowledging the pain. Denial can be a powerful coping mechanism, but it keeps us trapped in the past. Allow yourself to feel the anger, sadness, and fear. Give voice to your story, whether through journaling, therapy, or connecting with a supportive community.

Childhood trauma often breeds shame, a heavy cloak that whispers self-blame and unworthiness. Remember, shame is not your fault. It’s a consequence of the abuse. Counter its whispers with affirmations of self-worth and compassion. You are not broken, you are a survivor.

Abuse can shatter our trust in ourselves and others. Take small steps to rebuild trust, both in yourself and in healthy relationships. Celebrate your successes, no matter how small, and surround yourself with people who respect and support you.

Trauma leaves its mark not just on the mind, but on the body too. Explore practices like yoga, meditation, or somatic therapy to reconnect with your body and release stored tension. These practices can help you manage stress, improve sleep, and cultivate self-awareness.

Healing is about reclaiming your power. Explore creative outlets like writing, art, or music to express your emotions and process your experiences. These outlets can be powerful tools for self-discovery and empowerment.

You don’t have to walk this path alone. Reach out to a therapist specializing in trauma. Join a support group for survivors to connect with others who understand your journey. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Embrace the ups and downs of your healing journey. There will be setbacks, but also moments of breakthrough and profound personal growth. Celebrate your progress, be patient with yourself, and remember that you are worthy of love, joy, and a life free from the shadows of the past.

Additionally, remember this post is not a substitute for professional medical or psychological advice. Please seek professional help if you are struggling with the effects of childhood abuse.

You might also find the following post helpful: Childhood Abuse — Living with Its Long Reach.

As always, thank you for being here and sharing the articles you appreciate most. Be sure to subscribe to future posts below. If you have questions or suggestions, leave a comment or drop a note. My mind and inbox are always open.

2 Comments

  1. Beautiful story as I felt the healing in the end. I too, endured narcissistic parents. I can relate to a good portion of a lifetime of inherited drama. Like you, I broke free from any generational curses and raised 3 beautiful children. Btw, I worked at Tampa Hooters with you for a period of time, and now also live in beautiful California. Thank you for sharing Julie.

  2. Thank YOU for sharing, Patricia. It’s ironic how our paths continue to cross. I noticed our new connection on IG. It will be rewarding to see how your beautiful life continues to unfold. Big hug!

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