Thursday, 14 April 2016

Children Witnessing Domestic Abuse

"My daddy was special when I was little. He was kind and took me to school and the park. He played with me and bought me presents. With mummy we spent happy days together. We all went on Easter egg hunts and put the tree up together at Christmas. I remember having special birthday parties with mummy and daddy and all my friends. Mummy always made my birthday cakes in my favourite cartoon characters. My daddy worked hard and mummy looked after me. I swam and went to after school clubs like ballet which I loved. But something changed when I was about 7 years old. My daddy lost his job and then he became mean to mummy. They were always arguing. He shouted a lot at mummy and me. He didn't spend much time with us anymore. Nothing was the same. Mummy became very sad and she cried most of the time. We didn't do anything together as a family anymore or go out very much. Mummy slept a lot and didn't look like my mummy anymore. She was always tired, grumpy and sad. I was scared. I thought I had done something wrong and I asked mummy if I made her sad. She said "no" but I didn't believe her. I asked her if I made daddy mad, she again said "no". I became sad too and spent a lot of time alone and in my room. I didn't understand why things had changed. One day daddy hit mummy and she hid in the wardrobe. I was so scared because I couldn't find her. I thought I had lost her and wondered who would take care of me. I didn't want to stay with daddy cause he was always shouting and cross. He scared me. When I eventually found mummy she was sobbing so hard and I cuddled and cuddled her to make her feel better. I just wanted it all to stop and mummy to be happy again. One day mummy said we were leaving. She said we had to go quickly and quietly and not tell anyone. I was scared again. I didn't want to leave my toys but I also didn't want mummy to leave me behind. I never saw my home or toys again for many years. I didn't spend much time with my daddy after that. My daddy continued to shout at my mummy down the phone and mummy still cried a lot. Even though we had left it didn't stop. Mummy began to be a little better and not so sad. I remember it took along time for things to get better and I will never forget how it all made me feel."

Children who suffer and witness domestic abuse suffer too, often, just like the victim, for a lifetime. The memories do not go away. The loss does not go away. It's just like a bereavement and the healing process is the same. It takes time, support and understanding. It may take many hours and months of effective counselling. Children who witness or suffer any form of abuse, suffer trauma and the after effects for life. Trauma changes the wiring of the brain and we learn protective behaviours which are not always healthy. Young children's brains are malleable and consequently trauma has a huge impact on their future and life experiences and how they view the world and those living in it. Witnessing domestic abuse and/or violence changes how we interact with others and intimate relationships. Suffering any form of abuse has the same effect. 

Suffering abuse and trauma of any kind between the ages of 0-6 is particularly dangerous as very young children cannot verbalise threatening or dangerous events or incidents like an adult would be able to. Any event that threatens a young child's safety or their parents safety can cause early childhood trauma which can and will have an effect on them as an adult. Physical or sexual abuse, domestic violence, natural disasters, accidents, war, loss of a parent and/or painful or severe medical procedures will, in most cases, cause early childhood trauma.

Research has shown us that it is essential for children to have a reliable, positive, caring and protective caregiver around them. A consistent protective caregiver is an essential 
resource for children and young people to feel safe. It is imperative that they encourage communication about the child or young persons experience and reassurance that the adults in their life are consistently working to keep them safe.

1. Get moving - exercise can help
2. Do not isolate - surround yourself with positive empathetic individuals
3. Self regulate - mindful breathing, stay grounded and feel
4. Take care of your health - get plenty of sleep and eat well

Support is the crucial factor after trauma. Be patient, understanding and offer practical help where you can. Role model positive behaviour and assure the child or young person it is normal to feel scared, sad and upset. Do not pressurise anyone into talking or telling their story; let them talk when and if they wish to. Do nice things together, find relaxing hobbies or just eat cake and have a cuppa tea together, at home or out and about. We all react to traumatic situations and incidents differently so remember, there is no "one size fits all". Have empathy, compassion and do not judge or stereotype. Just be there. Just be there.


Sunday, 3 April 2016

Letting You Go

For 2920 days I loved you.Every single moment of every single day for 2920 days I loved you with all my heart. I stood by you when times were tough and even unbearable. I gave to you unconditionally emotionally and physically. I stood by you even when I had nothing and knew I should stop but I still supported you and I stayed. From the very beginning I forgave you, believed in you and embraced everything about you, even when friends and family did not. I believed I saw something in you that no one else saw, how wrong I was. It was me that knew you the best, right? Stupidly, I gave you a second chance and then a third and fourth and more. I trusted you and thought you would never lie to me again. I trusted that you meant all the promises you made. How wrong I was? 

I gave you everything I had, emotionally, physically and spiritually. I gave you so much it broke me, physically and emotionally. I thought if I walked away I would once again have nothing and nobody except a broken heart and eight wasted years. I believed I had no other choice but to stay. I made excuses for you and your behaviour to family and friends. I was too understanding - caving, bending and breaking every moment of 2920 days to suit your needs. I just wanted to make you happy to the detriment of making me happy. I dismissed every red flag, deal breaker and compromised my standards in order to make you happy. I thought you would change one day and fucking love me as much as I loved you. But you didn't. I wanted you to fucking choose me first, like I did you. I wanted you to think I was worth it. I wanted you to care for me the way I cared for you. But you didn't. Your never did because you couldn't.

In loving you, I stopped loving me. I stopped doing the things that I loved and being with the people I loved. Loving you was all consuming. Overpowering. Unhealthy. Loving was hard work and you took every ounce of my emotions and energy; thought processes and being. In doing this I lost myself. I didn't know how to be me anymore. I didn't even recognise me. You need to know I stayed and I continued to love you but I stayed for far too long. So long that I was broken. So long I couldn't function. So much wasted time on you. I ignored family and friends advice and I stayed way too long. In staying and loving you I forgot how to love and choose myself. I stopped loving me and taking care of me. I hadn't spent money on me, totally me for eight long years. I was too busy caring for you. I was convinced I deserved you. I believed all the pain was worthwhile because one day you would love me like I loved you.

But that day I asked you to leave was the best day. I deleted and destroyed everything that was you. All the memories (good and bad) had to go in order for me to successfully choose me. In order for me to look after me, your ghost had to go. In order for me to be me again, you had to be eradicated. This was the only way. Every moment that I don't choose you, I get stronger, happier, wiser, more fulfilled. The day you left was the best choice I made for a very long time. That day, one day, will be a distant memory and one day I will find someone to love me that way I deserve to be loved. But for now, for the moment, choosing to eradicated you makes me strong, happy and wise and the me I deserve to be.


Inspired by the amazing article by Linda Greyman on The Minds Journal