As I was growing up in a home where I was physically, emotionally, and sexually abused, where the adults were addicted to substances such as alcohol or drugs, where chaos thrived, I lived in denial. Even when I knew in my mind and in my heart that something was amiss, but wasn’t sure what; that my life was unmanageable, but wasn’t sure why; that one day I would be free but wasn’t sure when, I lived in denial. Even when I had an unrelenting hope that one day, my life would be different, I wouldn’t ever again have to suffer these atrocities, and the hurt would suddenly disappear when I was gone, I lived in denial.
“Hope is the denial of reality.”
My denial was an unconscious process. At first, I recognized inappropriate behavior and became stunned and shocked. The discernment of the impact of what was really happening was gradually suppressed until my cognizance of it was adrift entirely. It was as though my mind acquiesced and became desensitized by the constant chaos. I procured a spirit to survive early on, but that, too, dissipated with the truth.
I was fortunate enough to survive into adulthood, but the toll of a hidden truth was costly. I constantly sought approval and affection from anyone who was willing, no matter how insincere, to give it. Somehow I either attracted and/or sought out people who were compulsive and/or abusive. Despite the way (and because of the way) I was treated by them, I was often clingy and overbearing. I consistently mistrusted my feelings and felt unworthy of feeling them when I did. And then, I had difficulty identifying and expressing my feelings which perpetually left me feeling isolated in relationships.
I was a seriously flawed adult, and thought that others would easily see that. I was in total fear of the most minute amount of criticism. I sought perfectionism, yet was unable to truly recognize my accomplishments. I felt responsible for others: their feelings, their wellbeing, their happiness, their comfort, their lives. Yet, I neglected myself in all of these areas. I overextended myself by allowing others to take advantage of my good nature. When that happened, I often isolated myself from everyone, even those who truly cared for me and had my best interests at heart, because I felt such tremendous feelings of inadequacy.
What never occurred to me as a young adult was that I could escape the hands of my tormenters, but I was unable to escape both the effects of their blatant and subtle actions. I lacked emotional maturity, just another way that my abusers robbed me. Therefore, my lack of emotional grounding disguised itself in excessive responsibility. I was driven by a pseudo confidence which gave others the appearance of me being extremely mature and responsible. All along, I heard the voices of my mother and her husband telling me I was a fraud. I shared my inner feelings with no one. Creating false perceptions for others so that others would view me as happy, secure, and stable was the only way I could feel acceptance. I (foolishly) knew deep inside that if my secrets were revealed, my companions would shun me.
The coping mechanisms of not talking, not trusting, and not feeling worked well for me as a child. As an adult, those tactics kept me in a revolving pattern of broken-hearted relationships by repeating the same mistakes without any consciousnesses and each time, anticipating a different result. It’s as though I had an expectation of a merry-go-round ride that would take me on a different route the next revolution. What I really needed to do was get off the merry-go-round and buy a ticket to a better ride.
The first step of breaking the effects of denial for me was to stop the insanity of hoping that I could rewrite my past. I had to accept the reality of my past: I was a little girl who was born to a mother who was unable to love me the way a mother is supposed to love her child. Because of her inability to bond with me, she afflicted me with pain in unfathomable ways and allowed her husband, with her full knowledge, to do so as well. I was a little girl who was often afraid, often alone, and often sad. Because of the abuse and neglect I suffered, I was a little girl who could not trust anyone. I was a little girl who was robbed of a life of love, nurturing, and joy. That is the reality, and that is my past. The reality of my past, however, doesn’t mean that I cannot amass a wealth of felicity that I so richly deserve as an adult.
Grieving for myself as that little girl is painful and heart wrenching. I cry for the little girl I was. I cry for the little girl I wanted to be. And equally, I cry for the little girl I should have been. I am discovering deep-seated anger and fear, all these years later when I am far, far from the reach of my tormenters. These feelings are part of the process of grief. I am facing fear and pain even after I first decided to face the truth of my past twenty-five years ago. At that time, I proclaimed when that I would no longer suffer at the hands of my abusers.
So why do I still suffer? At that time, I allowed fear and pain to stifle my growth and get in the way of me seeing the whole picture. Now, fear and pain are promoting it. In this growth, I find solace in the knowledge what the effects of being raised by a narcissistic mother who is incapable of unconditional love do to a child. Through reflection, I can find a deeper understanding. I will allow knowledge to conquer fear and open the door for healing.