My father says my spunkiness coincided with my mother signing me up for dance lessons at the age of two.
I quickly became obsessed with all things movement.
I would climb onto any level surface, preferably higher than other people so I could be the center of attention, and shake my hips, making up lyrics to the melody inside my head.
Dance lessons gave me confidence, not that I needed any at two years old.
Back then, my life was secure.
My parents, though young and poor, were married and seemed happy.
My father played in a band and worked in my uncle’s restaurant, and my mom worked part-time at a department store jewelry counter and raised my big brother and me full-time.
We lived in a little grey house, and our neighbors had kids our age and chickens that we chased around the yard.
We walked to school almost every day.
Nights were spent in my father’s “music room” listening to my parents’ records and dancing as they drank and smoked.
Weekends were lived outside with my older brother digging to China, or inside making forts with our blankets and beds (we shared a room), or hanging out at my Uncle Raymond’s smorgasbord eating gumbo and drinking the little coffee creamer cups that had been set out for the customers.
In the summer, we’d visit my paternal grandparents in the Mississippi Delta.
I was innocent and life was solid and good.
Sometime later, cracks began to surface.
I remember vividly that it started with a visit to my maternal grandparents’ house.
These were not relatives we saw often or even at all up to this point, and at the time I’d been too young to question why.
Years later, not only would I know exactly why, but I would have strong memories of being sexually abused by my grandfather on this very trip.
That same year or not long after, a maternal cousin came to visit. He and the friend with him not only abused me but also my brother.
These experiences began a very long childhood full of shame, guilt and confusion that included even more trauma and abuse.
At the age of twenty-five, I started walking a journey of healing that is still taking place.
I’ve not only dealt with the shame of my sexual abuse, but I have also forgiven those who hurt me.
I know that in all likelihood, because sexual abuse is cyclical in nature, my abusers most likely had been abused.
What I’ve learned in the years since healing my wounds is that childhood trauma creates massive problems in adulthood if not healed beforehand.
And in so many cases, because we so desperately want to push away our traumatic feelings and aren’t mature enough to understand that they must be brought to light, we don’t heal the pain when we should.
Sadly, many times, childhood trauma victims even start their own families, hoping that having one of their own will somehow magically “fix” the brokenness they see inside them.
That’s exactly what I did.
I thought marrying a boy who looked so good on paper would make me look good, too. After all, who wouldn’t want to hitch their wagon to the star quarterback and pitcher? The most good-looking guy on campus with the great family?
Since these were all the qualities I lacked in my own life (I’d long given up on having any dreams or goals of my own), I latched onto him like a wet blanket he couldn’t peel off if he’d tried.
I proceeded to do the same thing to my children.
I gave birth to four beautiful gifts, and before long, I was using them to heal my issues.
If I couldn’t live my own life, I would live through them. They would do all the things I never got to do because of the brokenness I felt and the instability my family faced.
Any little “error” or “flaw” I noticed in them I was quick to point out. It was my job to protect them from outside hurt, right?
Little did I know that their mother criticizing them did far worse damage to their tiny souls than any outside force could ever do.
Turning thirty-three rocked my world. Not only did I finally start to feel like an adult, but also our family had recently moved to a new town with no friends and no relatives.
Job and financial issues were causing stress, and my husband and I had been married just long enough to start to regret it.
Those couple of years between thirty-three and thirty-six were utterly miserable, but they were also a time of growth for me.
Because I felt so alone, I started writing a private blog.
On a whim I shared it, and overnight it became a success. (So much so, I started to hate being “known.” But that’s a post for another day.)
I began to learn that there were reasons why I was the way I was.
Despite how nonchalant my parents had been about everything my brother and I had gone through (nonchalant, I’m certain, because they thought childhood trauma was “normal”), our childhood pain had created ripples that had affected us long into adulthood, which, subsequently, had affected our spouses and children, too.
One evening I attended a seminar for our local school.
The subject was on the ACE scale. ACE is an acronym that stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences.
What research has found is that the number of traumatic events we go through in childhood directly corresponds to our mental, emotional and physical health both in childhood and adulthood.
In other words, our childhood matters.
Are some of us naturally able to make it through a rough childhood unscathed?
Well, the answer is, while it might appear that way, all research points to a firm no. Our body internalizes that pain and it will indeed seep out at some point in some way.
*It’s important for me to note here that I’m NOT a licensed therapist and do not make any claims to have medical expertise. Please seek professional help if needed!* (Full disclosure on my website.)
I wanted to heal from my pain without professional help.
It’s not that I’m stubborn, it’s that our family was struggling financially, and I wasn’t in a position to pay for what I saw then as unnecessary medical services.
So I studied every blog, website, YouTube video, sermon, TedTalk- anything I could get my hands on that would teach me a little more about Adverse Childhood Experiences and how to heal from them.
Over the last couple of years I have come to view informed-therapy as vital to healing.
But I’m also thankful we live in a world where educated people are unafraid to share their knowledge, a positive aspect of social media!
I worked hard to heal my old wounds. It took a lot of talking, journaling, forgiving, and in my case, praying.
What I now know is I will be healing for the rest of my life.
All of us have some adverse events in our childhood.
Life is messy and hard and it isn’t linear, either. There are peaks and valleys.
We are raised by imperfect people and we have no choice but to rely on them during childhood. Survival becomes a way of life for some of us.
Here are some practices that have helped me heal from childhood trauma:
- In a past post, I discussed how I reframe negative events to heal.
There are professional ways to do this, but for me it simply means I go back to the event and see it from a different perspective.
I step into the shoes of the other person or the event itself and view it as the imperfect fallen thing or person it was. And then I’m able to let it go.
2. I also refrain from things I know will make my thoughts worse.
Searching people from my past online, talking about certain moments from childhood, drinking alcohol, even listening to certain songs, can send me down a dark path.
I have to refrain from choosing to go down those roads.
3. Finally, I reform my thoughts and habits.
I listed thoughts first because in my opinion, everything begins in the mind.
Recent science shows when we purposely hold a thought captive and change it, we fire off new pathways in the brain.
New thoughts naturally lead to new habits, better habits, that bring better times our way.
Positive energy is like the peppy cheerleader screaming chants in your ear. You want to slap her across the face, but soon enough you’re chanting right along with her.
Speaking of the cheerleader, believe it or not, she probably has some childhood trauma, too.
My husband who looked so good on paper?
Yes, he was a star athlete, so good-looking (still is! ), and came from a phenomenal family I now call my own. But even he came into our marriage with loads of baggage.
His wasn’t quite as visible as mine, which is why the most important way we heal is by loving each other without judgment, which is what Christ does for us.