Never Forgetting

drawing of a person sitting on a couch surrounded by pillowsI sometimes forget that I am a survivor of childhood abuse. And no, it isn’t that I am continually reminding myself that I am. What I mean is that those experiences are with me all of the time, and even though I am not consciously thinking about them all of the time, they influence me. Even today, as I wrote in What Survival Feels Like, I am affected by what I went through every day all day.

Some of what has stayed with me and shaped me is how I felt growing up. The feelings of never being good enough. And that nothing I ever do will ever be good enough. And the trust issues that I developed because the people that I should have been able to trust weren’t trustworthy. I still have those and probably even more that I don’t realize.

Growing Up

There were things that I did growing up that were very obviously associated with abuse, like wearing baggy, ill-fitting clothes. Some of that did have to do with where I shopped for clothes. I didn’t have money, and so I went to thrift stores and church sales. Had I wanted to try harder, I would have found better fitting clothes.

Part of the ill-fitting clothes was to keep people away from me. I wore clothes that told people to stay away from me. I didn’t feel safe around most people, and so I wanted to keep them away from me.  And I had an attitude to go along with those clothes. It was all a façade.

Not that I was home much, but when I was, I created an unwelcome space in my bedroom too. My room was strategically messy. It was a maze to get to my bed’s location – on the far wall as far from the door as possible. Go figure, right? I had to make it really difficult for anyone to get to me.

Creating Safety

Others are so subtle that I don’t even realize it like my need to feel safe. That manifested in a bit of an interesting way. I build forts. Seriously, I do. No, I am not writing about the backyard forts of our childhoods, either. I create a barrier between myself and whatever else is around me. On my couch, there is a stack of throw pillows on my left. I have two pillows behind me and another one on my right side.  

It doesn’t matter where I am spending time, whatever that spot is, I build a pile of things around me. I grab whatever is nearest and created a safety barrier or fort, for lack of a better term. It is relatively innocuous, and it helps me. I suppose the idea behind my forts is a little bit like the hug machine that Temple Grandin invented while she was in college. Except my forts don’t apply pressure, they are simply there but provide a feeling of security.  

I also wear sweatshirts, large sweaters that I can wrap myself in, and have blankets even when it isn’t that cold out—anything to wrap around myself to create some type of security. I actually want to wear sweatshirts all of the time. Even if the weather does not necessitate a sweatshirt, I will find a way. They provide me a sense of comfort—an extra layer between me and the world.

Not the Only Fort Builder

I was not aware that I did any of those things or why, until a recent conversation with my therapist. I mentioned my penchant for creating barriers or burrows, depending on the situation. She said that other clients of hers who have had similar childhood experiences also do that. Interesting. 

It makes sense to me when I really think about it. A child growing up feeling unsafe will do what they can to find some sense of security. With the limited ability to change their environment or change those abusing them, they create safe places or things. For some kids, it is a favorite stuffed animal, a blanket, or some other item that provides them some comfort. 

As adults, we don’t carry our binkies or teddy bears with us, at least not as we used to when we were kids. Maybe we should. Because for those of us who are survivors, we need to keep building and maintaining those barriers around our physical bodies provides that needed psychological sense of safety and control. Maybe once I heal from the wounds of the past, I won’t need that anymore. Until then, I will continue to do what I need to feel safe in my space. 

 

Don`t copy text!
%d bloggers like this: