I was asked to write a post on my blog about life through my eyes. Although I welcome suggestions, this topic is probably the one that is hardest for me to write. I have written many posts about my struggles, but to describe what life feels like for me is incredibly difficult to articulate.
I am very much an enigma. I have self-awareness up the wazoo, but implementing that self-awareness is challenging. I have a strong sense of who I am, but I still struggle with codependent tendencies and seeking validation from others. I am an advocate (INJF) personality and will stand up for what I believe in, but I am sensitive, and my feelings are easily hurt. I know I am strong because I have survived a lifetime of abuse and trauma, but I still feel weak.
The truth is, we are all comprised of a series of contradictions. Our lives and experiences have formed and shaped our way of perceiving the world. For many of us, we are our own worst enemies. We go into the ring with the sense of self that knows better versus the self that is consumed with pain. For me, that internal battle has encompassed most of my adult life.
I spent my childhood in survival mode. As a victim of emotional and psychological child abuse and severe neglect, I grew up having no sense of safety or stability. I did not know what if felt like to be loved unconditionally. I was extremely codependent on my mother, who was my abuser. It was ingrained into me that I was worthless, helpless, and incapable. Nothing I did was good enough to make my mother love me, so I concluded that I was broken and unlovable.
This way of thinking was the voice of my inner child, and that way of thinking never went away. Our inner child is the child within all of us. It is based on the thoughts and experiences that took place during your childhood, pre-puberty. Every single one of us has an inner child. Your childhood will determine the perspectives, needs, and thoughts of your inner child. Due to my trauma and abandonment issues, my inner child views the world through a lens of fear, loneliness, and terror.
For a very long time, my inner child was my primary sense of self. It was hard for me to detangle who my inner child was versus who I was as an adult because we had the same way of thinking. As an adult, I still saw the world through her eyes. As someone with CPTSD and anxiety that is often debilitating, I felt that no matter my successes, no matter my strides, I was still a helpless, scared and fearful girl.
I also felt that since I couldn’t save myself as a child, I could not save myself as an adult. I jumped from relationship to relationship wanting the person to “save me”. I felt that I was not whole and could never be whole due to the damage that was done to me. However, I thought that if someone finally loved me, it could fill that void. The truth is that that void can never be filled by another person, and I kept experiencing that painful truth time after time and relationship after relationship. I was like a parasite by creating a sense of self and wholeness from another person. When the relationship would end, I crumbled along with it.
When my husband started abusing alcohol during my pregnancy, my inner child was upfront and center. The man I had chosen to start a family with, the man who was supposed to love me, was not someone I could count on. I was alone again, but this time, I was about to bring a living being into the world. How could I be a mother on my own when I still felt so very much like a helpless child?
My husband turned to pills soon after he stopped using alcohol. He spent the first four years of my daughter’s life MIA emotionally. Even after he became sober, it was a constant struggle to use healthy coping mechanisms to deal with his pain and to communicate his feelings. Meanwhile, I had a daughter who depended on me. I promised myself as a child that the cycle of abuse would stop with me. I realized it was necessary for me to understand that I was no longer a lost little girl. After years of being abandoned by my mother, I came to the realization that I was guilty of abandoning my inner child as well in adulthood. I now had my own little girl, and her safety and well-being were my responsibility.
Having my daughter helped me a long way towards realizing that I had a sense of self separate from my inner child. I had to take care of another human being and step up as an adult. I learned that I could stand on my own two feet. I had an obligation to teach my child that she is in control of her life and that happiness is in her own hands. Therefore, I had to start practicing what I preach.
I still vacillate between seeing life through the eyes of my inner child and the eyes of a woman who is a survivor. There are instances when I am triggered, resulting in me lashing out and feeling out of control. I know in those situations that that scared little girl within me feels frightened and scared and that my inner child is reacting out of fear and feeling unsafe. I know my inner child is in survival mode because she had no choice but to do that growing up.
However, I am learning that through recognizing the needs of my inner child, I am showing her that she is safe. By listening to her and honoring her feelings, I am giving her the love she needs. She isn’t being abused anymore. She isn’t in danger anymore. There is an adult who can care for her, love her, and make sure that she is protected. After years of looking for someone to rescue me and my inner child, I am learning that I am the person that needs to proudly take ownership of that role. I am my inner child’s source of safety and support. It isn’t easy to look your pain and your past straight in the face, but I now know that my inner child deserves to be loved. I deserve to be loved too.
I am by no means “healed”, and truth be told, I don’t really know what healing means. I don’t think anyone is ever fully healed. I think we all have wounds and bruises. Some are merely knacks, whereas others are deep. Some are physical in nature, and others are invisible, but oh so potent. We are all damaged, but being damaged does not mean that we are broken.
I will always struggle with anxiety. After being thrown out of my house from the time I was 8, I am very much shaped by the message etched into the recesses of my being that the outside world is a scary place. I am aware of why I feel that way, but it doesn’t change those feelings. I fear doing things on my own as a result. I have social anxiety and feel tremendous anxiety making phone calls, going on errands, and even going to a doctor’s appointment for a check-up. I do not drive on the highway and will try to drive somewhere in advance to make sure I know where I am going.
That said, I have driven my daughter to play-dates without practicing in advance when it is last minute, I have taken my incredibly hyperactive daughter on errands, and I have spoken on the phone when needed. I don’t think my fears will ever go away, but I try to face them. I will fight to be the best version of myself until the day I die.
I used to feel a lot of shame about my anxiety, and most people don’t know the extent of it. Outside of my husband, nobody knows that I have debilitating anxiety about doing things on my own. However, I spent too many years feeling shame about those feelings. I spent too much time judging myself for it. I spent too many years staying in inner-child mode, instead of incorporating her into my life.
I now know that there will always be someone who will judge me for my struggles. They won’t understand why a grown woman has these difficulties. I also know that I am a warrior for getting up every single day and fighting. I fight daily to not allow my fears to define me. I fight daily to be the best mom, wife, and person I can be. I fight daily to not let my past control my present and future. There will always be things that others easily do that are incredibly difficult for me. I now accept that. However, I am determined to show my daughter that bravery isn’t measured by success, but by having the courage to keep trying.
I try to view life with a balance between grown-up Randi and inner-child Randi. She will always be a part of who I am, but she isn’t all of me. I have learned that it is not okay to stay trapped in the past, which is what I did for years by being stuck in the mentality of my inner child. I have also learned that I need to honor the feelings of my inner child and hold space for her. I am proud of my inner child, and I remind her of that daily.
My inner child is here to stay, and I now embrace her. I am able to see the world through her eyes, while also noting when it is time for me to remind her that it is my job to step in and protect her. I didn’t get the love I needed as a child, and there is nothing I can do to change that. However, I can now give that love to myself and to my inner child. I keep that knowledge in my mind and in my heart as I view the world and my life with both pairs of eyes.
A previous version of this article was originally posted on Surviving Mom Blog.
I am a native New Yorker, but I currently live in Atlanta with my husband, rambunctious 8-year-old daughter, our 2 cats, and our hyper dog. Writing has always been my outlet. I have contributed to numerous publications, including The Mighty, Thought Catalog, Morning Lazziness, Authority Magazine, Her View from Home, and Thrive Global.
I believe writing helped me become the person and mother that I am today. I created Surviving Mom Blog (www.survivingmomblog.com), where I write about surviving abuse and the struggles of of life, relationships, and motherhood. Please head over to the blog, where my hope is that my words provide support, validation and comfort to others in their own healing journeys.
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