January 10, 2009
I Resolve to Comfort my Inner Child
At my therapist appointment on Thursday, my T said, "You know the actual physical trauma of child abuse gets overlooked and neglected in therapy quite a bit. We focus so much on the emotional trauma and working on feelings, that we don't spend much time on the physical part. As a little girl, you were very, very hurt physically. And most of the time your physical injuries were ignored and received no medical attention."
After she said that, I realized the childhood memory that my recent injury was reminding me of. It wasn't an abuse injury, but the incident reminds me of how many times my childhood injuries and/or illnesses were ignored, overlooked and not attended to in any appropriate, parenting sort of way.
My parents had divorced and, being the upstanding, attentive, appropriate, sane father that he was, dear old "Dad" got full visitation rights with us kids. He had his old, red, two-door jalopy parked in our driveway, waiting to take us to his place for our "visit." I remember that it was winter and there was snow on the ground. My older brother was already seated in the front seat, and my twin sister and I were scooting into the back seat when it happened.
I remember we were all in a hurry to get out of there (even if it was to be with our monster father) because our parents were yelling across the yard at each other: It was the same old topic of, "Where's the child support money?" I got into the back seat first. In her haste to get in after me and close the door behind her, my sister accidentally slammed one of my hands in the heavy car door. I immediately began to wail in pain, while my sister and brother scrambled to get the door back open and release my hand.
My father was oblivious to all this commotion. Instead, he chose this exact moment to zero in and focus on a tiny hole in the knee of my pants, about the size of a dime. Immediately he began to rage. "What the hell do you think you're doing, dressing like this for your visit with me?! Of all the hard-earned money I send to your mother every month, she can't dress you any better than this?! You both have a lot of nerve! Go in and change your clothes immediately! We're not going anywhere with you dressed in rags!" I remember his words and the look of disbelief and outrage on his face. The details of what happened next, however, are rather a blur.
I know my hand hurt like hell. I know all three of us kids did go back inside the house. I know my parents kept on yelling until my father finally drove away alone. I know I did not receive any medical attention--parental attention of any kind--for my smashed hand. There was no emergency room, no doctor's call, no ice pack, nothing. I think I went into the bathroom and ran some cold water in the sink to soothe my throbbing hand.
Now, with a broken rib, all you can do is wait for it to heal. You're not put into a cast. About all you can do is ice it down and take pain meds. It takes about six to eight weeks--and you wait and wait--to get back to normal activity while your ribs heal. That's about all I can do.
There's not much else to be done on this rib issue, when it comes to my healthy, present day self care. But, I started thinking that there are so many ways I can nurture and heal my inner child. This remembrance is an opportunity for me to mourn my lost and neglected childhood and to grieve for the emotional and physical pain that I, as a little girl, had to endure alone. What types of nurturing and basic care did you not receive from the people who were supposed to be your parents?
Hhmmm...let's start a list. Mothering we didn’t get: reassurance, warmth, comfort, empathy, compassion, protection, optimism, confidence, faith, songs, rocking, attachment, holding, gentleness, patience, allowance, acceptance, guidance, safety, reliability, consistency, TLC, caring, attention, medical attention, adoration, play, wisdom, tenderness, joy, trust, LOVE, unconditional love, nurturing, delight...
Delight. Yes. Don't you like that one? Is it so much to ask that a mother actually take delight in her precious child? It comes so easily for me with my own beautiful son. The day I brought my tiny newborn home from the hospital was about the most elated I've ever been in my life. I was so delighted with my new child. Why was it such an overwhelming burden and impossibility for my own mother?
This is one of the reasons why I did what many may consider an odd thing--I bought a baby doll and I sing to her. In a mindful and sincere way, I sing to my inner child: "You're my beautiful baby girl. You're an angel in this world. You're adorable. My beautiful baby girl."
Using my motherly list I started above, I wrote a poem, which I can also put to music in my head and sing to my inner child. Here it is:
Nurture My Soul
I love you
Let me comfort you
It’s okay to cry
I’ll protect you
It’s safe now for you to rest
Lay your head down
Here’s my shoulder
I will stroke your hair
You can show me
I will dress your wounds
Close your eyes
I will stay with you
No need to hide
It’s safe for you now
You can be you with me
Run to me
When you’re scared
I will protect you
You can feel
Even your rage
It is safe with me
You are beautiful
The way you are
I find great joy in you
I am patient
With your not knowing
And I will show you how
My arms are open
Fall into them
I will gently rock you
Be still; I’ll sing to you
Everyone has fears
But the world can be a wonderful place
I’ll help you to see that It’ll be okay.
Copyright 2009 Marj McCabe ~ All Rights Reserved
My traumas were medical and childhood related and then, for years my body and mind (thank you PTSD!) worked together to keep repeating and approximating the original trauma which, even 25 years later, each time threw me into a black, downward PTSD spiral.
I admire your creativity in knowing what to do with those emotions and how to heal them. I healed mine through hypnotherapy.
Have you tried that to end the PTSD symptoms forever? I'm into my second year of being completely PTSD-free.
Now I write a blog for PTSD awareness, education, treatment and healing. (http://parasitesofthemind.blogspot.com). There's tons of info on there about hypnosis, and some other ways we can help to heal ourselves for good.
I hope your ribs aren't wearing you down.... :)
Ethereal: Thanks for stopping by with your comment. My heart aches for that 11 or 12 year old whose body was crying out so loudly for someone to notice and to do something! I think, what my parents did is got a pediatrician who was "in on it" somehow. Blackmail, bribery? What? I'm sure I'll never know. But, when I started to suspect CSA, I went to my old doctor's office and they said that my medical records were lost!!!
Thanks, Erin. I don't go to the same therapist anymore, because I need someone with a lot of dissociative disorder experience--like the T I have now--but I used to go to a T who was an expert in traumatic stress. I did a lot of trauma processing and EMDR with him and that seemed to help a LOT of my PTSD symptoms quite bit. The key was getting well-grounded before attempting the EMDR, though.
Thanks, Kahless. Yep, I'm icing up as I sit here typing away right now!
What a wonderful comment, April! That gave me a nice,warm, fuzzy feeling. Thanks!
Looking back I can't help but wonder why I didn't understand then that wasn't normal behavior for parents.
I'm glad that you're learning how to take good care of yourself now.
I had to make myself breathe through your story about your hand. The same thing happened to me when I was in elementary school. We were coming home from church with my grandmother and it was raining. The car was full of people. I was getting in to sit in my grandmother's lap in the front seat. As I was getting settled, she shut the door on three of the fingers on my right hand. Two of them were badly cut so I did get a homemade bandage when we got to her house but nothing for the pain and no doctor's visit to make sure that my badly swollen fingers weren't broken.
I learned that I had bronchitis as a child when the doctor described the symptoms that my kids were experiencing with their illness. I remember thinking, "Oh, I had bronchitis most winters when I was a kid and nobody ever took me to the doctor with it. I wasn't even allowed to miss school.
Like you, I had to learn to take care of my needs when I became an adult. When I was in my first counseling group for incest, a friend bought me a teddy bear so that my inner child would have something to hold at night when I went to bed. I slept with that teddy bear hugging him to me for at least two years or more as a comfort for my inner child.
Patricia: So nice to "see" you again! I'm glad you had a friend that gave you a Teddy and you were able to comfort your inner child with it.
And thank YOU, Amy! :)
Mile 191: If you can copy something of mine and write/reflect on it that will help you at your T appointment, go for it! I only ask that things that are used on the Internet are credited/linked back to me. Thanks!
New to the whole therapy deal. Your poetry left me feeling numb but alive. It was a trigger for me. Poetry is how I used to escape from the abuse. I would literally go off into another world while I was writing. My child is somewhere buried deep amongst the debri. I admire your writing. Thank You!
It's funny I should come across this post right now. I had a hilarious conversation about this topic with a friend yesterday. Of course the humour is a bit of duck and cover for both of us but whatever works 'eh.
My point is, I really 'got' the poem. Comfort is not a thing I knew about really growing up so I know learning the kind of attentiveness you're shooting for is no easy task. But that's okay: I don't think it needs to be easy. Just worth it, I hope!
I'm so glad I read this post though...beautiful. Just what I needed today!
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