This feels like such a loaded word lately.
It has been an identity for me for a few years–me, the child of trauma.
Me, the teacher of traumatized children.
The word itself, when examined and detailed, feels like a trigger.
Opening up wounds, reminding me that I, too, am wounded.
There has been endless research on trauma. The way it impacts the brain. Child development.
And, always, that ever present question. Concern.
How do some children escape it? How do some children change THE CYCLE?
The answer, I discovered, is this word: RESILIENCE.
There are ways.
Through connection. As my therapist would say, through those life rafts thrown to us during the journey.
Through control. Managing the situation through manipulation. Caring and performing, knowing that this is ONE way to take control of the situation.
Through WANTING MORE and realizing THERE IS MORE. At some point, it becomes obvious–not everyone lives this way. Not all children have these relationships with parents. Something is different.
I have been told that I am lucky.
That I am a success.
That I did what I had to to survive.
But, what about those who weren’t so lucky? Who weren’t so successful. Who didn’t know what to do to make it through?
I have siblings. Out of the three of us, I am the most successful. The most healthy. The most educated.
I think, also, the most guilty.
Why did I overcome the trauma? Yes, it still plagues me, day after day, memory after memory, trigger after trigger.
I had to work my ass off to realize so many of my unhealthy habits were, in fact, unhealthy. Those habits still exist inside of me and like to rear their ugly heads when I feel bad. But, now, I can at least acknowledge them and say, “Hello. GO the the hell away, please.”
Yet, my siblings don’t always display that same level of self-reflection.
They aren’t healthy. They aren’t happy.
And now, we are all parents.
Doing our best.
But, our best looks different.
Because, we are doing what we know how to do.
We are loving the way we were loved. The way we think love looks like.
And, if we didn’t realize that love SHOULDN’T look a certain way? We are still loving that way.
Because it is what we know.
And, whether we want to or not, whether we are aware of it or not, we are passing these attachments onto our kids.
I sit here. Trying, with all my might, to protect my own two children from the past. From the harsh realities of life. From pain. Manipulation. Conditional love.
It hurts to see other kids who are not protected.
It hurts to know that I cannot protect my OWN kids from life and the pain that can come with it.
It hurts to see my students, flailing, coping, hurting.
And, lately, it hurts to look at my nieces and nephews, who I don’t know nearly as well as an aunt SHOULD know her nieces and nephews, struggling.
Struggling with life.
Struggling with abuse.
I feel guilty.
Guilty that I cannot protect them.
Guilty that I cannot control my siblings’ actions.
Guilty that I am not willing to take on fostering some of them, because doing so would knowingly expose my OWN children to a world I don’t want to expose them to. At least, not yet.
Guilty, because the burden falls on my mother.
The woman who was full of her own childhood trauma and who loved us the way SHE knew how…but the way that so badly hurt and scarred me.
I remind myself: We all have choices. She has choices.
When she calls me and tells me she’s too old. Too tired. That my dad is making her cry because she has ruined their lives…I try, desperately, to remember she has choices.
But, I still feel the guilt. Oozing out of my pores.
I KNOW I could provide better. I know it would be easier for me, in many ways.
But, I’m not willing to sacrifice the health of my family.
The family I have worked SO HARD to protect.
I feel selfish–for putting my family first. Myself and well-being, first.
I question: Why? Why did my siblings not WANT something different?
I feel traitorous. Everyone says, “Blood is thicker than water. Family is everything.”
The insinuation is that we should take care of, and protect each other, at all costs.
But, should we, really?
I just don’t know anymore.
I want to protect my nieces and nephews. I want to prevent another generation of trauma.
But at what cost?
And, is it my job?
Because, it feels like my responsibility.
After all…I know better.