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Mourning the Loss of My 'Inner Child'

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When I was just little, I was taken away from myself. Through the selfish and violent actions of others, the innocence of the child within me was destroyed and broken, eradicated as though she never existed. All her hopes and dreams died. Her emotions were quashed, battered and buried. She was gone.

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I’ve heard it said, have seen it written, that we need to nurture our “inner child.” Supposedly we should let them play, let them heal and not take ourselves so seriously. There are countless quotes about letting yourself be the person you dreamed of being when you were a child. But it’s been so long, I don’t even remember what she looked like anymore. I struggle to believe she even ever existed. How can I remember what she dreamed of? How can I not be sensitive or serious? To do that you would need to have been a child, to have had one inside of you to imitate, to understand how one should act and feel.

I was young, I was small, but I do not ever remember being childlike, carefree, excited by the prospect of a future where anything was possible. There was no place for that kind of whimsy — I needed to survive. While a child is in need of care, I needed to be strong, and take care of myself and others, or at the very least portray that to those around me. There were secrets to keep, and people to protect, there was fear of appearing fragile, or letting anyone see vulnerabilities that would be exploited. Requiring or requesting nurturing or help would make me a burden and a burden would be discarded or rejected.

It is a cold hard fact, but there is no inner child to recover. She is gone, buried somewhere in an unmarked grave. But on reflection I can see I never allowed myself closure on that, I just replaced her as best I could and moved on. Survival depended on it. My sanity depended on it.

There is another facet of grief, and that is anger. I am not an angry person, not outwardly anyway, but there is also an element of anger that I feel towards myself that I need to admit, too. Like someone may seek to find a reason or place blame for a great loss, I also feel that deep resentment towards the person I feel was at fault. While rationally this may seem silly, the anger isn’t directed at someone else. It is at me, myself.

I lost me. I feel like I wasn’t strong enough to fight the things that hurt me and caused my loss of self. I might have been better at hiding, maybe I should have been braver, maybe if I had been smarter, or prettier, or more assertive? As the years have progressed, I have not been able to mend the broken pieces alone, and that makes me feel frustration and certain anger towards myself too. Why? Because it feels like it was all my fault because I was not the protector for myself that I should have been, and I hate to become vulnerable by admitting that I’m weak. I feel that if I was a stronger person that this would not be an issue, I would be different, undamaged, whole.

When people talk about the “inner child,”it brings a sense of revulsion up in me. There is a sensation of the world spinning and I want to be sick. I want to tell them I never felt like a child, and that it just hurts and sickens me to think of myself as one. This is something I have known for years, the sense of horror and disgust, but I have never thought of it in this context before. Do I need to acknowledge my grief and the anger at the death of myself so long ago, the loss of a carefree life?

It might be something to ponder on more, to think about my recovery in a different way. Maybe I am not recovering from “just” depression, or anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder, or whatever the heck other names and titles there might be that describe my various foibles and mental illnesses. Maybe I first need to recover the lose of my identity and childhood. To find a way to accept myself, just as I am. How? I have no idea at this stage, it isn’t something I feel able to discuss “out aloud” yet, but maybe one day.

If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or domestic violence and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

Thinkstock photo KatarinaGondova

Originally published: May 11, 2017
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