Just jumping in to offer support. I was abused as a child and it was hard to admit that to myself, even though it is true. I was verbally, emotionally, and physically (not sexually that I know of) abused. I guess it is true that "admitting it is the first step" because I lived in denial about it until my early 20's.
I was a gifted, social, curious, sensitive child and unfortunately that was labeled "too smart for my own good", "show off", "difficult", "dramatic" child. My mom was a single mama of four children with her own childhood issues and not a lot of coping mechanisms. Couple that with a strict Irish Catholic upbringing and the stress of caring financially/emotionally/legally/physically for herself and children spelled disaster for a child that was any less than compliant.
I was verbally abused, screamed at, yelled at, shamed, manipulated, and beat with wooden spoons, wire hangers, brushes, hands. I got the worst of it because of all my siblings I was the one who questioned the most, who was "stubborn", "defiant", and incidentally, the one most like my mother in basic personality traits ---- I believe that abusing me was a form of self loathing for my mom. That is just my armchair analysis but it makes sense to me. Maybe she could yell or beat out of me whatever made her unlovable to her father as a child. Her dad was apparently pretty rough to live with on a lot of levels (he died before I was born).
My childhood abuse did a lot of damage to me and to this day I have emotional reactions to things that others may not if they were raised differently. During my teens I was depressed, sullen, suicidal, rebellious, acted out in many ways. In my late teens I was in abusive relationships (more emotional not physical), had a low self esteem, abused drugs, ruined friendships, acted inappropriately in stressful situations, was verbally abusive.... oh the list goes on...
When I finally admitted to myself (around 21) that I had been abused... that abuse is a tricky thing because my mom was wonderful in a lot of ways too (which caused a lot of conflicting feelings and still does from time to time)... I began to work on myself.
Working on myself was the hardest and also the most rewarding thing in the world. I had to take a long hard look at who I was and I had to chisel away at and break through years and years of limiting beliefs, of negative labels, of manipulation, of negative self talk placed on me that I eventually had adopted to get to the "real" me. I was buried under so many labels that had been reinforced and that I had adopted. I had to come out under the heavy, heavy weight of self hatred and anger at my parents, the world, God, anyone and anything... I was just angry.
The pp was right though. After I chiseled away at all the anger, what was left was a little girl in a woman's body who was in so much pain. So much pain. I had to find a way to "re-raise" the little girl within me. To take her and mother her, and tell her all the things I never heard. I had to learn to show her love, and she needed to learn to allow herself to be loved. I replaced my self talk, I defined boundaries, I began doing things I loved, I began claiming time for myself without guilt. I began replacing negative words with positive words -- I am not stubborn, I am strong-willed and sure of my beliefs. I am not defiant, I think outside of the box... I am not a mistake, I am meant to be here and I am made of the same matter as the stars in the sky and the majestic mountains. I am a child of God (your mileage may vary based on personal belief system
) ...and I have a right to be here and a right to be happy.
Around this time I confronted my mom. We have always had an unhealthy sort of codependent relationship. We could be the best of friends one minute, then the next minute she could be screaming abuses at me over a tiny arguement. It was insane, and it was also a cycle and relationship that I was contributing to as well. So while I could "blame" her for her abuse in the past, I also had to take some responsibility as an adult in allowing a cycle to continue. Wow, we had some big, big arguements around that time. It was nuts, but it was needed I think. We had to hash everything out....
Also beneath the anger, hurt, pain, blame, rage of my childhood -- I had to learn to forgive. Not for my mom, for me. I had to learn that forgiveness has nothing at all to do with the person you are forgiving -- forgiveness for me meant that I was not going to continue to live in a prison of pain, anger, rage, blame. I was carrying around this huge burden of hate, both for my mom and for myself
, and I had to let that go. I found a way to see my mom as a little girl in pain herself in a 60 year old body. I learned to really listen to her -- in subjects not even pertaining to my childhood. When I actually heard her, I heard a person with so many fears, and pain, and hang-ups, and limiting beliefs and abuse from her own childhood that she is still in denial about.
It doesn't at all excuse what was done to me, let me make that clear. It doesn't make it okay. When I learned to view my mom in that light though, it helped soften the anger. It allowed me to reclaim my personal strength and know inside myself that I have come so far in my journey at twentysomething, that I can reach out to this person in so much pain and help *parent* her in a sense. My mom has come to some realizations of her own as well since I have been on this journey.
She has asked me for my forgiveness and I have given it to her. I never wanted an apology, though it was validating. I got to a place though, where I didn't need it -- but I think I did still need the acknowledgment that she did a lot of things that were effed up.
In a weird way my abusive childhood has helped shaped me in a most positive way. Let me be clear, no one deserves abuse and it is terrible. However, for me, this journey from crumpled, broken, worthless, abused little girl (how I felt not what I actually was) to strong, loving, confident, peaceful woman has been one of the most powerful life experiences I have ever had.
I am still on that journey though!
I have to do regular "maintenance" (for lack of a better word
) on my progress. I have to be accountable. I have to maintain my level of self care and not feel at all guilty about needing regular time (at least a half an hour a day) for ME. I meditate, I pray, I get enough sleep, I eat regular meals, I get enough water, I love myself, I affirm myself, I forgive myself, I value myself, I am gentle with myself when I stumble.
I am fortunate in that I chose to have dd at 28. I think to myself, had I given birth to her at 20 I can only imagine the cycle would have continued. Having dd has been so healing for my life in that I can't control the past but I can control how I act in the future -- just knowing that I am breaking the cycle with her -- her experience won't be ANYTHING like mine growing up, even if I do occasionally raise my voice or act snappy -- she is raised with unconditional love, safety, validation, respect ... and in a sense I am giving to another little girl what no one gave to my mom, what I didn't get, and what I had to give to myself.
DD won't have to work so hard and I am thankful for that. She will never wonder if she is loved or wanted and if she knows that, I am doing a lot right.
Having dd has also been healing for my relationship with my mother. Seeing my mom with dd is very surreal. My mom is so loving toward dd, so caring, so patient, so respectful --- one thing I am working on is the fact that I have emotional reactions to my mom relating to things that happened twenty five years ago. For example, she may say to dd -- "Oh honey, grandmom doesn't want you to do X, Y ..." and I will get immediately defensive and react in that way. I am still working on that!
I think it is one way my mom tries to *right* her *wrongs*, by being so good to dd. My dd loves her and I know she loves dd so very much.
Sometimes my mom will out of the blue say things that hit me to my core. Like we will be coloring with dd or something and out of the blue she will say something like " I really wish I could have done this with you more when you were little".
Again, it doesn't excuse what she did, but when I hear things like that through the way I approach the world now --- as a healed woman instead of a broken little girl, what I hear in those words are "I am sorry, I just didn't know how to mother"....
...and I remember that saying "Be Kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle".