Abuse is a funny sort of thing. I mean not funny “ha ha”, but more like funny “oh”.
I met a great person in a trauma survivors group. As a youth, she was beat up by her mother. A lot. The more she cried, the harder she’d get hit. So she learned not to cry. She learned to avoid looking weak at all costs. She couldn’t hide the scars on her body. So she added her own markings to her body- tattoos, piercings. But still, she could not cry. She learned that it was okay to show her scars on her body but she would never look weak or cry.
Now me on the other hand, my mother would push until I cried and then she would leave. The fight was never over until I cried. But if I ever showed my scars/pain in public, she would attack me even harder. So I learned to make sure things always looked ‘normal’ but I knew that it was okay to cry.
Let me try to write this like a mad lib:
My mother attacked me when I ______ (acted weak/ acted strong).
When I cried she would ______ (hit harder/ back off).
So I learned to survive by acting _______ (strong/ weak).
She wanted the public to think that I was ______ (weak/ strong).
She thought that my _____ (visible scars/ emotional numbness) was evidence that I was ______ (that I was weak/ that I was strong). She was wrong.
My mother created a narrative of me and adjusted her actions to fit it.
My mother thought that scars and bruises would show that I was weak. I will show her that my scars make me strong and tough. I will own my scars – not her.
My mother thought that hiding emotional reactions would show that i was strong. I will show her that hiding emotional reactions is weak. I will own my emotional reactions – not her.
Let’s add another option to our mad lib:
My mother attacked me when I ______ (acted weak/ acted strong/ never).
When I cried she would ______ (hit harder/ back off/ hug me).
So I learned to survive by acting _______ (strong/ weak/ authentically).
She wanted the public to think that I was ______ (weak/ strong/ me).
She thought that my _____ (visible scars/ emotional numbness/ being) was evidence that I was ______ (that I was weak/ that I was strong/ loved).
She was _____ (wrong/so wrong/ kind).
My _______ (scars/ emotional numbness/ feeling of being loved) make me _______ (strong/ weak/ free).