PARENTING AS A CHILD ABUSE SURVIVOR
I am a woman. I am a wife. I am a mom. I have dealt with an eating disorder, abuse, and mental illness. I am a survivor.
I was emotionally abused for 10+ Years and physically abused for 7 of those years (every day for 5, off and on for 2) by a parent. The person who was supposed to be my guide, my champion, supposed to be everything, was instead my tormentor. I went through my childhood with the expectation of perfection placed on me (and criticized, put down, insulted if not) and my adolescent years with an unthinkable amount of fear. I was terrified to go home, hell terrified of the drive home. Terrified to put one toe anywhere, let alone out of line. Terrified to be anything other than perfect and make my parents and those around me happy.
I didn’t have a good role model for being a mom growing up. I didn’t know what that looked like, how it felt, or what to do to be one. I know that I didn’t want to have children until I had dealt with my issues, come to terms with my past and had moved forward. I knew that as a parent, there would be times when I would have a harder time than most, when I would have a flashback. What I didn’t realize was what exactly that would entail and what form it would take.
When we had our first child, the “do it all yourself perfectly with a smile on your face” became my every waking moment. I don’t think that this is uncommon. Every new parent goes through this to some extent. Being a parent is hard and there is an expectation of handling it all with grace applied. The difference for me was that I didn’t ask for help because that would be a failure. I wouldn’t be the perfect mother who could do it all. The need to be perfect and please everyone was apparently still very deeply ingrained. So much so, that I ended up with Postpartum Depression and severely overwhelmed.
As he grew, and we had our second child, I started to realize what my triggers as a parent are and which ones are a direct result of my upbringing.
One of my prominent triggers is when my children crawl on me or constantly be on me. This isn’t a constant issue, but on tough days it can set me over the edge to where I need an immediate break. A simple trip to another room (door shut), a couple of deep breathes and I can rejoin the fun. This doesn’t fix my bad day, but it fixes the immediate tension in my body from the touch.
One of my other prominent triggers is expectation and discipline. Every day I watch myself, a part of me worried that I will raise my voice too much, that I would be too hard in my discipline, too demanding of my sweet children. Discipline is very hard for me. I try to be firm without being intimidating, but even that is a very fine line. I know that logically I am nowhere near what I experienced, and I know that I will never get to that point.
This is what being a survivor is to me. Having forgiven my mother, dealt with my past, and moved forward, but still dealing with the memories. The flashbacks. The triggers. It’s also knowing that I do not want my children to suffer, to live in that constant fear, to deal with what I dealt with, and doing everything I can to prevent that from happening. One day, when they are older, I will sit them down and talk with them about what happened to me. What I went through, how I coped and how I became the parent that I am now.
Having gone through my abuse, I became a better parent. A better wife. A better person. I learned (before I had children) that what happened to me was part of a larger chain of people. That I was abused because that was all that she knew. That was how she thought to guide and help me. I know that she loved me (still does) and simply didn’t know better. I know better. I will do better by my children. I will be the one to break the cycle. To change our lives.
Written by Mia Speier
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Women talking unashamedly about their mental health and parenting innit.