If scrolling social media when I have 47 other things I should be doing is my toxic trait, you’re all coming down with me.
Don’t even make that face; you know it’s true.
Scrolling when I should have been cleaning is exactly what I was doing when I stumbled upon a post from a casual friend. I wasn’t expecting my childhood trauma and the social ramifications of it to be unearthed due to social media dissociation, but there I was, pantsless, rocking a messy bun, totally shaken.
“I was just thinking this morning about multiple instances during my early teenage years when my friend’s mom would say awful things about me. I was probably 13-16 years old and they wouldn’t let their daughters stay the night with me or would tell them things that weren’t true about me…It’s been over 15 years and I still remember every instance of this happening…”-Anonymous FB Post
My breath caught in my throat. She’d only posted it a few hours earlier, but the #metoo comments were rolling in.
“I was just a kid born into a bad situation…”
“I was screaming for help. Those throwing those words had a good environment…support…all the things I wish I’d had.”
“…because of the way I dressed.”
“…we were not only judged by the adults but by their children based on the assumptions of our last names, the way we dressed, who we hung out with…”
“Turns out I didn’t become my family and somehow became a good person.”
Slowly, I added my own to the growing list.
“Yup. It took years to deal with the shit I carried because my boyfriend’s dad told him to break up with me because “shit rolls downhill” and no matter how great I seemed to be doing at the time, I would inevitably end up like my mother.”
There is so much that I said, and so much that I didn’t say in that one statement.
I imagine that this is also true of every other woman who added her #metoo statement to the post, and every other individual who could.
Because the truth is, we carry so much baggage in secret.
Even when the obvious aspects of our pain are brought forcibly, into the light. An arrest. Child Services involvement. Expulsion. Divorce. Even then, we hide push the impact of the trauma into the darkness, behind phrases like:
“I’m committed to being a cycle-breaker.”
“I will never be like that.”
“I am dealing with it.”
What I didn’t say in my “You’re not alone” reply?
It didn’t take me years. It took more than a decade.
That one statement, in the context of a relationship that was really important to me, had a significant impact on my life. I hate admitting that, because frankly, I don’t like recognizing that this jerk had that much power over me, but here we are.
That one statement was the culmination of my efforts to overcome the stereotype of being “her daughter” failing miserably. No matter what I did and no matter who I became, I would always carry that with me. My character would never matter. My integrity would never matter. My success would never matter. Hell, me, as a person, I would never matter because at the end of the day I would always be marred by my lineage. I would never just be “me.” I would always have an asterisk next to my name.
A child of addiction. A child of criminality. A child of deception. A child of….
Every negative label in the book. And every single one, forever applied to me, not for anything I had ever done but simply because of whose womb I grew within.
It affected the way I moved through relationships. It planted a niggling question mark in the back of my mind. I was afraid to invest in romantic relationships and even close friendships. I was waiting for those around me to change their minds; to decide that I was too labeled for them to attach themselves to.
For years, I have talked openly about what happened to me. HERE are the abuses that I experienced at the hands of my abusers. Rarely have I spoken about the social impact of being abused and neglected. It’s even harder to speak about how that impact on me impacted others. Others that I love. Others that love(d) me.
It’s unsettling to know that adults knew that my circumstances were bad and that their response was to shame, isolate and condemn me. Rather than intervention, support and advocacy, so many adults further isolated a vulnerable child (and later teen).
I was a child. These women responding to the post? They were children.
All it takes is one safe adult. We’ve heard that time and time again, and I have written at length about the people in my life that gave me safety and security when I had never really experienced these things before. One safe person can make all of the difference in the world.
BUT, friends, hear my heart when I say this, BUT
So can a sea of catty, judgmental assholes.
It is incredibly difficult for one safe person to stand guard for a vulnerable child against a hoard of gossip mongers and judgmental jerks. It’s hard to keep teens alive and free from self-destructive and dangerous behaviors when there is an ensemble of voices telling them they will inevitably continue to be a drain on society (because per these people, they already are-cue the complaints about food stamps and income based housing.)
When all a teen hears is a melody of all the things they aren’t and will never be, it’s hard for one voice to overpower all of it to remind them of who they are.
Their creation story; created in the image of the creator of the universe.
It’s hard to plant hope for the future when so much of the community around them is rooted in fear of replicating the past.
I spent so much of my life afraid.
Afraid to Love. Afraid to live. Afraid to really try.
I spent so much of my life in disbelief.
Of my worth. Of my autonomy. Of what God created me to do.
Can we please commit together to do better for the next generations?
Our next generations, sure.
But also the next generations whose homes are broken, drug-riddled and abusive. Who dropped out of school, were never taught to wash their hair correctly and speak too loudly?
Can we plant hope instead of fear?
Can we instill faith instead of disbelief?
Can we, together, choose to rise above rather than tear down?
Be Bold. Live Out Loud.