Our Nations Shame

What Can Happen to Abused Children When They Grow Up –           
 
If No One Notices, Listens or Helps?

  For purposes of this document, abuse and trauma are defined as: interpersonal violence in the form of sexual abuse, physical abuse, severe neglect, loss, and /or the witnessing of violence. 

Prepared by The Office of Trauma Services,Maine Department of Behavioral and Developmental Service’s State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333 Phone: 207 287-4250, TTY 207 287-2000, fax 207 287-757  January, 2001

 If no one notices, listens or helps, childhood abuse can lead in adult years to:

 SERIOUS MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS

The mental health system is filled with survivors of prolonged, repeated childhood trauma:

·50 to 70% of all women and a substantial number of men treated in psychiatric settings have histories of sexual or physical abuse, or both.  (Carmen et al, 1984; Bryer et al., 1987; Craine et al., 1988)

 ·As high as 81% of men and women in psychiatric hospitals with a variety of   major mental illness diagnoses have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse. 67% of these men and women were abused as children (Jacobson & Richardson, 1987)

 ·74% of Maine’s Augusta Mental Health Institute patients, interviewed as class  members, report histories of sexual and physical abuse. (Maine BDS, 1998)

 ·The majority of adults diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (81%) or  Dissociative Identity Disorder (90%) were sexually and/or physically abused as children.  (Herman et al, 1989; Ross et al, 1990)

 ·Women molested as children are four times more at risk for Major Depression as those with no such history. They are significantly more likely to develop bulimia and chronic PTSD. (Stein et al, 1988; Root & Fallon, 1988; Sloane, 1986; Craine, 1990)

 ·Childhood abuse can result in adult experience of shame, flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, depression, alcohol and drug use, feelings of humiliation and unworthiness, ugliness and profound terror. (Harris, 1997; Rieker&Carmen, 1986; Herman, 1992; Janoff-Bulman & Frieze, 1983; van der Kolk, 1987; Brown & Finkelhor, 1986; Rimsza, 1988)

 ·Adults abused during childhood are:- more than twice as likely to have at least one lifetime psychiatric diagnosis- almost three times as likely to have an affective disorder- almost three times as likely to have an anxiety disorder- almost 2 ½ times as likely to have phobias- over ten times as likely to have a panic disorder- almost four times as likely to have an antisocial personality disorder  (Stein et al, 1988)

 ·97% of mentally ill homeless women have experienced severe physical and/or sexual abuse. 87% experienced this abuse both as children and as adults.(Goodman, Johnson, Dutton & Harris. (1997) Continue reading “Our Nations Shame”

Alcoholism’s Gift

I experience internal conflict when I state that quitting alcohol was the easy part.  There is nothing easy about putting down the bottle and getting sober.  It is the journey that awaits you that is also very difficult; in fact, I found it a lot more difficult.  I believe it is that way because we are now going forward in life sober and not numbed out to the world around us!  I wish someone would have given me a heads up about this because it was a rude awakening that I did not find inviting when I started to make this connection. Continue reading “Alcoholism’s Gift”

The Drama of the Gifted Child

All text is © Anita Roy 2004. All rights remain with the author.

Alice Miller’s book The Drama of the Gifted Child is such an affirmation of my belief that what we are modeled to as children – and what we model to our children – is the key to future happiness. When Alice Miller says “gifted” she doesn’t mean academically gifted, but rather the natural gift that we have as children to survive, to find a way to survive when we are confronted with pain, humiliation, anger and sorrow that we cannot express, because we are not safe in doing so. As children, we are neglected and abused in varying degrees, despite the best intentions of our parents. We have nowhere to escape to and so have no choice but to consider our situation a normal life. It becomes our reality as adults unless we become conscious of the process.

As children, we need our parents to survive physically, for food and shelter, and when they cause us pain and suffering, we cannot express ourselves honestly lest we lose those who can meet these most basic of needs. We grow to love our parents because we have not known any other reality, and the ties, the connections, are profound. We are bonded to them and the reality they present us, even if that reality is painful.

We survive by taking the happy times and suppressing feelings about the bad times. We focus on the good times and sometimes, glorify them. The bad feelings don’t go away however, they go underground, and later surface as compulsive behaviors and grandiosity. My father vacillated between delusions of grandeur and depressed alcoholism. These were the recurring themes in a man who was otherwise intelligent, generous and charismatic. He had not had an easy childhood. Being the oldest son of an East Indian family, he had alternately been doted on and pressured into inappropriate responsibilities.

We suffered as children because we were walking on eggs not knowing how he might be mood-wise at any given time. There was a tacit understanding that we had to keep up the illusion of being a successful family. My mother, the enabler, would be equally unpredictable. She was the steadfast backbone of the household, but sometimes, regularly, she would fall apart, emotionally, and lose herself in despair and grief. Loving though she was, she didn’t give the love we *needed*, but only the love she knew how to give, which was to be affectionate and to care for us. She did not see our pain, as no one had seen hers when she was a child. She was looking in all the wrong places for the love she never got from her parents. She was hoping for unconditional love from her husband, but he didn’t know how. The one place where she got close to that kind of love was her babies, but babies aren’t supposed to give their parents the love they never had. Babies have their own needs.

When I realized all this in my personal work I spent a lot of time being pretty angry at them. Furious actually. Both my parents were victims in their own right. It was an edifying time in my life when I realized that my parents were just people who happened to have made babies, and not perfect humans who understood everything. Nevertheless, I had been wounded and I needed to take care of myself.

Paraphrasing Miller, if we don’t become *mindful” of our pain and what happened, then we are condemned to repeat the pattern and make our kids suffer. This is not an easy path, it is fraught with pain and sorrow, but that is the only way to become conscious of which we are. It is “lonely work” and we have to deal with some pretty scary demons. Alternatively, we may look for parent figures in an authoritarian church, political party, domineering husband, Alcoholics Anonymous, or corporate career, so we can exchange personal power for protection just like when we were babies. That protection may be valuable, for a while, until we are stronger: a holding pattern to build courage. But in my experience, at some point, we can no longer stay away from seeking our true selves.

 Quoting Anais Nin:

“And the day came when the risk (it took),to remain tight in the bud was more painful, than the risk it took to blossom”.

All text is © Anita Roy 2004. All rights remain with the author.