One of the interesting discoveries I have made through this exploration of trauma therapy is the overarching story I have been telling myself years. I never voiced this opinion, I rarely thought about it, but in every conversation it is there. That subtle narrative the occasional words… my fault, I failed, I should have done… I could have done… Why didn’t I…What if I?
I never told myself the story of survival. I never congratulated myself for navigating a life threatening situation and avoiding ending up as front page news. I never focused on the things I have achieved even with years of abuse.
Do you know even writing that word abuse drives up such feelings of shame. Why is it people who struggle through similar circumstances take with them such a negative mentality about ourselves. Most people I know who have been through similar don’t paint the picture of a hero, a warrior, a champion. I know for me I feel like what I went through should make me less some how, less worthy, less lovable, less respected even. I worry if my friends or work colleagues know they will see me as damaged goods, not want to be around me or work with me.
What is that, why do I think like that?
Regardless I need to start framing my experiences differently. I need to acknowledge that yes the things I have achieved in life are great for anyone to achieve but for me maybe they are even a little greater. There is a video which really powerfully describes equality or the lack of it. It uses statements to draw out which children had a head start in life.
As a foster kid and survivor or trauma I am realising I never had an equitable start in life. Even beyond the fact that my brain has had to adapt to survive in a way which has caused my anxiety and shut away the real joys in life. I grew up as a second class citizen. I remember the parents who didn’t want their child hanging around with me because I was fostered, the arguments I had to have with teachers to study more A levels because I was fostered. And as highlighted in this video I faced many of the same challenges as some others, divorced parents, worrying where a meal was coming from as a young child, and university was never an option for me (at least at 18).
If I work at it I can see the logic of what I have achieved in life is amazing. So many foster kids end up in a very different place. I am very grateful for all the little supports I had in life which they might not have, still I have to acknowledge that part of where I have ended up is because of me and where I am right now is good.
It feels like a hard narrative to accept. That I am not damaged goods, I am premium. That my experiences did not make me less but made me more.
I suspect I will have to spend months convincing myself of this possibility, but convince I will.
I hope if you are out there and have ever felt even a tiny bit of self loathing or worthlessness due to abuse or trauma this is enough of a prompt for you to challenge that belief. You are not less, You are more.
I hope one day we break down the stigma of mental health and abuse and all manage to find our happy path.