As an adult survivor of child abuse, I’ve learned a lot about people, about the world, and about myself. The two most important things that I’ve learned are:
- We are each responsible for our own happiness and success. No matter what.
- No one will save you – you must become who you needed during your darkest moment.
Today, I’d like to focus on the second one. I’ve spent a lot of time in my 38 years thinking about what life would have been like if only one of my parents wouldn’t have been a drug addict…wouldn’t have been abusive…would have been happy with me. I learned as a child that no matter what I did in life, it would not be enough for them. My father is dead. My mother is living…but nothing is enough. It never will be. That’s just fact.
Today’s experience was just another example of that. I take my mother to her psychiatric and medical appointments. She doesn’t drive. Her license is permanently revoked. She has a serious mental illness. Although she currently takes her meds, years of drug use have taken its toll on her brain. When I was a child, she was untreated…and a drug addict. This led to several (attempted) homicidal outbursts.
When I was 16, two separate instances occurred where she tried to stab me. She was taken by the police to a local crisis center where she was committed for months each time. Not once did the court or DHS or anyone aside from my aunt look into my living situation. She repeatedly came home and those are not the only assaults that happened.
It’s something I try not to think about…in addition to other things she encouraged and allowed to happen to me as a much younger child. I do my best to consider mitigating factors. Those, of course, do not excuse what happened. They are simply factors that should be considered to get the entire picture. I take her to her appointments and monthly errands because she cannot drive. She should not drive. She could hurt herself or she could hurt someone else. Even on her meds. She met with her new psychiatrist today after waiting a year to find one after moving.
On my way taking her back to her home, she bragged to me about how she told the doctor about trying to stab me, but that she also told him that…she didn’t remember doing it. Black outs during psychosis are not uncommon. The problem here for this story is that when she goes around recounting it to her “friends” (mostly drug addicts), she remembers it happening just fine. She has a habit of gaming the system. I never asked (and never ask) what she talks about with her various doctors. I don’t get involved unless the doctors have a question for me. Frankly, I don’t care what they talk about. I’m fulfilling what I perceive as my moral obligation to society: to make sure she goes to get medicated so she doesn’t hurt anyone.
I was understandably upset that she was bragging about what she said to the doctor. I told her I did not give a rat’s ass what she told the doctor, called her out on her lie about not remembering, and told her to quit bringing it up with me around. She can brag about trying to murder her own child all she wants, but not around me. I don’t want to relive it. I don’t want to think about it.
It’s Important to Know That They Do Not Change
When you’re abused as a child, you harbor this fantasy that maybe one day they’ll straighten up. Oh, sure…there are a few death bed conversions. But legitimate life-long change? It’s rare. People are who they are. The fantasy is normal to have, but it just isn’t reality. There’s a 99% chance that you just will not have the healthy parent-child relationship that you’d like to have.
You Can Become the Person You Needed
You have a choice. You can wallow in pity, you can become totally heartless, or you can become the person that you needed. And you don’t just become that person to the world, you become that person to yourself. If you hoped that your parent would take you for ice cream on Sundays, you take yourself. If you hoped that your parent would take you to the library every Saturday, you take yourself. You become who you needed and you become gentle with yourself.
Becoming your own parent may seem like a weird concept, but it is ultimately about self-care. You also find that it is extremely cathartic and it begins to matter less and less that your parent(s) suck(ed).
You can also take that behavior and extend it into your own family and the community. If you have children, you have the opportunity to be the parent you wish you would have grown up with. If your children are grown (or practically grown) or if you don’t have children, you go out and be the good in the world. You volunteer. You tutor. You mentor. You go to the animal shelter and volunteer. You do. You give. You be.
Whatever you do, don’t get caught in that moment and allow it to rule the rest of your life. You deserve better than that.