Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Birthday revelation

On the morning of my recent birthday this year, I quietly contemplated my life and previous celebrations. A tear rolled down my cheek as I started to remember my younger self trying to look happy, but on the inside she was in pain and felt very confused. It was such a powerful memory because as I delved deep inside my soul, I was able to tap into a buried emotion that I didn’t know still existed. Upon reflection, I realise that I felt overwhelmed by people’s kindness and attention on that annual day; behaviour that can easily confuse a child who is being abused. And the end of the day would culminate in an anti-climax that would often lead me to feel very low and tearful. That poor little girl was crying out for help internally but no one could hear her.

Over the years I haven’t always enjoyed or wanted to celebrate my birthday and I now understand why. The low self-worth that was ingrained from a young age remained with me for a long time, and as a result, I didn’t feel worthy of people’s care or attention. Self-care is something that survivors of abuse have to learn in adult life and it can take time to reach a point where it feels natural. In addition, repressed memories that start to emerge during the healing process are often very prominent ones about events such as acts of abuse or birthday celebrations. Having such contradictory memories would understandably deter a survivor from wanting to celebrate. 

This year, I felt a positive change in myself on my birthday. I no longer wanted the day to end quickly so that people would forget me. Instead I made the most of the whole day and enjoyed it. A friend commented that I looked very happy and I would say that is an accurate description of my true emotions. I certainly won’t forget this one and I am truly grateful to the people who showed me kindness. 

I will endeavour to use what I have learnt from my own process in the work I do to help others. And I hope that we may all be mindful of the visible and equally invisible emotions that children display. If a child doesn’t want to celebrate a birthday, don’t force him/her but try to do something they wish to do. However, if a child is showing signs of unhappiness and lack of motivation, there will be an underlying reason for it which will need unravelling. A parent/ adult could try talking to the child or if need be find a trained therapist who may be able to help. It is only through open communication and being able to notice signs that we may be able to stop abuse in the future. Abuse is a complex subject, which is why I continue to write about it, not only to understand it more myself but also to help others.