How Childhood Trauma Impacts My Parenting Today

The subject of this blog post may cause a bit of controversy among some of my family members, but I feel very strongly about sharing my story. I find sharing the story of my childhood to be very therapeutic. I feel as though every time someone listens, they take a little bit of weight off my shoulders; so the more I share, the less weight I have to carry around. Not everyone in my family feels the same way. I will try to respect that as much as possible by only sharing my own personal experiences. My experiences are my own, and no one can silence me from sharing what I have been through. Sometimes it’s more important to do what feels best for you. And what feel best for me is to share my story and hopefully help others along the way. I can only hope that my family will understand.

Many people who know me personally have heard me mention that I grew up in an abusive home. Very few people know the details of that abuse. I pride myself on being an open book, so I willingly share the details of my childhood with anyone who is curious, but still, it’s not like it comes up often. My husband of 12 years, Ben, knows more than anyone else. In fact, he was the first person I ever told. Not only that, but he is single-handedly responsible for getting me out of that situation and has since provided me with a sense of peace that I had never experienced before. He truly is my knight in shining armor. I was raised by a single mother with severe metal health problems. She was very volatile and was often angry for no apparent reason. Even in my short stint in what I call “pseudo-foster care”, she still tried very hard to control me. I had to be careful about what I said to people, because if I were to ever speak ill of my mother, it was viewed as an act of treason, which would result in an excessive punishment.

There was a time in my life that I believed that things would never get better. That I wasn’t meant to have a happy, successful life. I would lay awake at night, sick with worry about the situation I was stuck in. I slept on a bare mattress with exposed springs, with a pillow that had dog poop on it. I had long since lost track of which side of the pillow it was on. It didn’t really matter, everything in our house was filthy. My mom has always had problems with hoarding, but it wasn’t until the summer before 8th grade, that it got really, really bad. My mom had started taking in animals, but had no ability to care for them. Slowly but surely, our house was taken over by filth and clutter. Our living room was no longer habitable. There were cockroaches in everything. One of the reasons I had so much trouble sleeping, was that when I turned the lights out at night, it was only a matter of time before the roaches would climb up the wall next to my bed. I would have to stay alert, so I could swipe them back down under the bed. I would listen for the “plop” of it hitting the trash that was shoved under there. If there was no “plop”, it had most likely had fallen into bed with me, which meant I had to get up, turn the light on and shake out my blanket. This was my nightly routine. It was one of these nights, that I lay awake with a knot in my gut, thinking about life, and what the future held for me. I was 14 and supposed to be in the 8th grade. I had no choice but to drop out of school because of the nightmare of a home life I had. My grades were horrendous and my attendance was equally as bad. There was just no way for me to keep up the charade that everything was okay at home anymore. I laid there in my bed, thinking about how I would never get a job or ever even have a boyfriend. I was probably going to die without ever being kissed. Who would want to kiss me? I was the stinky kid. Who would want to hire me? I had no education. I felt like I was the only person with enough foresight to see that I had no future. That’s when I heard a loud “Pop!” come from my closet and noticed a warm, flickering light. I got up to find the water heater on fire. I managed to quickly put it out. You know how sometimes you think things couldn’t possibly get worse, but then they do? From that day forward, we had no hot water. Which meant no more showers. Not that I was taking very many showers at that time, because the tub was filled with garbage and cat poop. So, horrible story horribler, I ended up going several months without bathing or changing my clothes. This was by far the worst time in my life. I only got to leave the house in the middle of the night, so as to avoid being around people. Strangers would make comments about the way I smelled. It was humiliating. It still is. The first time I told my husband about this time in my life, I actually thought I was going to vomit. Keeping secrets like that, eat away at your core and fill your body with a dark, black poison. When you finally unleash those secrets, your body physically hurts.

You might be thinking that this is the most depressing thing you have ever read, but I assure you, it has a happy ending…. Eventually. One morning my mom woke me up early to tell me that she was going to check herself into the psychiatric ward, and I was going to go stay with my aunt. This was the beginning of a new chapter in my life that was also filled with pain and anxiety, but at least I was no longer living in a prison of garbage and feces. The thought of having to go to my aunts house in the disgusting state that I was in was terrifying. I went into my closet and dug around in the bottom of a box of dirty laundry that my cat had given birth in, and found a pair of underwear to change into. I knew that even if the cat had given birth on them, they would be cleaner than the ones I had been wearing for the last several months. I ended up missing around a year of school, but I did eventually re-enroll. Thanks to various extended family members and pseudo-foster families, I had clean clothes and access to a shower. And for the first time in a very long time, I had friends again.

The point of telling this story isn’t to make you feel sorry for me, but to illustrate why I take parenting so seriously. My number one goal in life to be the adult that I needed growing up. It is hard to explain the level of loneliness that you feel when the one person that is supposed to be your soft spot to fall, is the main source of your pain and fear. If you can’t trust your own mother to not hurt you, who can you trust? I am devoted to parenting my kids peacefully, so they will never have to know what that loneliness feels like. I hope my kids will never have to feel that knot of anxiety that I used to feel right before I would open to front door when I got home from school; not knowing what I was walking into. I want my kids to come home filled with joy and excitement. I want this to be their safe haven where they are free to say what’s on their minds, and express themselves. Where they can come to me if they are having problems without having to worry that I will be angry with them or hit them. I want them to feel at peace when they are around me. I’m certainly not a perfect parent. We all have bad days where we are out of patience. I lose my temper and yell at my kids. I hide from them in my room when I’m feeling overwhelmed. When I find myself doing those thing more often than I would like, I take the time to think back to when I was 14 and convinced I would die without ever being kissed. It puts everything back into perspective and helps me to appreciate having a life that I never thought was possible for a person like me. I will forever be grateful to my husband for swooping in and delivering me from that shit-hole of a situation. I will never understand why someone who comes from such a normal family would want to get involved with someone like me, who brings a whole lot of baggage with her. I mean, I have outstanding boobs, but they’re not “I’d love to marry you in spite of your emotional damage” outstanding. Whatevs… He’s stuck with me now. And boy, am I glad that he is, because he’s an amazing father and husband. Above all though, he is my best friend and I owe him a debt that I can never repay.