I did not grow up in a functional family. My earliest memories of my parents include fighting predivorce and then being manipulated between both parents to get back at one another. Then my mom remarried when I was 7 to a man who enabled her alcohol addictions, proposing only a few months after their first date in which she was high on cocaine.
For many years, while living with her and her husband, I witnessed their abusive behaviors and mostly hid away in my bedroom to distract myself from their nightly wars. I watched many horrific things they did to one another and was victim to her abuse as well. Most commonly, the emotional abuse in which she would minimize me or taunt me as I cried. We did not talk about boys, hair and makeup or changing bodies. We did not talk about life or self identity. Some days we barely spoke at all.
I saw deeply into people wherever I was. I wanted to psychoanalyze the world around me and figure out who i was in the midst of it all. I was also seen as an "old soul" or deeply emotional by the adults around me. But with peers I kept my distance. I was more in my own world with my art and writing. Those were my coping tools. As long as I had my art supplies and some good music, I could hide away forever.
As a young kid, I would take change from a coin jar in my closet and go take the buses or trains elsewhere. This continued into my teen years, when I would make my way by train or bus to my cousins' towns. And when I started to date, I did the same. My mother worked like a workaholic and then came home late to drink. She never knew what I was capable of or even when I left.
She also did not remember the many times I ran away. Out in the night. To be with my boyfriend or to go to a friends house. Not in a rebellious teenage way. I was fleeing from her. Only once did she come after me, trying to follow me 2 blocks down the road until I ran off into the night disappearing from her sight. It took me 4 weeks to come back.
When she finally called wanting to know where I was, it was 10 days later. She had not reported it. She had not come to my school or my part time job. I was 15. She did not even realize I had a job. Even though I'd told her many times. She acted like she had no idea where I was yet did not care to check in. Until she was asked by family members and so she had to look concerned.
Meanwhile I was being clothed, fed and cared for a mother of someone I was dating. And it was humiliating.
When I found out a few months later I was pregnant with my daughter, I went right to a clinic after school to confirm the test and talk to a social worker.
There I applied for insurance for myself, had a discussion with the counselor about my health and made a second appointment to hear the heartbeat. I went into school and lived at home, hiding my tiny body and running often to the bathroom when I felt sick. No one noticed anything.
All those years I had seen so much. It was not just the graphic violence and fighting, but the way I saw others' handle the situation that shook me.
Years of family acting like nothing was wrong.
Years of her husband gas lighting, abandoning me to be with her or fueling her to direct her anger at me. Pretending she was not an addict when the cops or CPS got involved. Hiding bottles or broken items of evidence in the house so there would be no repercussions.
And when it finally got brought to the law, the case being dropped because I did not have sufficient evidence of photographed bruises or police reports for abusive episodes. Because I did not have witnesses.
I saw the dysfunction. I saw the events even when she blacked out and did not remember them. I watched and I heard what people closest to me would say.
No one saw what I saw.
It has been 12 years now that I am away from that home, from that family. And still, my parents and her husband included deny it all. Still, the same addictions and problems occur. They are stuck in a never ending loop of trauma, that they fuel daily.
When you are a survivor of trauma, you have an extra insight. An extra ability. A third eye. You have the tapped ability to feel deeply, to sense deeply, and you can understand a very large picture of the world that many people are blinded to.
Once you see what cruelty looks like, once you have survived it breathing down your neck, there is no denying what horrible things can happen in this world.
What people are truly capable of.
When someone violates your trust, your safety, your identity, your loyalty, it changes you.
I view this change for myself as an awakening.
I see what people are capable of, both good and bad. I choose to be good, I want to be a good person.
Because of this decision, I wielded pain into strength. And I have been willing to walk away from anything that does not serve me ever since.
Once you leave your own parents, or someone you are very strongly connected to, you realize the depth of how much you love yourself. Of how willing you are to be your best self.
With that awareness comes the realization that nothing is forever. No suffering and no dysfunction is worth an ounce of your time.
With that awareness comes the power to focus on doing good in the world. It means you cannot unsee. You cannot just turn a cheek.
Forgiveness is not unseeing. And it comes in its own time for everyone.
It is a gift to be able to truly feel in your bones what is good and right in the world. To be sure of what love can accomplish. To feel it in your soul that peace, positivity, and good health are the true power sources of our species.
Sometimes you have to see the true absence of those powers in order to unlock them within.
Though I saw so much, so young, it matured me and prepared me for the role of motherhood in ways i will always be grateful for. At 16, and again at 25 and 26, I welcomed 3 beautiful children into my world.
I have never felt as loved or loving than when I became a mom. I deeply, unconditionally love my babies. And I cannot Express how in love I was with my first as a single teen mom. Once she was in my arms, nothing else mattered. No one else compared. And nothing was worth being unhappy ever again. ♡
If you have been through trauma, then you have the ability to see a big picture. You are changed forever and I know how much that hurts. How terrifying it feels.
But with it comes a great power.
Use it with love. Be your best self.
Published by Jean Soto JS Jaded Savior blog: email@example.com
Jean Soto, mother of 3 and wife, is a writer + artist in the Hudson Valley, NY community.
Content mention of Rape, Abuse, Neglect, Addictions, Mental Illness, Kidnap, Molestation, Child abuse, Teen Pregnancy, Abortion, birth, body image, gender/identity dysphoria, sexuality, personal trauma, domestic violence and other extremely personal stories. Please practice caution. I am not a licensed physician or mental health professional. No medical prescribing is provided on this site, Only personal insights, experience stories, and advice; All stories published have had prior authorization. Questions? Contact Jean at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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