There are some very clear ways to identify a survivor of child abuse. These symptoms also are detrimental to the mental health of said survivors. If you recognize these behaviors in yourself, then please don’t beat yourself up. We’ve all been there! Try to accept them as nothing more than a sign of having experienced some really terrible things, then find ways to heal from them however work best for you.
- Blaming yourself for what happened. Children seem to take the responsibility on for their parents’ bad behavior rather than face the fact that their parent has done something pretty terrible. It’s totally normal! However, it isn’t helpful once you’re an adult. It’s ok to admit your parents were less than perfect, & yes, even cruel. No child can make any parent abuse them, including you. Abusive behavior lies squarely on the shoulder of all abusers, never their victims. ALWAYS!
- Accepting what your parents said as the gospel truth. Abusive parents lie. Period. They also convince their children that their lies are the truth. Not only that the abuse was the child’s fault, but that the child is unlovable, stupid, ugly, useless, no man/woman will ever want to marry that child & more. It’s time to start challenging those false beliefs as they rise up in you. Ask yourself, what evidence is there that what your parent told you is true? I would guess there is no real evidence at all!
- Unhealthy coping skills. Watching too much TV, emotional eating, sex, shopping, drugs or alcohol. Whatever coping skill used is unimportant. The fact is the person using such coping skills is trying to avoid the pain inside. Although these coping skills may have served you for some time, it’s time to retire them & face the pain.
- Being a people pleaser. Growing up afraid of rocking the boat where your parents are concerned can create a habit of people pleasing. This is so unhealthy! Of course, it’s good to care what people think. When that rules your life & makes you do things that you disagree with or hurt you, however, there is a big problem! Learn to say “no”. It’s perfectly ok!
- Lack of good self care. Self care isn’t all bubble baths & eating ice cream. Self care also involves taking good care of your physical & mental health, resting when tired, not overworking, & having good boundaries.
If you’re wondering where to start changing these behaviors in you, the best place I know of is what I always recommend. Prayer. Ask God to help you to be healthier & to heal from the trauma you have experienced. He truly will! One thing I do is when something comes up, I ask Him to tell me the truth about it. “Am I right to feel *insert feeling here*? Why or why not?” & listen for His response.
Read about the type of abuse you experienced. Chances are, you’ll find other survivors experience similar things to you. Learning there are others out there going through what you are can be extremely validating. It also will help you to learn how to cope with what you’re experiencing when you see how other people got through it.
Do you keep a journal? If not, now is the time to start! Seeing things in writing can be so validating & clarifying. It also can help you to keep track of the truth. Abusers, narcissists in particular, love to reinvent the past, & lie about the present. Having written documentation helps you to keep track of the truth so you don’t get lost in their lies.
I truly wish you the best, Dear Reader. Facing pain & changing dysfunctional behavior isn’t easy. However, it is worth it when you’re healthier, happier & behaving in a much more functional way.