It can be an incredibly overwhelming challenge when you’re an adult survivor of childhood abuse to see a way through from Survivor to Thriver. I watched it unfold in my own recovery over the years because I had no mud map imprinted in my brain of the “how to’s” in life.
I understand what it’s like to look at other family’s and think “why didn’t I get that experience?” or “How come they have money and we have to hide the fact that we have none?” To be honest the list can be endless in regards to the questions we ask and often get left unanswered.
One brave member in our global Facebook group found the courage to ask the questions they had running around in their mind. I asked could I share them with you because I know you have them too.
I haven’t had great successes in my life. Still being here at all has been a struggle as I’m sure it is for many of us. I really try to stay away from self-pity and be greatful for what I have. I’ve been blessed to have some loving supportive friends.
But I find myself getting resentful watching these people who came from very different backgrounds enjoying lives and accomplishments I can only dream of. I’m not talking about monetarily although that could be part of it but I’m talking about people who walk around with these sunny despositions who always “choose joy” and advise me to do so too. I know the perspective I choose does determine alot of my experience and I try, I really do and I know they are trying to help.
But I find myself angry and resentful because they have no freaking idea what it’s taken just to continue to survive. I’m not a person who would wish they didn’t have what they do but it must be so nice to have grown up in a loving supportive family who offerred every advantage. It would be alot easier to “choose joy” like they so often do. I don’t want to be this way and sometimes I feel them backing away because I’m so dark alot of times. I don’t want that because they do bring light to my life but I don’t know what to do with all these feelings. Does this happen to any of you and how do you deal with it? I’m sad and mixed up.
What followed were some beautiful words of wisdom from fellow group members and I’d like to share them with you so you can gain from them also.
“Reading your post conflicts me for a few reasons. It’s not that I don’t identify or understand what you have written either. Because I’ve stood right where you are and I’ve thought those thoughts. My problem is that I DO try to choose joy. I do try to choose the positive. And I do that despite the darkness.
One thing that brought me to a spiritual crisis was Robin Williams’s suicide. Here was a man who spent his adult life bringing smiles and laughter to so many people. He had a seemingly idyllic life. Then he was gone. How? My answer came in the form of “we all wear masks.”
We all wear masks. We do. We have put one on to deal with our trauma. And despite what we see others project, they wear masks too. So sometimes we project things we are missing into other people’s lives and resent that they’re “happier, financially more secure, and…” add more things. What if they’re more famous than me? Financially secure? Happy? I finally said to myself who cares? Be happy for them. Why? Because I can be. Reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz also helped me look at my perspective.
Like Linda, I’m careful who I let into my darkness. But I have found myself a deep well of gratitude and love inside myself for things. And don’t think that didn’t come at an extreme cost, because it did. In 2017 and 2018, I experienced traumas so great that they altered my core. But out of them I experienced great personal growth. It forced me to understand the joy and happiness available in life. And as I read more in the Buddhist perspective I ran across a line that said (I’m paraphrasing) “it takes as much energy to be miserable as it does to be happy.” It hit me hard because it’s the truth.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not minimizing your feelings or suggesting your perspective is wrong. I’ve stopped those happy people cold with my experiences when I’ve opened my mouth. But like Linda and others have said, exploring those feelings is important. Exploring the depth and root of them is important. It gives you insight. It shows you where you have areas of growth available. It doesn’t take away the pain of your experiences, but it does allow you to shift perspective and see masks we wear, all of us, to compensate for things no one knows about. I guarantee those who push the happy, happy, joy, joy, and shame you agenda are wearing one too.
For instance, you can have exactly the type of loving, supportive, advantaged life you described and still have childhood trauma that’s as great as that which comes from negative experiences. I have a friend who is extremely messed up because she was coddled and smothered and never allowed to be her or explore failure or other things. She has been in therapy for a long time. Yet she is genteel, funny, pushes happiness, and while I cannot relate at all to her childhood trauma, she cannot relate to mine. Even more eye opening to me was when I was speaking to another friend who was regularly beaten with a baseball bat who told me he’d rather have had that experience than the emotional abuse and neglect I experienced.
All this to say, if you love those people for other things in your life then keep them. They provide support and light you need. But you can choose the darkness they see and even in the deepest darkness you have, you can find the gifts it gave you. I realized that in the wake of finding my brother hanging dead and decaying. Out of that horror, I found immense gratitude, acceptance, and the value of unconditional love. And Mary Oliver’s poem put it so concisely for me:
And another response: “I’m always challenged to find words for that kind of person. Lately I’m understanding they don’t face the reality of life nor do they want to face the reality that pain exists even in “good” family’s.
So here’s what I do these days. I choose very very carefully who has the privilege of knowing the details about my private life. I have very close best friends whom I’m even discerning about which ones can handle how much truth of the darkness I have to face on a daily basis.
It took me decades to understand this principle. You earn your seat at the table to my inner world. Until you’ve earned it, until you’ve earned my deepest trust, earned my deepest respect, and respect includes that I can trust the type of decisions you’re going to make, then you not only don’t get a seat at my inner table I also know you can’t handle the 100% truth of what I navigate on a daily basis.
It’s rare people who can handle what we do, rare. For me, it’s pointless telling this kind of person my struggles. I’ve got them, they’re real but they will never have the willingness nor ability to understand my inner world so they don’t get a pass to i to it.
I’ve found deep personal respect for my decisions to only share these struggles with people who’ve earned their seat at my inner table. I’ve discovered deep inner power by setting these healthy boundaries and I’ve uncovered a healthier sense of who I am by not comparing my life with anyone else’s.
This has allowed me to step into taking full responsibility for my life. Yes, I definitely had my times of wishing I had it all, the money, the zero abuse, the Joy without constraints but you know what, most of these people live in denial of the pain in this world, pain that needs addressing and most people ignore their own pain.
So why would I want to keep company with people who choose to ignore the world has pain? I don’t. I’d rather be sharing life with people who are honest about pain and who are taking their one next step. I can choose who I love and who I let in. Something that was denied me in childhood.
And now I take that choice and choose people who are genuine, who are authentic and who can laugh despite the bloody hard challenging curve balls of life. Do I choose not to have the happy happy joy joy club in my life? No, I just limit my exposure to them and know they haven’t earned a seat at my inner table. 🥰
May you know you are loved, seen and understood in our online family and that you’ve got this just one step at a time #togetherwecan
What other wisdom would you add into our family collective to help at this time?
Comment below and we’ll share it in group. You’ll find us here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/complextptsd/