Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Consequences Of Neglect

Robin continues her story. What she shares is raw, honest and hard to read. There are consequences to being a little baby and losing your Mama. There are consequences when you get bounced around without a consistent care giver. There are consequences to living in an orphanage that has no clue how to nurture a toddler. There are consequences to being a five year old and told to sit on a couch for the day with no one to read to you, play with you, talk with you. And there are consequences when a small child becomes the brunt of an angry and abusing man. None of this happened in a vacuum. So here we go:

Although all types of abuse occurred in our home, the verbal abuse and neglect that impacted me the most.  The neglect, not simply the lack of parental supervision, but also the lack of verbal affirmation, emotional support and having basic physical, emotional and spiritual needs met created a distorted belief system that my needs were not valid.  Maybe that’s because I was also told, like Jill, that I was selfish to need new shoes when my toes were scrunched into ones that were too small, selfish to eat food that was intended for his stomach only.  The message came across loud and clear:  I am too needy.  Being real here, sometimes I still struggle trusting that my needs and desires carry equal importance as others’.  Case in point, my family jokingly calls me the “Food Martyr”.  It became a joke a few years ago when my husband called me out for always being the last to fill my plate, willingly sacrificing the best leftovers for others. Yes, even steak.  I didn’t even realize I had been doing it all these years!  It certainly came in handy when I was a single mom with two little girls. The way I figure it, my pantry will always have canned green beans and popcorn if I get hungry.  Warming the green beans before eating: optional.  Life is good.  First world problems, really.  It’s funny now, not so funny when my eating disorder nearly killed me almost thirty years ago.  

"Dysfunctional"  was my middle name. As a teen and young adult I did stupid things, putting myself in dangerous situations trying to get my emotional needs met.  I fell into the trap of promiscuity, drinking and recreational drugs. It shouldn't come as surprise that I had one abortion before having my son at eighteen years old.  Not Jill as my dad taunted, but me, the quiet one. Yet as foolish as I was, I was smart enough to realize that he deserved a fighting chance to have what I couldn't provide, so I chose an adoptive family to raise him.  Thirty years later when we met for the first time, he graciously and lovingly reassured me I made the right choice.

It wasn't until I participated in a small healing support group a few years ago, a ministry of Mending the Soul (mendingthesoul.org) that I realized how the dots between my lifelong behaviors and attitudes were deeply connected in the root of pervasive shame from childhood neglect and abuse. Somehow it doesn’t seem reasonable that things endured before the age of eighteen has the power and influence to color every thought, belief, and behavior for the next 50-60 years of a life, but it does.  Shame is toxic and it seeps to the depth of our souls.  I’ve heard it said that if we don’t deal with our past, our past will deal with us.  True that.  I believed my "issues" didn't affect anyone but me...(cough, cough..) But bad coping mechanisms and unresolved issues seemed to leak out like chicken juice from the package all over the fridge, making decidedly messy relationships.  Change came slowly.  It feels like it's taken forever to even get this far and I often ask God, "Are we there yet?",  yet I realize I won't be "fully cooked" til I get home.  I have come to understand that I AM who God says I am, not who I think I am based on distorted lies.  Therein lies my true identity.

Jill here, I am so proud of my sister. One of the things that I have looked up to her for was her raw honesty. Her daughters have known for many years about the abortion, the son she placed for adoption and her eating disorder. I have watched this transformation over the years. She has demonstrated great courage, the courage that I have lacked until this past year. I have great respect for my sister. She is my very favorite "little sister" 

More tomorrow.
Till then, in Christ Alone

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".

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