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I woke up to familiar sounds.
It was dark, but I knew the drill: rub eyes, sit up, and wait for the inevitable chaos to consume the entire household.
It always began in the lounge downstairs, and like a raging bushfire, it would soon engulf me too.
This was a frequent occurrence. Into the wee hours of the morning, drunken rampages would consist of insistent screaming, which I would be forced to witness.
In the beginning, I would cry and beg and scream too. I was too small to actually stop anything, although there were times I had tried.
But toward the end of it, I became so numb that I would just sit on the bottom of the stairs, wait for it to be over, fixing my gaze onto one point of the room with everything else in my periphery.
Most of my school days were spent in a haze of sleep deprivation, and every time the sun would set, a most beautiful natural spectacle, I knew it marked the beginning of another long night.
I craved the light of day in ways I couldn’t begin to express.
This is how I grew up.
My formative years were a battlefield, and I played good, little soldier.
Domestic violence demands silence, and you know better than to be telling anyone what is happening behind closed doors. The one and only time I had tried, I suffered the consequences of getting others involved, chastised for seeking help.
The rampages would be followed by meaningless apologies, awkward hugs, and promises fated only to be broken.
While some homes were filled with warmth, love, and understanding—something I could only witness when I stayed with friends—mine had been filled with the worst kinds of trauma that would alter my psyche well into my adulthood.
As a child, I was always in an extremely frightening, dangerous, and overwhelming position. It was far beyond what I could process, mentally and emotionally, and I was often in a state of deep despair.
I grew up trying to avoid conflict at all costs, never asking for help, and having disconnected and damaged connections because I had an innate fear of rejection and shattered self-worth.
To this day, when someone unexpectedly touches me, I jolt.
There was a time when I believed overcoming trauma of that magnitude would be impossible, until the day my daughter was born.
I had gotten pregnant young and by accident (although I promised myself that I would never be a parent), and I had to confront all the fears of how I would have to be the one who broke the cycle of abuse.
I promised myself that day, as I stared into two blue eyes, that my daughter would never come from a home like that. That she would know love (physical, emotional, and mental), understanding, kindness, and above all else, that with me, she would always be safe.
She is the only person in my life who I hug a thousand times a day, wrapping that tiny body in my arms and squeezing until a belly laugh escapes, and she playfully yells, “Stop, mom! You’re killing me with cuddles!”
But I had to delve into all of the demons of my past to be able to be a better person, to be able to stare trauma down and say, “No more.” To be able to fail on some days while being kind to myself and spectacularly succeed on others.
These are the most important things that have helped me overcome childhood trauma and love addiction:
Affirming that I am safe now
I spent a great deal of time reassuring myself that I was safe. A simple affirmation I used just before falling asleep was, “You are safe.”
Just before we blissfully slip into slumber, our brains enter what is known as Theta State. While in this state, our mind is capable of deep and profound learning, healing, and growth.
I repeated these three simple words at night until I started to see my everyday reactions reaffirming this belief in a natural way.
I am no longer that scared, little girl—I am the woman she fought to become.
Finding the recovery program
I wish that I had done this sooner rather than later, but once I found the program and a support group who wholeheartedly related to everything I had experienced, I lost the sense of being alone and isolated.
I was not alone in trauma. I was surrounded by people who had gone through similar experiences and had come out the other side as better parents, better partners, and just better humans. They encouraged me with grace to ask for help when I felt I needed it and gave me some tough love when I strayed off the path I was forging for myself.
I discovered what I truly valued within myself, as well as what I valued in others. I also learned how to form boundaries that I regularly enforced as a way of showing that I loved myself enough to do that.
This has solidified for me that I am worthy of being treated with respect, decency, and honesty and that I am worthy of healthy love—on the flip side of that, giving it freely to others.
Distancing myself from toxicity and toxic people
I don’t like saying toxic people because I believe that we are all struggling in our own ways and that we always need to practice kindness, but there are people who come into our lives, wreak havoc, and place their pain at our feet—some will do it callously and others are simply unaware they are doing it.
The beauty of my healing was my ability to recognize toxicity. To know that my own healing had to come from an environment of peace and connections that were rooted in healthy behaviors.
I also came to terms with my own toxicity. I had to take responsibility for my own unhealthy behaviour, assuring the people I cared about that I would make amends and follow it up with action, or letting go of connections because we simply were not good for each other. Toxicity is a two-way street.
Health and exercise
The simple truth is that there are some really striking relations between our neurobiological states and the way we deal with stress.
When we find ourselves stressed or dealing with painful traumas, it generates an inflammatory response in our bodies, the same way it would if we had a physical injury.
Our brains need fuel to be able to function in a healthy way and get past the pain. It affects our mood and the way we deal with situations and the people in our lives.
I minimized my mood swings and a great deal of my depression symptoms by simply focusing on feeding myself well. Then I paired it up with exercise—either running in the early morning and watching the sunrise, or bringing myself to my mat for a yoga session.
Healing from childhood trauma is not impossible; it’s just really hard, but nothing is worth more. In every moment, we are gifted to do things differently and that aren’t based on the programming we had received as children.
Then we become invaluable in raising the next generation with the things we have taught ourselves through sheer grit and determination.
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