Childhood Emotional Abuse
Normally, I write articles in regards to the Grief I live with daily because of my son’s demise. Childhood Emotional Abuse is a different type of grief, but grief nevertheless. Quite honestly, I don’t know where to begin. Should I tell you about getting the belt swung across the back of my legs? No, that would fall more under the category of physical abuse, though it harmed me emotionally, as well. Perhaps, I should speak of the times I watched my brother being thrown up against the wall because he was unable to spell a word correctly. That most definitely caused me emotional abuse. It left me with feelings of unfounded guilt. However, for the sake of brevity, I will speak of two that caused me the most long term harm.
My dad was a LT. Detective, as well as, a teacher. He was a brilliant man who accomplished much in his careers. As a teacher, he taught eighteen subjects and his students highly praised him, even as adults. As an officer, he was a hero. His picture once covered two-thirds of the front page of a newspaper in a major city. He had walked down into the middle of some riots that were taking place, unarmed, and simply began speaking with folks. He essentially put an end to all the chaos and violence. In doing so, he was widely honored, as a result. However, because of his profession, he was extremely over-protective of me to my detriment. I never learned to establish my own healthy boundaries; I never learned to defend myself. There was never a need to do so because he was always there to establish such things on my behalf. The ramifications, however, left me vulnerable as I matured.
The most damaging began when I was ten years old. One day, I awoke and walked out into our living room to discover that all the furniture was gone. I soon learned that my Mom and three siblings were also gone. In the midst of this new void and emptiness in my life, as well as, in my home…there was a note. It had been written by my dad informing me that they had all moved out, he was at work, but he’d call me later. Apparently, I somehow slept through all of the ‘moving’. No one had prepared me in any way for any of this. I was never told the reason ‘why’; I only assumed they felt it to be unnecessary or not beneficial because of my young age. This was how I learned that my parents had divorced; my mom took with her my three siblings from her previous marriage; my dad had obtained custody of me in the negotiations.
I, for the most part, was now on my own. My dad was rarely around because he was working his two full-time positions. Often, two-three days would pass before I saw him. I did visit with my Mom on the weekends, but during the week it was just me in this three-bedroom typical suburban house…which was no longer a home. I got myself up in the morning, made breakfast some days, and walked to the bus stop to catch the school bus. However, there were some days when the weather was nice that I would not take the bus home. Instead, I would walk the five miles alone. I knew I’d be going to an empty house so I wasn’t in any hurry. I spoke of this to no one. I had been warned not to by my dad. He told me if folks found out that I was in the house alone, ‘someone’ would come and take me away from him. He definitely made that option sound like it would be something I definitely did not want to occur. So, I had only one other option: to raise myself. I was forced to be ‘the adult’ in my life at age ten. Once, I had a kitchen grease fire when I was attempting to cook up some bacon. Though quite frightened, I did handle it myself by throwing the pan down onto the linoleum kitchen floor that left quite a large burn mark in the center of the room.
Living like this, and being told I must not speak of it, caused me to withdraw from my friends. Secrets cause isolation. However, this only compounded my ‘aloneness’. It opened a door into a world of ‘silence’ in which I would abide for decades.
I will be sixty-four this year. After two failed marriages and raising six children, I am once again alone. It’s as if my life has come full-circle. It is not my preference for sure. Yet, in some odd way my early life prepared me for the latter. I’m still sad that this was the way my life was orchestrated by my parents when I was such a young child. As much as I would prefer to not be alone, I am also grateful that I’m not afraid to be alone. The good that came from all of it is that I learned to be very responsible at a very young age. However, I do find it sad that my childhood ended at age ten. I, however, had no say or choice in the matter. I learned at a young age to pray and depend on my God. He became my best Friend, and for that I am now grateful.
Rarely, do I ever think of those younger days and even less often do I ever speak of them. Such things were not really considered ‘abuse’ at that time in History. Neglect, yes…but not abuse. But it was…and thinking about those days still brings tears to my eyes. It was a different world, a different time. Few of my peers had divorced parents so few understood. I was ostracized by many and most parents would not allow their children to befriend a child of a divorced family. The stigma that existed brought me great shame, so I learned to keep my head down.
I have chosen to allow God to redeem such things in my life. I choose to dwell on the strengths that developed within me as a result. It made me more resilient. It developed in me a quick response in an emergency situation since it was necessary to have one. After all, there was no one else to turn to for assistance. I developed the ability to be independent, looking only to God for my help. People’s negative opinions of me, though hurt deeply when first encountered, I quickly bounce back from… so they do not have power over me. Obviously, I would not have chosen this childhood abuse as my preferred teaching tool. I am glad to know, though, that good can come from bad. It has fostered a Hope deep within that something good can come from even the worst circumstances. It rooted a Faith in things not yet seen.
(((HUGS))) Jude Gibbs, Author
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