The Survivors Speak Interview series is dedicated to amplifying the voices of survivors by providing a platform to share your story and stand tall in your truth.
In this interview we will hear the story of a survivor who has chosen to remain anonymous but who has shown immense bravery in speaking out about her childhood and its effects on her life. She is writing from the USA and has chosen this space to stand in her truth. She spent 28 years in a marriage that was damaging, but now, 10 years later she is sorting through her pain and beginning to heal.
Her favorite quote:
“She could never go back and make some of the details pretty. All she could do was move forward and make the whole beautiful.”– Brene Brown
I was the second child, born to a 15 year old mother as a result of a one night stand in the early 60’s. My most formative years began in the foster care system, until age 5 when I was adopted by a family who had also recently adopted 3 boys, who were older. In that time everything I needed was provided for, except for emotional support.
Talking freely or discussing “life” was a forbidden topic; my new life was all about keeping up the “appearance” of the “perfect family life” That was so deeply drilled into my core, that I didn’t speak much at all and did not have the support of friends as a child. I grew up a loner.
I love the ocean/beach, long walks barefoot in the sand, and picking up seashells and sunsets. That is my perfect life! I am passionate about my eternal soul, truth, and fairness. I have three adult children and six grandchildren, ages 7-21.
A Childhood Layered with Trauma
My abuse/trauma in life has come in waves. Starting with abandonment issues due to being in foster care during my early, formative years. I have no memory of any specific events early on, though not having a voice left me completely vulnerable to the physical and emotional abuse inflicted by my 7-year older brother.
From age 5 to 13, I was subjected to domestic physical assault and emotional threats by him. At 13, the rape happened.
How have your experiences with childhood abuse/trauma affected your life? Please share both the good and the bad.
I am at a loss on the good and bad. Due to being raised to not have a voice, not to express emotion I dissociated from my past, locked it away in the “safe”. I went on with life, had my children, and became a professional in Security & Safety.
So I could say the one good thing about my childhood abuse was in a profession where I could “protect” against the injustice of the criminal element. From the age 15 until I was 40, I used alcohol to suppress when my emotions would start to bubble over and become exposed. Don’t expose.
It didn’t help that I ended up in a narcissistic marriage, with an equally narcissistic mother-in-law. 28 years of control. This was my 2nd marriage. The first one only lasted for 3 years, resulting in 2 children.
I didn’t know how to relate to connection, I couldn’t connect and I didn’t know what to reach out for, didn’t have that voice or the knowledge of what to ask for. The 28 year marriage was controlled, which felt normal compared to how I was raised.
What are a couple things that have helped you manage your C-PTSD from day to day? Talk a little bit about what it is like to live with this diagnosis.
I have been diagnosed with C-PTSD for 6 months. One day in November of 2019, an incident occurred at work where a co-worker said something, which was business related, that “triggered” me.
Maybe it was the sound of his voice; I still don’t know what the actual trigger was but it put me in an anxiety attack that sent me to the emergency room with dangerously high blood pressure. After all the medical tests were completed, the diagnosis was anxiety.
From there, I was in the flight/freeze mode and knew I needed the assistance of a mental health professional. Journaling, grounding, breathing, and telling my story as the memories come up helps. I am new to all of this, still adjusting, still learning, still reading. It is very difficult to “trust” and speak.
If you are a parent, what is the hardest part of parenting after trauma? What is the most rewarding part of parenting after trauma?
Hardest part is teaching your children to have a voice, to stand up for injustice when you yourself aren’t able to show vulnerability.
Most rewarding is being able to love another human being. But in my case, 2 of my children have PTSD due to their service in the military.
What is one thing you want others to understand about being a childhood abuse/trauma survivor?
That I am worthy of love, connection, belonging. That being vulnerable is extremely difficult. Trusting is extremely difficult. Even though our wounds are not physically visible, there are wounds that we need others to be patient and non-judgemental with.
What advice or reassurances do you have for other survivors who are struggling?
Reach out to a trusted professional who you can share your story with. You are not broken. Take your time, trust yourself, trust your feelings. Research and study. Understand you are worthy, you are enough. You will have good days and bad days and that is OK.
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy, the experiences that make us most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light”–Brene Brown
It’s OK to not be OK, I am priceless, I am enough!, You are enough and you are loved. You are worthy. Your feelings are valid. You are beautiful. You are safe. It is not your shame.
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