Guyana: Moving past childhood trauma makes for better adulthood – By Oluatoyin Alleyne

“I agree that when you grow older that you have to somehow get past your childhood hardships and just live because if you hold on to your childhood trauma then you might never be able to live in the true sense.

“That being said, however, I know it is very difficult for some people because your childhood may have been a total horror story. I would not say mine was but I did not have good relationships with either of my parents who were separated and to this day I shudder when I think of some of my experiences.”

These were the words of a woman who is now in her late forties and still battling with demons from her childhood. I have known her for many years and we recently had this conversation discussing how one’s childhood can impact one’s adult-hood.       

It was an extremely difficult conversation and while she exhibited a lot of pain because of some of the experiences she endured, she held onto the view that as an adult one just has to get past one’s childhood trauma if one is to have a shot at life.

“If it were not for my parents and others, I would openly share some of those experiences but I don’t believe they would forgive me because they would see this as me trying to embarrass them. It would not be my intention but I can see how they would feel embarrassed,” she said.

“My mother used to beat a lot and looking back I don’t even think she saw or ever realised that she was abusive. But you know apart from the beatings is really her life’s experiences that have had a traumatic impact on my life. She was searching for love I believe and just ended up with the wrong men.

“I could remember when I was very young that one of her partners attempted to sexually abuse me. Well he touched me inappropriately and one time he actually attempted to penetrate me with his finger and the same time my mother came into the room and he pushed me away. This act was done so violently that I hit my head on the bed head and got a deep gash. It was bad and I was bleeding. The health centre was not far away and my mother sent me to get it looked after. Me, about five or six, alone to the health centre. I could remember the nurses asking how a mother could send her child alone to the health centre…” she trailed off and I could sense she was fighting back tears.

“That is just one experience. I never told her anything but it has stayed with me. Another experience that stays with me is one when she was with another man. He used to beat my mother as they say for tea, breakfast and dinner. I don’t know why she stayed with him because he helped her in no way. She was always sending me and my small sister, it was two of us at the time, to the neighbours for things to cook. Or we would be going on the roadside to pick eddo leaf. So we were always hungry and all this man used to do is beat my mother.

“I could remember like it was yesterday that one night she was crying out in pain. I don’t know what was wrong with her but she was obviously very ill. He was right there, he turned his back and looked like he was sleeping and she was crying out in pain. When she couldn’t take it anymore she send me up the road to some relatives. Now this was in the night. Don’t ask me what time, but it was pitch dark and I had to pass a burial ground to get there. I was so scared but I remember thinking that my mother could die and I walked speed and went. They came and took her to the hospital. Now looking back I shudder to think all that could have happened to me on the streets so late in the night. I could only thank God for keeping me safe.”

As she spoke I imagined her as a child on the streets in the dark and it was a really scary scenario. We sat in silence for a while.

“Girl, there were so many experiences and then more came when I started living with relatives in an effort to escape the poverty stricken life my mother lived in. My father, he was missing in action for many of my childhood days and sometimes I am so angry at him because he could have done something to make life better for me but he never did. There was one relative who made me their little servant. I cooked, washed and cleaned. That was just my life but at least they ensured I went to school. But my mornings started very early and even up to this day I cannot sleep-in. Most times I am up by 5 am the latest.

“But I did almost all of the household chores and then I moved to another relative where there was not much chores but she made me feel less than. In the sense that I lived segregated from her and her family. We ate the same food but we did not use the same dishes. I had my dish that I took to her maid for my food. I did not use the same soap like they did and of course not the same bathroom or kitchen. It was horrible and she was never one to buse out or so but I [would have] preferred [if] she did because when she was upset and was finished having a conversation with you, boy oh boy you felt less than an animal.

“Now looking back I now know at one time I was going through major depression and this woman sensed it. One day, you know what she told me, I remember it like yesterday, if I am going to kill myself don’t do it in her house, do it somewhere else…,” she trailed off and the tears came again.

“I really didn’t want this you know…,” she said as she brushed the tears away.

“But those are just some of my experiences in my childhood and over the years they affected me a lot but I just had to learn to deal with them. I never ashamed to talk about them and I believe that has helped me in some way. I have vowed, and this is what I try to live by, never to be a bad mother. I am not saying I am the best mother and I have not made mistakes, but I am always trying to make life easier for my children. I don’t want when they become adults to look back and only sad and traumatic childhood days they can find.

“So that is why I was saying that when you become an adult you have to deal with those traumatic days or then you will not be able to really live life. There are a lot of hurt adults walking around, adults who still long for the love they did not have as children and if they don’t deal with this then they would be bringing up children who will also be hurt adults. The cycle just continues.

“I try not to live in the past and everyday try to be a better version of myself. I very religious and so I tenaciously hold on to my God and I believe this has helped me a lot. This might not work for everyone and if you need professional help go get it because fixing you is important. We can’t go on living forever allowing our childhood traumas to guide our path. To live and allow our children a better life we have to move past those,” the sister told me.

I could not agree with her more. I believe that many of us have childhood experiences that haunt us in our adulthood but as she rightly said if we want a shot at this life, and, if we have children, to give them that shot, then we have to move past those.

What she shared with me stayed with me for a very long time.

If you are experiencing depression or are feeling suicidal, please call the Mental Health Unit on 223-0001 or 223-0009. You can also call or text 623-4444 or 6007892. There is also a 24/7 toll free ‘Safe Space’ number: 655-7233.

Source : Stabroek News

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