I started going to therapy, which turned out to be an excellent decision.
I had to accept that I was emotionally abused as a child. It is something I’ve been denying or at least not confronting for a long time. It was easy to think that I was just over-reacting, or it wasn’t that bad. This is something that emotional and psychological abuse does: you don’t trust your own judgement or interpretation of your experiences, because your own judgement is continually treated with contempt. I thought I was just being dramatic, or that admitting this would just be a way to get attention. But it’s not about attention. It’s about deeply feeling the pain I went through, confronting it, and helping myself heal.
Some things I have learned:
I have to honor my past selves, acknowledge what they went through, and feel the pain and sadness from those periods of my life. The 7-year-old whose feelings were dismissed and invalidated: I see you, I understand what you felt, and I’m sorry you didn’t get the support you needed. The 13-year old who was trying to hard to please God and her parents: I see you, I see what you were working so hard to do, I see that the mistakes you made were minor mistakes, just part of growing up and learning about the world. You were beautiful, you were a blossoming person who was continually shut down, shamed, and ridiculed by your parents. I’m sorry you didn’t get the encouragement you needed to grow into your self. The 16-year old who was angry, who felt mistreated and misunderstood, who sought help from adults who didn’t know how to help you: I see you, you were doing what you needed to do to survive an abusive household, and you were right and justified in your anger, you were right in your judgement that things were not right at home.
I have to grieve. I have to be sad for what happened, and sad about who I might have been without what I went through.
I can be the adult my past self needed. I am the adult who can take care of and heal my past self.
Healing is hard, painful, and good work. It takes time and space to feel the emotions I need to feel. And it’s exhausting. I can’t do it all the time. But I can make space for it in my life and heal.