Trigger warning – sexual abuse, maternal trauma
For some of us, myself included, Mother’s Day isn’t the celebration it is cracked up to be. There were two significant incidents that happened in my early life, both of which are amongst my first memories. I can’t recall which happened first, but I do remember which of them affected me the most.
A neighbour, an elderly man who lived on the top floor of a block of apartments next door to us would, at times, throw lollies down from his apartment for the local kids as we walked by. Of course, we all gobbled them up with glee and thought he was the unseasonal Santa Clause. One day this man ‘invited’ me up to his apartment. I was alone, but with lollies on offer how could I refuse?
The result of accepting his invitation, and there’s no way of sharing this delicately, was that I was sexually molested.
The second incident was my mother, through gritted teeth and raging face, physically and emotionally abusing me. I was only three or four years old, and I don’t recall the physical pain she inflicted but, but I cannot forget the moment she revealed her loathing for me. This is the memory that impacts me the most and sadly, it is a memory that I return to each Mother’s Day. I am not writing this to rain on your Mother’s Day parade. I am genuinely happy for those who have/had a wonderful mother and childhood experience. I’m sharing this for those of us who, for whatever reason, did or do not.
I’ve spent most of my life being told that if I don’t forgive then I won’t heal. For me finding the forgiveness for my mother’s cruelty has been an unachievable quest, so I thought I’d never truly heal. But what I have learned is that forgiveness isn’t the only way to find some peace.
Some pundits have finally acknowledged that forgiveness can only really happen when the perpetrator comes to ‘the table’ as it were and acknowledges the pain they caused. When this doesn’t happen, it’s not forgiveness. Without it, if you can find the place in your heart, what can be found is acceptance. Acceptance is the only way we can move forward with love and light. It’s not easy or quick finding it but in my experience, it is doable.
In my case, separation was the only way. Which took me until about 35 years of age, as I continued to play happy families, for everyone else. As with separation comes all the perception that accompanies it, even from my own family members who weren’t privy to the sustained abuse I suffered. Because in our complicated family of six parents/stepparents and (what I now know to be) 12 siblings including step and half siblings – we didn’t all live together so they weren’t exposed to the reality of my relationship with and sustained brutality from my mother (and her husband).
Am I sad that I didn’t have someone who loved me unconditionally? Someone I could rely on, receive guidance from and who made me feel safe and secure? Did I spend my life believing that I was the problem? Of course, I am and I did. But now, after finally accepting it wasn’t me who deserved it or somehow caused it, I know its time to move on and move forward.
The art of acceptance is a journey to empowerment and ultimately contentment. Without acceptance, you will be left hanging over the cauldron of trauma with the flames lapping at your butt and the heat maintaining a most uncomfortable burn.
Separation and acceptance are what finally are enabling me to move forward and stop blaming myself, and my ‘family’, for my state of mind. Like happiness and healing, acceptance is a state of mind, so I needed to have a long chat with myself. But it is an ongoing chat that will need to be had from time-to-time.
I continue to struggle with demonstrating vulnerability – when it’s been used against you from a young age, you learn to hold that sh*t down. While I continue to strive towards it, I may never find that equitable balance but learning to live with myself and accept myself is a wonderful place to be.
This article provides general information only and does not constitute mental health advice. If you have concerns regarding your mental health, seek appropriate medical care or contact;
Lifeline: 13 11 14 or chat online www.lifeline.org.au
Blue Knot Foundation: 1300 657 380, Monday to Sunday, 9am-5pm AEST; www.blueknot.org.au
Survivors & Mates Support Network: 1800 4 SAMSN (72676), Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm; www.samsn.org.au
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636; www.beyondblue.org.au