Childhood Trauma and Late Adolescence: Growing Up at Age 59
The Effects of Childhood Trauma: Going Through Adolescence at Age 59
I did not have a normal childhood. Instead of growing up in a loving, supportive family, I lived in a war zone, filled with childhood trauma. One never knew when and where the next land mine would explode. You see I was a victim of child incest
—a child of sexual and physical abuse—as were my three other siblings.
As the oldest of four, all close in age, I witnessed not only my own pain and suffering, but the pain and suffering of my sister and two brothers. And just like those soldiers witnessing the casualties of war, I became shell shocked. To survive this horrific life, I buried my feelings deep down inside and made up a different life, a life I always referred to as “my happy and wonderful childhood.”
So when it came time to go through adolescence, I did not experience the normal ebb and flow of emotions and feelings. I didn’t feel anger or sometimes hate my parents as most adolescents do. I couldn’t understand my peers extreme moods and ever-changing feelings. I thought to myself how lucky I was to escape the terrible teens. I always loved my parents and did exactly as I was told.
|Childhood trauma: "The stronger a prisoner is, the thicker the prison walls have to be, which impede or completely prevent later emotional growth."|
~ Alice Miller THE BODY NEVER LIES
Though I went through my teen years during the sixties, I never drank or experimented with drugs as many others my age did. And as the oldest and “favorite one” I always set a good example for my younger siblings. Of course they hated me and saw me like one of their parents. And so life went on and each one of us left home as soon as possible. My sister married and moved to Hawaii the day she turned eighteen. My brothers moved out as soon as high school was over.
As for me, I fell in love with my first boyfriend at age eighteen, had sex for the first time and got pregnant, had an abortion so my parents wouldn’t disown me, and married my first love at age twenty-one because I had been intimate with him. I never left my parents house and lived on my own, even during the first year of my marriage.
As expected, I had children at age twenty-two and twenty-four, staying ever so close to my parents who had continued to control and influence my life even as a married adult. Eventually, after five years my marriage fell apart, but before leaving it, I found another man. This time I was smart enough to marry well. My first husband moved out as my new husband moved in. I was playing it safe.
I married a law student and soon to be lawyer. I was however, extremely lucky for the first time in my life. Though I chose this man with my head and not my heart, he turned out to be a wonderful husband and father to my two young children. We were best friends and shared the same values, that of hard work, education and family.
With this special man I continued to grow intellectually, going back to school twice, earning advanced degrees and entered the world of education first as a teacher and later as a master teacher. To me my life was charmed, full, successful and most of all happy, so I thought. After all, I did all the right things, getting an education, becoming a successful professional and always a devoted daughter, mother and member of a large extended family.
I had zoomed through life, full speed ahead, married to a successful lawyer and living comfortably, unaware that my past childhood trauma would ever catch up with me. I thought I had put that chapter of my life to bed long ago, until the unthinkable happened!
In my mid fifties, menopause hit with vengeance. I began having feelings, both physically and emotionally that I never had experienced before. I had lost control of my perfect life, but more importantly, I lost my ability to control my feelings. (Read more about how trauma resurfaces during menopause by going to mojomenopause.com.) It was like little cracks forming in the wall of a dam. I kept trying to patch the cracks with hormone therapy. When that didn’t work, I was referred to my HMO’s mental health facility.
There they tried all sorts of antidepressants on me that didn’t work because of their side effects. I also received cognitive therapy for five months. When I asked over and over why I am feeling like I am going crazy, I was told it wasn’t important to understand why, just deal with the symptoms.
I asked several mental health care professionals if my childhood trauma had anything to do with what was going on inside of me. They ignored or said they didn’t know the answer to my question.
After getting no relief of my emotional pain and suffering that was affecting my life so profoundly, I left the HMO system and found a gifted therapist who specializes in treating childhood traumas such as mine. Because I finally found someone who understood and knew how to treat my trauma, I thought the work we would do together would be smooth sailing!
Boy was I wrong. Turns out to treat my childhood trauma, not only did I have to go back and remember the traumatic experiences of my tortured childhood, I had to do it again, but this time with feelings I had never allowed myself to feel!
For years I had always talked about these painful childhood experiences on an intellectual level, not on a feeling level. I tried to rationalize my parent’s violent behavior by telling myself that they did the best that they could and that they were probably victims themselves of childhood abuse.
After all, I was a bright, intelligent woman who had read all about and researched the topic of childhood abuse. I thought I had moved on and forgiven them long ago. But by excusing or forgiving them without allowing myself to feel my pent up rage or even grieve the loss of my childhood innocence, I had become a shell of myself and emotionally unhealthy. And so ever so slowly and painfully I began taking baby steps towards reclaiming my life, the life I had lost so long ago.
The first step in this painful process was discovering my sexuality, something I had given up because I felt damaged, beyond repair. My loving husband of thirty years helped me in ways I cannot describe through his loving, patient, understanding and support. He allowed me to find the passion and sensuality within me to begin the healing process. This was a huge first step that we continue to explore and heal together even as I write.
Next came the rage that exploded one evening out of the blue. I had just come home from work and nothing seemed to fit. I was not myself and paced anxiously around uncertain of what to do. This feeling terrified me so I called my therapist and he calmed me by reassuring me that this was normal and that I was going to be OK.
He instructed me to get on my treadmill and walk or run until I felt better. He kept calling me while I walked until I was exhausted. I walked for over an hour, crying hysterically. I had never cried like this before. In fact I couldn’t remember the last time I cried, and rarely allowed myself these feelings of anger or extreme sadness. As I collapsed on the couch, I feel asleep.
The next morning I awoke still feeling the rage inside me. First I lay on the floor sobbing. Then I got mad and began burning photos of my father. I felt better releasing my anger in this way. After that episode I begin to experience feelings of sadness and despair that come and go that continue even until today.
As the months have past and my twice weekly therapy sessions continue, I struggle with my new found feeling and emotions, much like that of a teenager. I never know why or when these unexplainable emotions surface and am caught off guard, ever trying to explain them or figure them out.
You see I am fifty-nine years old with the emotions of a teenager and life’s experience and intellect of an adult. And the war in my life continues, but this time it’s my heart and my head that are fighting each other.
One moment I am feeling sad or upset for no given reason, and then my head starts taking over desperately trying to make sense of it all. Then feelings return again and so the cycle goes on until I either get involved or distracted by someone or something, or go to sleep. In the morning I never know what to expect, and put off waking up to face the day of unknown feelings.
Most days I don’t feel like myself because I am beginning to evolve and change much like that frightened teenager who is trying to “find” herself. I don’t fit in the world I used to know because I am forever changed.
And looking at my life through “rose colored glasses,” while denying my painful past and repressed feelings, no longer works for me. I am terrified of my unknown future because I don’t know who or what I want to be. I constantly question the important choices I made in the past because I now feel as though I was living someone else’s life.
But I also feel that time on this earth is running out and there is an urgency to find the answers and meaning in life. And so the struggle goes on as I ever look for that light at the end of the tunnel.
|I stand in the ring|
in the dead city
and tie on the red shoes ...
They are not mine,
they are my mother's,
her mother's before,
handed down like an heirloom
but hidden like shameful letters.
~ Anne Sexton
Which behaviors in your family have been handed down like shameful letters? Share your experiences of childhood trauma (incest, emotional abuse or physical violence) below or comment on Going Through Adolescence at Age 59. (To ensure your story is published, give pertinent details, but be brief and type in short paragraphs. Do not type in all capital letters. Also, please pay attention to grammar and spelling.)Related Resources for Those Suffering from Childhood Trauma
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Comments & Stories about Childhood Trauma Submitted by Others
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This could be me Not rated yet
I became so engaged in reading your story because I could identify with so much of it. The constant inner turmoil between my head and my heart or feelings …
When will this end? Not rated yet
Hello everyone. I am turning 51 years of age this year and I must say that it was the most miserable year of all. I was sexually abused by a brother …
I can really relate to this story Not rated yet
Wow...I just started a blog to write through the exact same feelings that you describe in your story. Your story outlines exactly how I am feeling right …
Post Traumatic Stress Not rated yet
I am 49 and the daughter of parents who lived through WWII. Both parents went through lots of trauma during their war experiences. A lot of anger, unresolved …
Me too Not rated yet
I'm 55 yrs old and my life matches this story. I chose a man with my head and a small piece of my heart - mostly I chose him because I could trust him. …
Finding Nan Not rated yet
She is still in there, little Nan, sobbing on the wet, damp, bedroom floor. He is asleep by now, not sure what his name is, soemtimes my mother calls him …
Childhood was Abusive Not rated yet
I have to admit I feel for you. I am going through a similar experience although 10 years younger than yourself. I knew I was cracking up, desperate …
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Childhood Trauma - Child Incest