1. a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.
When I began therapy, my therapist began with a series of “intake questions.” Normal things such as, “rate your depression 1-10.” Then, she asked about family life and my childhood. She asked if I had ever witnessed domestic violence. I replied, “No, my parents never hit each other, or me, they just yelled and argued a lot. If they weren’t fighting with each other they were fighting with my older sister ” She then asked me a few follow up questions about their arguments.
Their arguments could suffocate a room, the whole house. I could lock myself in my room, hide under a blanket but, their words would shake the walls. I could hear the doors slamming and all the beer bottles hit the walls. At that age I didn’t even know what they were fighting about. (If you read my other posts you’ll read about how my father is an alcoholic, which I didn’t find out until I was bout 15. My mom hid a lot to “protect” me.) I just wanted it to stop.
She then replied with, “That is domestic violence.” She asked a few more questions such as, “How does that make you feel?” She then proceeded to go over some hand outs and publications about childhood trauma. She also talked about ACA . Adult Children of Alcoholics/ Dysfunctional Families.
I think that since my father was a functioning alcoholic, I never really thought as myself being “the child of an alcoholic.”
- We became isolated and afraid of people and authority figures.
- We became approval seekers and lost our identity in the process.
- We are frightened by angry people and any personal criticism.
- We either become alcoholics, marry them or both, or find another compulsive personality such as a workaholic to fulfill our sick abandonment needs.
- We live life from the viewpoint of victims and we are attracted by that weakness in our love and friendship relationships.
- We have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and it is easier for us to be concerned with others rather than ourselves; this enables us not to look too closely at our own faults, etc.
- We get guilt feelings when we stand up for ourselves instead of giving in to others.
- We became addicted to excitement.
- We confuse love and pity and tend to “love” people we can “pity” and “rescue.”
- We have “stuffed” our feelings from our traumatic childhoods and have lost the ability to feel or express our feelings because it hurts so much (Denial).
- We judge ourselves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem.
- We are dependent personalities who are terrified of abandonment and will do anything to hold on to a relationship in order not to experience painful abandonment feelings, which we received from living with sick people who were never there emotionally for us.
- Alcoholism is a family disease; and we became para-alcoholics** and took on the characteristics of that disease even though we did not pick up the drink.
- Para-alcoholics are reactors rather than actors.
** Para-alcoholic was an early term used to describe those affected by an alcoholic’s behavior. The term evolved to co-alcoholic and codependent. Codependent people acquire certain traits in childhood that tend to cause them to focus on the wants and needs of others rather than their own.
I was speechless. I identified with almost all of these.
Admitting that my childhood has heavily impacted my adult life has been really, really hard. Today, I’m extremely close with my parents. I feel guilty admitting that they had a negative impact on me in any way.
My therapist continues to tell me, “you have to feel in order to heal.” So many new emotions and feelings are surfacing. Feelings I’ve never explored. It’s almost like I’m starting all over again with my mental health journey.
I know I can’t give up and I need to keep moving forward. And that’s what I plan to do.