When I left Care, I was a huge melting pot of emotions – negative feelings – about myself. I absolutely despised myself. A horrible, unlovable, ugly, nasty, spiteful person I believed I was.
It really really hurt when I thought of my childhood with my parents, and as I was back in contact with them, (thats a whole different blog, re-entering the same situation upon which you were rescued!) I internalised my feelings for them, and my lost childhood, and tried the best I could to make a life for my children.
After all – my parents, were all I had now – all of those loving social workers who had been so integral to me life had gone.
But you can’t really just shove these feelings and emotions away – they come out sideways, whether you like it or not.
Mine came out in the way of self hatred, and manifested itself in an alcohol addiction.
When I agreed to enter treatment for my addiction, I knew that to stay sober I would have to deal with the ghosts of my past, but had absolutely no idea how. I mean, this pain and fear had been part of my life forever, who was I without it?
My identity was totally skewed – I had no idea what my character assets were – I could and would reel off character defects like a restaurant menu – finely tuned to within an inch of its life.
But how could I let go of the pain of my childhood, and the loss I felt from being “evicted” from the Care System?
A wonderful Recovery Worker spent many hours with me, sharing with me the power of forgiveness. ‘Forgiveness!”, I was enraged. Why would I want to let these people who had hurt me so bad off the hook?
‘But you are not, you are allowing yourself to live” says my Recovery Worker.
So I tried it – and this is how:
1) Your feelings are legitimate. You are deceiving yourself to not accept that someone did not hurt you when in fact, they did. Badly.
2) There is no such thing as revenge. It simply does not exist. You can hurt someone, even worse than they hurt you, yet it will never, “even the score.” There is a saying, “Acid does more damage to the vessel it is stored in than to what it is poured on.”
3) Forgiveness is not what you feel. It is what you do with those feelings. If someone runs over a loved one with a car, it is going to take awhile for me to get over the anger. Yet, I can forgive the person more quickly. How? Because the action part of forgiveness is the “laying down of weapons.” What are weapons? Getting even, yelling, name calling, being passive aggressive, and the like. Anything I do to purposely hurt someone is a weapon. I may have to lay down my weapons 10 times in 10 minutes. It is something I am in control of, as opposed to controlling the way I feel. You cannot always control your feelings, but you can control your actions.
4) Forgiveness means to Grieve. It is acknowledging that we have been hurt. Whatever was done to you, you let it go. Let it die. There is no way to get even, it will only haunt you. Let yourself grieve whatever was done to you, that you might be free of that injury. Forgiving them will enable you to be free. By letting it go that simply means you choose to not get even, either through thought or deed. Once you are able to do this, you will cease to be haunted by what was done to you.
I share this with all my young people in the care system, and my Care Leavers who are struggling with the same internal pain that I had – its the most amazing thing in the world to be told by them “I get it now, and I aint letting them rob me of my life no more!”
Life can and will be amazing post childhood trauma and care system, if you want it to be.
Jenny Aka Hackney Child