Survival & Recovery
The most important lesson I have ever learned, and the one that has fostered the majority of my personal healing, is that every single person deserves to be loved. If someone as awful as the people who hurt me deserve to be loved, then surely someone as unimportant and unremarkable as me deserves it, too?
I grew up in a home where my presence was not only unwanted, but resented. I will never fully understand what I did wrong by being born, but at some point my mother focused all of her self-hatred at me. It is easy for me to slip into the mindset of thinking that so much of it was beyond her control, but the truth is we all have a choice when we are adults - we do not have so many choices as children. She got sick when I was 5 or 6 and it was awful. She was in the hospital and in a lot of pain. The pain persisted alongside her new addiction to the medication that was supposed to make her better. On my bad days I try to convince myself that this is where it all went wrong, because I need a reason to convince myself to not hold on to the anger, but she was not the kindest person before that.
Even among the *invisible children I was invisible. It has been remarkable as an adult to hear how different my sibling’s experiences and memories are from my own. 3 out of 4 of them have refused to acknowledge my experiences at all and prefer to keep me far out of their lives. The 4th sibling is my big brother and he’s a pretty cool dude who married my highschool best friend. That aside, the best example of how my experiences differed comes down to Christmas. It says something that my fondest memory of Christmas growing up was of my older brother noticing I was sad and taking me to a movie. We saw Peter Pan and it was magical. Instead of calling our parents to come pick us up, we decided to walk the few miles home from the theatre. This is the only real conversation I remember having with any of my siblings during my entire childhood.
When I was 17 I began a spiral into the darkest place imaginable. That dark void remained the constant in my life for 3 years before I finally came to a breaking point. I was getting ready to leave for work and every ounce of strength, both physical and mental, evaded me. I fell to the floor of my kitchen and began to sob harder than I had in my entire life. I knew in that moment I had only 2 choices: run or die. I chose to run. An amazing human being, who happened to spend most of my life married to my dad, was willing to take me in. Just a few months before my 21st birthday I moved to Texas and lived in a stable and loving home for the first time in my life. To say I thrived would be an understatement.
There have been waves of popularity surrounding the theme of writing letters to one’s self, but I have never really been able to write one of any length. Mostly because I would never risk changing my past (as difficult as it was, it was mine and it shaped me into a version of me that I truly adore), but also because the only thing I think would benefit the younger me would be the following:
*Invisible children is a common nickname for children who have experienced or who are experiencing severe neglect. Because neglect generally does not present with physical markings it is intensely difficult to prove, prevent, or stop. Most survivors have a difficult time understanding that something bad has happened to them because abuse is most commonly categorized as physical or sexual, whereas neglect abuse has been proven to be significantly more psychologically damaging than physical or sexual abuse. There are currently very few resources for survivors of neglect.
Where other survivors of abuse may have very low self-esteem and may have trouble making healthy connections due to the form of ‘love’ they have been acquainted with being abusive, survivors of neglect are more prone to having absolutely no sense of self-esteem, self-worth, or any sense of being deserving of love in any form.