(From the Prompt on theCreative.cafe
“where I come from
men and women wear scars with pride”
– H. Lyonga, SCARS)
There must be an algorithm that dictates the length of time one needs to be in therapy that is dependent on the following: what age in one’s childhood he first became subjected to emotional and mental abuse; how long he endured the abuse before he was able to escape from its source; and at what age he finally decides to seek therapy to heal the scars that remain. For me, I’ve been in and out of talk therapy for 28 years and my scars healed somewhat, enough so that I was able to call myself “happy”, during which time I had a successful career, good marriage and raised three delightful children.
But now that the career is over and the nest is empty, I’ve noticed some oozing gaps have appeared in my formerly, yet tenuously healed scars. Even as my husband and I are learning and adjusting to the vast changes one goes through upon retirement and saying goodbye to our now adult children, I seem to be digressing dangerously so, to the point that my scars are taking over my psyche and I am very alarmed and frightened. And quite resentful.
The truth is, the older I get, the deeper the scars penetrate and infest, flourishing and thriving against my greatest efforts to mend them back to the point that I can live in relative synchronic co-existence with them. As a young adult, I didn’t know any different, that is, I assumed everyone had inadequate, lousy childhoods in some form or another and that was just the way life is and we all just move on into adulthood, tentatively believing that we made it through relatively unscathed. We’re grown-ups now and we presumably plan to do try to do things differently should we ever become parents. Alternatively, we found our childhood to be so awful that we plan to never, ever become parents, because as I said, we don’t know any different. Or we may be convinced that our own childhood, with all its pain and heartache, was relatively normal so we just get over our sad selves and move on, becoming parents or not.
Emotional scars can lay dormant for years, especially if you’re too busy living, working, socializing, planning, waiting…..waiting for your life plans to come to fruition. But sometimes the plans go awry, things don’t turn out as planned. And you wonder why. Meanwhile, the emotional childhood abuse continues to fester and at some point, you think maybe you want to clear some cobwebs, maybe you should talk to a professional and get your mind right so your plans can fall back into line.
So you begin seeing a therapist. And fucking all hell breaks loose. You find out that you are so unbelievably damaged and you’ve been carrying these hideous scars for years and years-so much wasted time. Is it too late, you ask? Can you fix me, you plead? Thus begins the agonizing commitment to attend therapy until you are able to resolve these issues, heal these scars, and finally make you a whole and worthy person that you never even knew existed. But it’s taking so long! And costing so much! It’s all so painful! And you learn and repeat the newly acquired language of psychobabble. And hopefully, eventually, over time, you feel as though you’re cured, you’re scars are healed, you’ve learned to forgive yourself and others. So you end therapy, feeling confident and purposeful. Your life truly begins. You are successful. You find love and get married. Maybe stepping back into a few sessions with your therapist every now and then, when you experience these big life events. Reassuring yourself that all is still good, the scars are still healed, and you’ve learned so much and maybe even consider yourself a better person for having experienced the childhood you endured. You’re wise, enlightened, you know what not to do.
That’s essentially the experience I had. I married and we happily, willingly, cheerfully, had three children. We worked hard in our careers, we engaged with our children, always conscientious and aware of their lives — they were the center of the universe that was our family, as they should be, because that was our job. We had 18 years to do our job of raising the best children they could be into the best adults they could be, doing the best job that we could. And we succeeded. Beautifully, in fact. My husband was lucky enough to have had a good, solid and happy childhood so he was able to bring all of that to the table. Me, not so much. But what I did bring to the table was reality, preparation for their independence and their future, education on how to cope with difficulties, amongst many other life lessons. And I learned that literally every single moment of my childrens’ lives were teaching moments. And I wanted to see them off into their future with as few scars as possible.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, as I was busy living this life, I was subconsciously observing and absorbing what could have been, what should have been, for my own lost and damaged childhood. At each major juncture of my childrens’ lives, we, as their parents, were able to do the “right” things, the “right” way, relatively speaking of course, because there are many right, and wrong, ways to raise children, but we felt confident that we were doing a good job, mainly because we were constantly aware of them, and their presence in our family. There was, and is, a tremendous amount of love in our family. We all participated equally in being a family that was always filled with love, respect, attention, availability, awareness, concern, trust, discipline and a sense of purity in all these areas. Of course we had issues! God help me, I was on pins and needles the whole time, just positive I was ruining lives pell mell and only when they became adults did I allow myself to be relieved that they made it through in spite of having me as a mother. Dare I say, maybe because I was their mother. I only recently allowed myself a scintilla of credit to their success, which I define as happiness, and moved past the idea that I was a detriment that they were able to overcome.
So back to the oozing scars. Now that I have the time and freedom to relax and rest, my mental health has been rapidly deteriorating, and I believe that the past childhood emotional abuse is pushing, pushing, pushing me towards utter insanity. I now have such a keen awareness of all that I was denied, all the loss and abandonment that I endured, all that I have never truly resolved even though I’ve been trying for close to 30 years. Ignorance was bliss for so long. I was better off not knowing what I never received and deserved. But now it’s too late, and the scars are opening up and swallowing me whole. It seems that no amount of therapy or medication or shock treatments or removing toxic people from my life or any number of things I’ve tried to get better is going to work. I, along with my hideous scars, have become that toxic person that no one can deal with. I feel alone in my misery and as helpless and hopeless as I’ve ever been. But damaged though my mind is, I am still able to constantly and consistently love my husband and children and we are still a family. They see through the ugly scars and love me all the more for it. I’m still fighting for my life and in that regard, I am indeed not alone. We are a team and we are determined to knit and suture and maybe even eradicate those scars. That’s what every damaged child inside of so many of us deserve. God help us all, because there are many of us who will never heal. Please let me be one that does, before it’s too late.