I don’t remember a lot of things from my childhood. And a lot of what I do remember is painful.
Or I just don’t know if what I remember actually happened or was just told to me. As an adult now I understand that memory loss is a part of growing up with trauma.
The earliest memory I have is a painful one. I couldn’t have been older than 3 or 4 years.
I really can’t be sure.
The sunlight through the windows tinted the living room yellow as I stood watching and listening in the hallway.
My parents are arguing. Again.
I remember my mom by the front door.
At some point I stood between the two.
Then my mom stormed out.
I ran to my bedroom and looked out the window.
From my window you can see the playground and the parking spaces.
My mom got in the car.
And she was gone.
Why was she leaving?
Where was she going?
My parents divorced not long after my younger sister was born.
And all of my memories of the two them together is painful.
I grew up with the story that my mother didn’t want us.
As an adult, I don’t know how much of that was true.
But as a kid that story really shaped the relationship we had.
I mean she did leave us behind right?
It shaped my beliefs about love, being a parent, and ultimately who I wanted to become.
Throughout my child and young adulthood, I sought validation and love.
All I wanted to be was loved. And to feel accepted.
In many ways I still am looking for validation and love.
I wanted to be important and wanted to be someone that others would be proud of.
So I accepted less than what I deserved.
And allowed friends to bully me or pressure me into believing a certain image of myself.
This, like many young girls growing up, gave me a distorted body image, and I developed an unhealthy relationship with food. I believed that if I just looked a certain way I would be accepted. I would be loved. Like the other girls in my class. But not until I obtained that image.
I worked hard in school. Because I had to get good grades so that I can attend college and get a good job.
I was not going to end up like my mother, or father even.
That was one thing that I carried with me for as long as I can remember.
I didn’t want to be my parents.
To me they represented unhappiness, loneliness, poverty, and everything that I was not supposed to be.
My mother never finished High School. She dated men that were less her worth, and I think made her feel less deserving.
Alcoholics, drug addicts, sexual predators, abusers.
Sometimes it felt like she chose them over her kids.
Sometimes I think she did out of desperation and not really knowing what she should do.
I can’t really speak for her though.
I just knew that I didn’t want to end up like that.
I wanted to be valued and loved.
My dad finished college and eventually went on to get an additional degree.
But he still wasn’t happy. And he didn’t know how to manage money.
I remember money being a big problem in the house growing up.
We often got food from the food pantry at the local church down the street.
One Christmas, I remember receiving presents from a charity- I think the Salvation Army.
I was so thankful for those gifts.
But I remember the shame knowing that the other kids in my class didn’t have to get charity gifts for Christmas.
So I had to make sure that I wouldn’t end up like my dad either.
I had to be better.
All the decisions I made in my life was to avoid becoming what my parents had become.
I went to college because that is what I was supposed to do.
I got a job, because that is what I was supposed to do.
I did everything I was “supposed” to do.
I was the “good” child.
I was expected to do well.
To be successful.
To do great things.
I found myself on a pedestal that I didn’t know how to come down from.
I was suddenly held to expectations by my friends and family.
I was expected to be a certain way. To do certain things.
I couldn’t make mistakes, so I was very careful.
It became too much for me.
I hated it.
I hated that my own mother didn’t know who I really was.
She just loved this image of me.
I was angry.
My mom didn’t know me.
She still doesn’t know me.
I built so many walls around myself, I didn’t let her in.
I didn’t want to get hurt again.
I don’t want to get hurt again.
I was angry at my mother for not knowing how to break down the walls and see me for who I really was.
At the same time anytime I showed her pieces of the real me, I felt like I couldn’t be loved.
Overtime these walls became thicker and taller. I no longer kept my mother at a distance. But everyone.
I didn’t want to let people in. Because if I did, I knew that I would get hurt. That I would be left. And I couldn’t be sure that I could be loved.
That’s the thing about childhood trauma. It shapes you in so many different ways, and if you don’t acknowledge the hurt you can’t really heal. But it still haunts you.
And one memory can shape your whole being. One moment.
I have so many secrets. So many memories that I have kept buried for long.
I am scared to visit them again.
To share them out loud.
But I am scared that if I never do,
then I’ll never climb over these WALLS.
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