TRIGGER WARNING: Child abuse and post traumatic stress disorder.
Child abuse crisis information can be found at www.childhelp.org/pages/hotline-home. The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline is 800-4-A-CHILD (800-422-4453).
For Mental Health Month this May, I invited guest writers to share their stories on the blog. If you’re interested please contact me at cristicomes(at)gmail(dot)com. Although honestly to me every month should be mental health month, so if you’re unable to submit your story in May, I’m always open to taking contributions. Contact me any time.
Today’s guest post is written by a mom of 3, wife and small business owner living in the Midwest. She requested to remain anonymous.
An abused child knows her worth. It is what the captor, the one with power names her.
No karios of help exists for the child – she may seek God, other victims, or adults, but she will eternalize the abuse. She is a slut because her underwear showed through a dress. Peers dislike her because she is a bore with no sense of humor. Adults know her to be an embarrassment, a dummy, the worst.
A fake, a bitch, a disappointment, a failure, a drain.
The child works at conforming to the perfect child – one that the perpetrator will no longer berate or beat, or maybe, someday, start to love.
But then it is too late. To please, she never forms a personality, lines, boundaries, or tastes. She is moldable to better suit the whims of a person with illimitable control. The child is no one.
She has but one job, to hide the abuse. The perpetrator bets on it. The job consumes and although beatings make time crawl, the childhood that never started suddenly ends.
And one day, the child awakens and thinks, “I shouldn’t have had kids.” Because now the child is an adult with PTSD.
And she needs to be different than her only example she ever had in life.
And the smell of Cheerios sets off the memory of a bowl of Cheerios that she ate decades ago, as they melted in her mouth from warm milk, to save a one year old brother from a beating, for wasting his cereal. A shaking panic in her shoulders starts.
And as she opens the dishwasher, her lip quivers because her body remembers her mother beating her with misplaced cups, to teach her to load the dishwasher correctly.
And tiny, muddy feet make her feet burn, remembering their beating with a belt.
And her children’s giggles cause a drop in her stomach before she remembers they can laugh, they will not awaken anyone, they will not cause wrath.
And she will look at her children and wish the farrago of memories would not blast at her as they go about creating a childhood.
And she would want it to stop.
And she would hate it.
Because the idea that it gets better, that children of abuse shrug it off, outgrow it, get over it, forget it, is wrong. Hope makes it better.
Hope comes from people realizing abuse ruins, society recognizing a problem, education changing minds.
Hope comes from understanding that it is not her secret to keep and obtaining mental health care.
I take meds, work with my doctor, and confront nastiness I would rather not. I do it for my quality of life, but my children are the motivating drive. On bad days my head aches with memories and knowledge of an obvious predisposition to mental illness. On good days I recognize the wonder around me, my life, my kids. On better days I acknowledge that I am lucky – that not all abuse survivors have access, the means, and the wherewithal to get help. On the best days I want to help.
Because not all mothers can speak or recognize the cycle, everyone must speak.
Because at best she struggles daily not to repeat it, and at worse, well, she repeats the cycle.
Mental health care must be available.
Because it never goes away – that is how child abuse works. It creates and forms. It begs to be repeated.
It names victims.
Hope can insist upon a new name.