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How I’m Moving Past My Childhood Trauma

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When he took my innocence, I was 8 years old. No, innocence in this case isn’t what you and so many others are thinking. Innocence, in my case, is my childhood. That carefree nature you have as a child, lust for as a teen, lose as an adult. The carefree attitude that sends you spiraling off a bike into a thorn bush, jumping on your bed until you almost hit the ceiling fan and eating as much junk as you want because tomorrow erases today.

My innocence was clouded by a man, whom I loved and was loved by in return. A man who helped raise me, shape me and name me. You give these adults your trust as a child, you give them yourself and pray to absolutely everything they will have and protect your back, and not break it with the never-relenting smog of self-hatred they sometimes have for themselves. Most times, that trust is honored, and sometimes the latter. The latter results in an 8-year-old witnessing a father lose himself, crush his own worth and squander whatever sense of life he had to begin with.

What will trauma do to someone this young? How will their mental health be affected, or even obliterated?

Children see a lot of things they don’t understand. They see an anthill, but don’t understand the colony beneath it, or how much weight one small ant can carry on its back. They don’t understand the crushing agony when a single parent loses their job, marriage, house or when they lose it because they’ve lost themselves. They do, however, understand excess of anything to cope with loss, isn’t healthy. I think there is an unspoken rule, anything you do harmful to yourself, you do it behind closed doors and away from a child… or maybe I just thought that was a rule.

When I was 8, I learned how much a human can carry on their back. I learned agony and pain, I learned how many little pills from that orange bottle someone can take before they don’t look like themselves. When I was 9, I learned that on all accounts, it wasn’t very much, and eventually a child would be without a father. I learned secret keeping, and that I wouldn’t tell my mom, because even though he was a wreck, I loved him more than the person he turned out to be at the end.

When you make the executive decision, as a father, to remove yourself from your little girl’s life, she may be OK, but she will never be the same again. Leaves still fall from trees, seasons still change, time still goes by, but a part of her life, the one where she calls someone “dad,” ceases to exist. That part, if you let it, will take your brain, and turn it to mush. It will erase any sense of clarity you had and rip it apart at the seams. This is all to say, your future may be filled with some mental illnesses that weren’t present before.

You learn as you age, what mental health is, what an ill mind looks like compared to a healthy one, and how one’s experiences growing up can so easily damage the sound, healthy portion. You learn you are not broken, you don’t need “fixing,” you just need some assistance. Nature versus nurture is such an overdone topic, but something is to be said on how one parent can do everything right, and one can do that much more wrong. If I wasn’t OK, I wouldn’t be typing this, right? If he really did so wrong, was it countered by the good she did? An interesting thought, but I don’t think that’s how it works.

Our brains are resilient as hell, they take in harmful information and then slowly work on warping it to fit the holder’s narrative. You can witness something so horrible and untimely, but in a few years, maybe it won’t hurt as bad as the hour after you witnessed it. It’s a good thing, really, because without that superpower, a lot of us would be endlessly struggling, and therapy might only heighten the pain.

Mental health is something that can easily be corrupted as we grow, experience and change. I remember the years of childhood that were spent without the constant and debilitating effects of growing up. I remember not going to therapy, psychologists and doctors. I remember what life was before being diagnosed and I remember how I felt before there was even an inkling of an idea that something was wrong. Trauma uncovers things that could’ve stayed hidden forever; it uncovers the ugly side of your brain and how it functions under extreme amounts of pressure, or self-doubt.

The more knowledge of the world you have, the less the world may matter to you, because that knowledge comes with the severely damaging aspects that you can’t unlearn, try as you may. You’re told time and time again that, “No, the world is good and people in it love you. Parts are bad, but not everything — not all of it.” Not all of it, no… right?

To think the world was all bad, I would have to be some sort of monster, I would have to be sick to think that. Newsflash, I am. So what? I see the world differently, different experiences, different results. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. The game of life seriously screws over a large percentage of people living it, it deals them bad hands, gives them a bunch of junk to haul around with them that’s invisible to the naked eye and lets them fend for themselves. The world seriously sometimes sucks for this percentage, and it seems like luck decides to go on a bathroom break anytime they need it.

All of this isn’t to say we are screwed just because we were screwed over, though. It just means we take a different approach, go a different route, try again. We may have to try a bit harder than our healthy acquaintances, but we will get there so long as we validate ourselves along the way. Good job at getting dressed today, that is an awesome achievement. Good job on remembering to brush your teeth, so proud of you. I validate myself on any small accomplishment, because to me, they result in huge mindset changes.

At the start of this, I revealed to you what properties of life can damage you, and which damaged me. I am not damaged goods, though, and neither are you. We are all working, functioning, growing, changing beings and we are placed in a world, where when things turn out bad, we hold onto our ever-so-delicate mentality for dear life.

Getty image by Bohdan Skrypnyk

Originally published: June 24, 2021
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