Sometimes I wonder if you can see me the way that I sometimes see myself.
I’m struggling at times to find my way in this world, to feel worthy of love, value, and belonging.
Sometimes I think that you can see the shame that underneath the clothes I so neatly picked out this morning, the respectable profession I attend every day, the university degree I just achieved, and the three children I am doing a great job of raising, therein lies a little girl.
A girl who lived a life in a world where shattered glass, sleepless nights, booze, blood, tears, and chaos filled most of her days. A little girl who was conditioned to accept violence and abuse, disappointment and pain, by the people who were supposed to protect her. With a mom who wasn’t ever really present, never attended a single soccer practice, but would never miss a Friday night at the bar. With a dad who visited annually, and otherwise not at all.
A life that created a pattern so deeply imprinted into the root of her psyche that this became her frame of reference…her “normal.” And this is where she got her map of the world. And I wonder as I walk in this world, trying to create a life that is so different, if you can see me stumble.
The struggle is when the model that molded you is not the one you want to follow. It is like trying to learn a new language when the opportunity for learning has already closed. When you see me watching the husband and wife, the father and child, or the couple sharing a tender kiss, it is because I am researching what healthy looks like.
And as it seems to flow so easily for them, it can be such hard work for me to replicate. The struggle to choose better relationships, because as much as I am learning what that is supposed to look like, it is not yet always a comfortable place to be.
The truth is, this kind of trauma never really goes away. You can face it, learn from it, and find the gifts in it. The impacts you can recognize, but it doesn’t make them disappear. It means walking in this world with an awareness of this distorted lens and skewed perception and trying to respond with logic. And the struggle it is to carry the shame. Shame, as if I was dirty and bad, worth less than those who grew up with love, safety, and security. As if as a child, it was my wrong choices that led me to those experiences, and it has made me bad and unlovable.
And in these moments, I am learning to remember that I am the same girl who when living that story walked around with a spirit full of light and love. With a smile that could ignite your heart. I am strong and beautiful and resilient and kind. All of those stories shaped me into who I am today, and there are gifts in all of that. I am a survivor. I am creating a life filled with love, healing, reflection, and hard work. Under this healthy body I work to keep, this mind I am slowly changing the messages in, and the spirit inside I am nurturing, shame rears its ugly head only once in awhile.
But what about the other survivors? The people who haven’t found the gifts or know they lived a life, but deserved so much more? They may be the homeless ones you see sleeping on the streets or asking for money. The drug dealer around the corner, the social assistance recipient, the abuser, the drug addict, the prostitute, and the neglectful parent.
Sometimes I hear them being blamed. Blamed for making bad choices in their lives, as if the other way was so easy for them, but they consciously chose the hard road. Can you see that they are in fact survivors? For some of them, it is amazing that they are even still walking in this world, that the depth of trauma and pain they have already experienced is unimaginable.They have lived a life, molded, conditioned, and patterned in an unhealthy way, for which they had no choice. A map of the world so different from your own.
And, yes, when we can begin to understand our trauma and gain awareness, it is our responsibility to make change. This is not to excuse behavior or make it acceptable. But for the ones that have not yet made it there, instead of blaming and judging, could we pause for one moment to think about what their story might be? Could we extend an empathetic thought, treat them with kindness and dignity? Respect them as the human being that they are?
For I know that I too could have just as easily found myself in any of these places, and this is the very least that I could wish for.
Author: Johanna Goodfellow
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Travis May