I had a therapy session today and my therapist asked me what did trauma mean to me. I thought about it and decided that trauma is like a toddler, a cranky, raging, screaming toddler who throws themselves down on the ground throwing a fit. That’s what trauma feels like inside of myself. Uncontrollable, overwhelmed, angry. Then, just like a toddler, as soon as you think you’ve figured out how to handle your toddler trauma, it grows and changes leaving you baffled and behind the eight ball once again. It’s fluid. It’s a nightmare.
How does parenting fit into this? Imagine trying to raise children into kind, productive adults when you can barely keep your own trauma in check. I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I don’t understand boundaries very well. I watch others carefully to see what they do and copy them. That’s how I have survived for most of my life. I have children and they terrify me sometimes. I don’t know if I’ll react correctly or be able to respond to their emotional needs. When they were young and needed me to bathe them or dress them or change their diapers, I was always panicky and afraid I was doing something wrong. That anxiety became constant and led to numbness. Eventually the numbness went away but now, they are older and still I find myself being overwhelmed and disconnected. Their problems are more complex and I find myself out of my depth.
Trauma puts an extra layer of difficulty on parenting. It distorts your view so you’re never really sure if what you’re doing is right or wrong. It puts a glass wall between me and my children. They are beautiful and I’m so glad they’re mine but I feel badly that they don’t have a better mother.
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