“Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?” Danielle LaPorte
Many people talk the talk, but do they walk the walk? Many times in my adult life I was a downright hypocrite. I still have my moments, although now, I root myself in awareness of my behaviors so that my actions align with my words. I try my best to do what I believe to be right. Tonight, I was pondering on how a person knows when they are truly outgrowing their past.
I came up with one simple word.
Our behaviors, the decisions we make, how we view the world, how we treat others and how we treat ourselves are all indicators of our past conditioning. I am not a licensed therapist. I’m a trauma survivor who has attended therapy and spent years reading a whole lot of information trying to figure myself out and understand what had been done to me as a child.
Behaviorally, as an adult, I was a walking ball of confusion. I had no danger boundaries. I allowed abusers in my life in both friendship and romantic relationships. I faltered at being a mother. I was either overly protective or not setting proper boundaries and sometimes even shut down. There was a time before I had children that I enjoyed getting into fights. I was essentially, a mass of anger energy. Beneath all of that anger and false bravado that I spun to the world in an attempt to appear “normal”, was a deep pain that only seemed to seep out when I wrote poetry. The rest of the time, it manifested itself in negative behaviors. I made life decisions that weren’t always the best ones.
In my head I quietly lived in extreme fear of the world, but I didn’t understand why. I was having numerous panic attacks starting in my late twenties to mid-thirties. They crippled me. I would have to leave the store. There were times I believed I was dying, as my breath faltered and my palms sweat. Once, I left a whole grocery cart of groceries in the middle of an aisle and high tailed it out of the store. I didn’t know that I was having panic attacks. I just knew I felt like the walls were closing in on me, and I was filled with an overwhelming panic to get out and to safety, even if it was my car.
My child abuse also manifested itself in irritation and lashing out behaviors. For example, if my sons wanted to do something that involved an immense amount of people and/or noise, I would become agitated; begin having fear at the thought of the noisy and child filled environment, even though at the time, I had no clue that was why I was irritated. Noise levels affected my hearing. Too many humans affected my moods. I wavered, and I am sure for my sons I just appeared to be a mean mother. Meanwhile, I continued either spoiling them when I could, in the hope of remedying my failures, or I gave far too much freedom to both of them, which unknown to me, was a recipe for creating a disastrous parent/child relationship. What did I know of that? I only had a childhood on a cult and a narcissistic mother to pattern my parenting by.
As my sons grew older, it became very difficult to say no, unless I was feeling anger and/or at a snapping point. I had no boundaries allowing me to critically think through some of my parental situations. I loved my sons and was often over-protective of them when they were little. I worried constantly that someone would sexually abuse them or kidnap them. I ruminated on fear which often drove my own mind into a state of frenzy that I wasn’t equipped to handle. That is just one example of how trauma not only affects the person who suffered it, but also their future generations.
Fast forward years later, after counseling, which I now don’t foresee myself ever giving up, just for the sheer support of it, and I realize that things which used to make me exceedingly angry or even hurt, I now have the ability to observe from an adult perspective. This is how I know that I’m partway into outgrowing my abuse. My behavior no longer manifests my moods. I am not always perfect. Trust me, I can snap and be NOT nice at all when I am pushed in that direction. I am a work in progress. However, my pushing pattern has immensely changed. Where the old self used to flash very quickly, the new self simply moves with action. Actions truly do speak loudly.
We make mistakes in life. There are times I snapped and said fucked up things to or around my kids; things I can never take back. The guilt which builds up in a parent can be smothering. It can cause parents to become enabling. It can also be manipulated, if our children get wind of it. When that guilt no longer exists, I can stand in my place, owning my life experiences, saying, yes, my childhood damaged me. Yes, that also affected my sons, the third generation children of a cult survivor.
There will never be accountability for me from my own mother. I can’t sit around waiting for someone to say “I’m sorry”, or come rescue me, in order to change my life or my future. I am ultimately responsible for me and my decisions. I can make boundaries and firmly stand by them. I get to decide my journey. I get to say no to anyone who doesn’t respect me. I get to drop people out of my life who have no empathy for those who have been through trauma. I can do it any way I choose if it feels safe and right. I get to outgrow my trauma.
It doesn’t mean the trauma doesn’t exist. It doesn’t mean the past doesn’t love to keep its grimy fingers dug into our flesh. For me, the very first step to outgrowing my trauma was to accept that it happened and then to accept I can never change the past. The next step was to then, with vulnerability and no shame, look at my own behaviors and assess what I could change about myself. Then I had to be willing to do the work. Part of that work includes learning to be alright with saying no, and putting your well-being at the forefront of your life. It’s not easy work, but like climbing a mountain, when at the top you see that beautiful view, it’s worth every step.
I feel alright with where I am right now. I listen to people everywhere complaining about life, and I just think about how many people feel truly lucky just to be alive. I am one of those people. I am lucky as fuck to be alive. It doesn’t mean I don’t cry sometimes or don’t feel the totality of the apathy that’s rampant in the world. It just means that I am in acceptance of the reality that I can only change myself. Only I can outgrow my abuse by eliminating behaviors which were once ruled by it. I don’t wait for someone else to take accountability. I don’t wait for tomorrow. Awareness is a state of being; a way of life. Mindfulness becomes second nature. Self-love begins to feel good instead of selfish. We learn what we can and cannot do, and that becomes our boundary line. We then learn to hold that line like a warrior.