In my early life, my perfection mask was the best. I covered up all of my insecurities with accomplishments and acquisitions. But I had unconscious beliefs that I knew were the “truth”. I unconsciously knew there was something horribly wrong with me. I unconsciously knew that horrible things had happened to me. I unconsciously knew it was my fault they happened to me. So I was damaged.
But I didn’t consciously know until I was pregnant with my twins. At that point, something started to shift. My insecurities started to come forward. My panic that my children would not be safe began rising from the depths of my repressed trauma. I started to get in touch with my intuitive understanding that everything I thought was real was not real.
And by the time the twins were born, I was in a full panic most of the time. I had no idea how to care for kids. I knew I had not been taught by my own parents although I didn’t know why I knew that yet. As the memories came back and the emotions were felt, I made several promises to my kids. I would never traffic them. I would never sexually abuse them or allow anyone else to do that. I would never physically abuse them or allow anyone else to do that. I would not neglect them. I would love them unconditionally and be emotionally available to them. I would be a real mother and protector.
I wanted to do these things because I didn’t want my children to feel as damaged as I felt. I wanted them to feel safe in the world. I wanted them to wake up each morning without the dread, the terror, the anxiety, the depression that haunted me. I wanted this so bad. I wanted this more than I wanted to stay alive. But I was too late.
I was too late because my recovery didn’t go as planned. My plan was to recover from my entire childhood of trauma in a few months. I figured 12 weeks of therapy should do it right? That’s what insurance says. You can just clear this stuff out, change a few behaviors and your done right? My plan also included a lifetime of beautiful relationships. My parents would beg my forgiveness for all their horrible atrocities and agree to get therapy. My husband would love the new me with all my boundaries and emotional well-being. That was the plan. And you know what they say about plans.
While I stuck to my promise of no neglect, physical and sexual abuse, and trafficking, most of the rest of my promises went out the window. I wasn’t emotionally available. My emotions were like a ticking time-bomb. I wasn’t loving my children unconditionally. I was full of self-hate which was getting projected all over my children no matter what I did to avoid it. I was so angry. I was so controlling. I could not accept emotions from my children. I said all the wrong things. I was not a real mother. And to make matters worse, I wasn’t a protector either. I could not protect them from the abandonment. Their father left as I grew a spine. And he never looked back. I cut off my family for safety reasons. I didn’t keep my promises.
And so I had done it. I had damaged my children. I had done exactly what I feared most. It was a huge disaster and I was at the helm. But I didn’t give up. I couldn’t give up. I didn’t know if it was possible to “undamage” them, but I was going to try. So I kept healing and I kept working through the pain of my past. And slowly but surely, I stopped my angry responses. I built my tolerance for their emotions and I started to like myself a little. I started to shift my parenting. My children were both anxious and angry. They struggled to focus or sit still or calm down, and in the back of my head, I knew why. I couldn’t possibly feel like a victim about it even though I wanted to feel that way. I could blame the whole thing on the abandonment of their father, but that would be a cop out. And I knew that.
So I worked to teach them what I had learned. They had seen my transformation. They told me how impressed they were with the changes in how I related to them. So I told them it was their turn. They needed to start calming down too. Honestly, I wasn’t that hopeful about it, but I said it anyway. I taught them meditation. I taught them breathing. I taught them how to recognize their emotions and honor them in healthy ways. But I wasn’t sure it would work.
But yesterday, something amazing happened. My son was trying to explain something to me and I wasn’t hearing him right. This happens with my tinnitus sometimes. He repeated himself twice and I wasn’t getting it. I could see his temperature rising. I knew he was going to explode. I braced for the raised voice, but instead, he took a breath. He took a breath and said it again … in a calm voice.
I celebrated. I hugged him. I said I saw what he just did. I told him that most adults can’t do what he just did. He said, “Yep. I am pretty proud of myself.” My 10-year-old son stopped his anger in the moment. He’s 10. And it occurred to me.
I have spent all this time worried about damaging my kids. But maybe it was never about creating perfect human beings. Maybe it was about creating imperfect human beings with enough understanding to “undamage” themselves, to build their own capacity to deal with the life they are handed by imperfect parents. Maybe that’s where the real beauty is. Maybe it is about building resilient, emotionally aware, grateful, loving, completely imperfect children. And release them in to the world in droves. And watch everything change as they do.
In just a few days, on January 22nd, the next Building Awareness Together Facebook group will begin. In this group, I will guide members through daily steps to increase awareness of our bodies, emotions and unconscious inner conversation. Through sharing, connection and validation, we will build our understanding and confidence in our recovery journey. Sign up now and join us on January 22nd.