The kid in the highchair at the table next to mine is almost two, so her grandma says. The kid’s jacket is blue so somewhere in the split second of meeting her I unconsciously decide she’s a boy. Turns out she has brothers and her little blue parka is pre-loved. She waves at me, offers me a bite of her pre-sucked biscuit. Her smile is adorable. Her curiosity, that special unbounded kind that only toddlers have – what’s that, what’s that, what’s that – is beautiful and I find myself sad to know she’ll probably grow out of it.
I’m here this morning, in Blogland, to talk about child abuse, and a little girl, and also a thing that I have also unconsciously been doing called Post Traumatic Growth. I say unconsciously because I didn’t know this journey away from child abuse had a name.
Is it a journey away?
My counselor told me that it will always be there. I guess I knew that but to have it said and to be listening so hard, well, it was sobering in a dark and sticky way.
‘Yeah, I get it,’ I said, looking out the window because the view across the valley is spectacular, and also because I have a problem with eye contact in extreme situations. ‘Like I have blue eyes, I have child abuse.’
Shame is how my trauma looks. Shame at an overstepping that wasn’t mine. Shame that I’m desperate to shed because I’m tired of the paralysis and self-hatred. I have periods where it doesn’t hold on so hard, points in time where instead of a rock, it’s a pebble in my pocket, manageable, but stopping would be better.
Shame at the little blonde girl who just stood there, or sat there, or lied there, and submitted because she didn’t know what else to do. How she held her grandfather’s secret. How she felt, her skin making her sick, her mind up in the ceiling watching as her grandfather peeled away her underpants, his fingers hurting. As he kissed her, touching her tongue with his, she stood there blinking, blinking it away, and forgiving him instantly because she loved him anyway.
But the little girl could not forgive herself.
And I have not forgiven the little girl.
The other night I couldn’t sleep, that little girl was awake with me, and I realised that I had no compassion for her. No compassion for an abused child. I’m angry at my five year old, six year old, ten year old self, for being sucked-in, for not punching that old geezer in the throat, for still loving him even though he was sexually assaulting her on every occasion he could manufacture.
How do I make compassion for that little girl? Say it, see it, and it will be so? That couod work. Cry for her finally? That could work, too. It wasn’t her fault. But BIG DEAL, I know that. Try to make that ashamed little girl at the centre of all this know that.
Here’s the good news.
I have blue eyes and I have child abuse. And I have time, and experience, and in simply recognising my lack of compassion for that little girl, I have started to heal. Maybe I’ll absorb her, maybe she won’t feel separate from me like she does today, the way I have always removed her myself – it was her, her, her.
There’s a photo of me on a swing. My hands are pudgy, my smile seems fresh, clear-eyed, my hair is a sun-shining crown of blonde curls. I have tiny white teeth, and in the background a greeny-yellow plant shimmers. She’s lovable looking, that little girl. I can make friends with that little girl, show her kindness and compassion and love her.
And that, my friends, is Post Trauma Growth.
imagine if i held that little girl like this.