They say that moms are supposed to be your example, shape your world and guide your soul. Well, I guess mine did… just not in the way that you expect.
You see, I first grew up with trauma at the hands of my mother. The screaming was intense, the memories are hard to relive, and the struggle it caused was real. Walking around my house felt like a minefield. Anything could cause a fight. My clothes, my tone, my door being closed. It felt like I could never do anything right. The yelling was always so loud and slapped me harder than a hand ever could. Hiding in a corner crying while someone stands above you screaming is not something any child should experience.
The trauma morphed into neglect when she left. Communication was inconsistent and filled with more fighting. I think I tried to make it work and look beyond the fear, but maybe I didn’t. However, it all taught me a lot. I learned about myself and the world through those years. Some positive and some negative. I learned that dads can be so incredible, that blood is not always the deciding factor in a relationship, and that growing up without a mom means that I will one day be the absolute best one I can be.
Traumatic childhoods affect a person outwards, inwards, short and long term. My mother caused mine with violence, neglect, and painful memories. She continues to present challenges in my life.
This, however, is not about her choices. It is about mine.
When the trauma first started, there was no escaping it. I was always hiding, and it was right there on the closet floor beside me. I was lying to friends and family that things were okay at home. School was my safe place if my dad was ever away for work. I was scared all the time.
Moving past that type of environment is really hard, but collectively as a family, we did it. Some people comment that because we’re so close, it must have been easy. Easy is definitely not the word that comes to mind because boy, was it hard. It did almost break us. But going through trauma together bonds people in a way that no one else understands, and the bond of my family is now unbreakable.
The day my mom’s moving truck was in the driveway was a whirlwind. Was I finally free of that fear and the pain? I hoped so but soon realized that although my mother may have caused the trauma, it fully lived within me.
It is a sad reality—trauma lives with you even when it is over. I was still anxious all the time, quickly developed depressive tendencies, had constant self-doubt and hatred. Being the youngest of three children, right at the start of puberty, I watched my siblings appear to have it all together.
To this day, I’m unaware if they had the same nightmares at night of our parents reconciling. If they were scared of the future because growing up with a single father was unheard of at the time. If they were truly torn about whether moving would make things easier or just add another level of bullshit to our lives. We were and continue to be at different places with our childhood and our experiences. While we lived in the same house, we all had very different levels of trauma within it.
For me, the trauma haunts me. It creates and instills fear for the future.
Will my mental health push people away? Will I be mean and hurtful to my husband and children? Will I cause my family to cut ties because I cause them trauma? Years of therapy and these are still my biggest fears. Becoming the woman that causes pain to the people I love.
I obsess when I tell my nephew “no” that my voice is too sharp and stern. I stress that when I tell my sister I’m confused about my emotions, she sees my mother in my eyes. I fret about having children and my mental health overpowering their needs. I worry that I will not only follow in my mother’s footsteps but that my children will follow in mine. This worry can overtake me some days.
Other days, I watch my brother hold our nephew watching a soccer game and know that we are all gentle and kind at heart. I watch my father pause a conference call because I’m having an anxiety attack and need a hug. I observe my sister carry her unborn children with such elegance and grace that she looked like a Queen.
So yes, we have trauma. It greatly affects us. It has changed our lives. However, we also have love, hope, and faith.
Love for each other to a point where we would never let ourselves cause more trauma. Hope that the amazing example of my father’s parenting will overshadow the negative experiences of my mother’s. Plus, faith in knowing that love and hope will win.
Trauma changes you, but I’ve learned that trauma does not have to overtake you. I grew up with trauma, without a mom, and with mental health battles. However, I also grew up with a breathtaking father, a caring sister, and a rock of a brother. Together we are the family of my dreams. Because of them, I know I will be the best mom I can be. I will overcome my fears and questions, and I will be supported by the most amazing family someone could hope to have.
Together we are bigger than our trauma, and together we are home.