The Invisible Scar website had an article about the grief suffered by people who were emotionally abused as a child. She writes that people grieve things such as the loss of childhood, loss of the people who the abusers should have been, loss of future happiness, or the losses felt by their younger selves. The article includes the idea that those sorrows must be processed in the same way as those for a death in the family or a traumatic event, because for some people childhood was a very long traumatic event from which the grief was delayed for many years.
I know my experiences from childhood were not severe compared to those of other people, but I was deeply affected by what happened to me. My entire life has been clouded by what I learned as a child: shame, guilt, spite, anger, mistrust, isolation, social anxiety, and a lack of self-esteem.
I lost so many things during childhood, but it was not until I escaped from the situation did I begin to realize what I had lost and what it had cost me. I became very angry as a young man because despite my new freedom, I still felt like I deserved to feel pain and hurt from childhood. “You sabotage yourself,” someone told me, and they were right; I kept returning to that mental state of being a victim, and the memory of my losses fueled my anger.
Over the years that anger settled into my psyche as a deep and lingering depression from which I was powerless to escape. It took me many years before I admitted to myself I needed help dealing with the Beast within my soul, and to get rid of the boxes of stuff in the mental attic which I was afraid to open. I tried therapy for a couple of years, and I think it helped, but I was scared to continue because the feelings were too raw. I tried to bottle it up again, but of course that was unsuccessful.
It has been only recently that I have been able to let go of some of these memories and no longer allow them to have power over my life. I still struggle with depression, but it is more due to the bipolar than the memory of the abuse. I still have problems with social anxiety, but I have been able to fool most of the people most of the time, and avoid situations where I know I would fail. I still isolate and compartmentalize, and I have discarded all connections to my past life except for those buried in my memory.
Looking through the lens of time and distance, I still feel sad for the losses I felt as a child. I wish for him that I had been in a different place where I had felt like I belonged, and like I deserved to feel good about myself. I wish for him that I had been able to gain confidence to succeed in life, and that I learned healthy social skills to be better able to relate to people without damaging myself in the process. I wish he had received unconditional love from people whose problems did not cause them to be abusers. I wish he didn’t have to hide alone to feel safe, a feeling that still exists to this day.
I still feel damaged, and I still feel for little Rob and the shit he had to go through, and I still have anger issues. However, I see myself with more empathy and compassion now than ever before, and I suppose that is a healthier place.