I survived child abuse from my mother until I was 15 years old – being beaten, loads of bruises, shouting, put-downs, being hated, being petrified. I went to live with my father but left at 17 and I’ve been away from it since then, but it did leave me with issues.
I suffered from low self-esteem. I didn’t know how to choose good people. I didn’t know who I was. I did not get the education I could have. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I was insecure. I slept around.
What helped at first was having somewhere stable to live, always having a job (money and somewhere to go, somewhere to belong), and getting proper help. I used to go and see a lady. I hadn’t told anyone at all the whole story. Telling her and getting into self-help was truly what saved me. I had my job, I was safe, I had somewhere safe to live with a nice older couple, and I got into healing.
This is where I learned about the general outcomes for people like us, people with Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), and could say, yep that’s me! I was then able to look at each of those issues one by one. For example, I missed out on the music of my day – now I am a guitar player and singer and am starting to write my own songs. I was able to take ownership of all my problems because they weren’t my fault, but they were my responsibility, and solving them made my life better.
One other thing I did was cut the abusers off – gone, goodbye, the end, no more abuse. That made me feel safe, strong, in control, brave and honorable.
I cannot tell you how far my life has come from those days. I am 47 years old now and genuinely happy and at peace. I understand that some parents cannot parent, but it’s not our fault. I understand that some people do wrong and will never change and all we can do is give them a wide berth. I put to bed all the memories and sadness and because it wasn’t agitated with contact from abusive family members, it faded away.
Through the self-help books, I learned about values and was able to create what I thought was a cool type of person to be. I gained similar friends, and I made goals, like traveling, and did them. Self-help brought me awareness and the ability to make choices for myself. It taught me to be brave. Self-help stopped being about being an abuse survivor and was just about building that good life.
For other survivors, I would say – it is not your fault. Take steps to end your suffering. Get into your problems and solve them. You have your whole life to live – make it a good one. Shape your own destiny. Don’t let this define you.
According to the landmark CDC/Kaiser Permanente study on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), witnessing violence in the home can cause lifelong trauma for children. Learn more about the effects on children of witnessing the abuse of a parent here. You can help make sure this never happens to another child. Learn how by subscribing to our newsletter and supporting our work. Read about the ten categories of ACEs by following our blog. Do you know your ACE score? Take the ACE test here.
If you or someone you know is struggling with the long-term effects of ACEs, we encourage you to talk about it with your primary care physician so you can be connected to the mental and physical healing options that are right for you. You can also reach out to one of these national hotlines:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Options for Deaf and Hard of Hearing)
For TTY Users: Use your preferred relay service or dial 711 then 1-800-273-8255