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I was a child

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I have been reflecting a lot on my post from yesterday and my experiences in the past two days in the program. I have been struck by how strong the feelings of guilt and shame pervade my life even though I thought that I had overcome them both to a great degree. And I think the fact that I can sit here and write these posts about being in a trauma therapy program without fear of how people will react or what they will think of me demonstrates that I have indeed done a great deal of healing work in this area. 

I found these fun pictures in a box in my room this afternoon. I have many siblings (7 in fact), but these pictures capture me and my brother next in line. There are two and a half years between us and we are both from my Mom’s first marriage, while the other 6 are from my mom’s second marriage. I love my brother. But our relationship was like cats and dogs. I have to say though I was always quite talented at instigating trouble without getting caught. He was a little more obvious. On top of that, we had a “no tattletaling” rule in our house so he would often get in trouble for retaliating and then tattletaling! Poor kid. We did have our good times though and there were many times I would be excited to spend time with him. Like the times we stayed at my birthfather’s apartment and I wouldn’t be able to sleep and was bored, so I would plug his nose and cover his mouth until he had to wake up. Ingenious for a 7 year old I think 😉

Anyways, the reason why I went looking for pictures came out of something that was said in one of the groups today. One woman was particularly feeling the responsibility for something and one of the facilitators asked if she knew any children the age she once was. I got thinking about my own sense of guilt and shame and responsibility for what happened to me. I thought that looking at a picture of me when I was roughly that age would help reframe things in my mind. So I went searching for pictures. Sadly, I have very few pictures of me growing up – these pictures have been supplied by various relatives as none of them made it from my family’s home to my home. But I found this series of pictures, taken in one of those instant photo booths. I don’t know exactly how old I am in these pictures… I am guessing that I am 11 or so.

I do not have a start date engraved in my mind of when the abuse began. But it was sometime after our move to the house that we stayed in the longest and actually my family is still living there now. I was about 11 when we moved in, so if my age guessing is right, the pictures of me you see here are pictures taken roughly around when the abuse started.

When I saw these pictures, I was struck by how young I look. I was very clearly a child. So often I judge myself for how I handled the abuse then (or how I didn’t handle it) and I judge it with a harshness based on what I feel I should have been able to do. But this harshness comes from my adult lens – what I would do now comes form years of experience and learning and growing. But at 11 or 12 I was a child. I knew nothing of abuse before then. And then suddenly I experienced stuff that was way beyond my level of comprehension. Over the past few years I have spent time with 11 and 12 year olds (and other ages) and have been struck by their innocence, their curiousity, their desire to please, their playfulness. Seeing a picture of me making goofy faces made me laugh and reminded me of my innocence, playfulness. I was talking with a few good friends tonight about when I got baptized, and while I think that was a bit earlier than 11 or 12, I was talking about how I remember a desire to please my parents and God, and to do the right thing.

I was a child when the abuse happened. My father was a grown adult.

I did not understand the world of sex or what was happening to me. My father knew better than to cross these lines.

I responded in the ways that I thought were best in my childish perspective. My father never should have put me in a position where I should have to make decisions about how to handle trauma being inflicted upon me.

I was a child when the abuse started. A beautiful, young and innocent girl.

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