There are so many types of abuse and so many degrees. I grew up in an abusive household experiencing things that no child should, however many abuse survivors might easily say, “Ha! You call that abuse?” Unless I am conducting a rare intellectual investigation of my life, I don’t often think of myself as abused or neglected. The bad things happened to another person—the little girl I once was. I don’t feel sorry for myself; I do feel sorry for her.
Kelsey Briggs was a beautiful little girl who was repeatedly, brutally abused by her stepfather. Abused to death. It wasn’t my own experience but the story of Kelsey Briggs that compelled me to become a GAL (Guardian ad Litem). My thinking went something like, “I’m too old to be a cop, and my aim isn’t good enough to be a vigilante…I’ve got to do something for these kids.” Kids like Kelsey Briggs remind me of how easy my life has been—dare I say I was abused?
No matter what we are, we are statistics. There is a certain element of guilt attached to being “an abused child,” when you’ve never had a broken bone, bruises, burns, or internal injuries; though not all abuse survivors suffer guilt. The fact is that no one should be abused, but it’s easy to overlook the facts in the face of the degree of abuse or in a culture where abuse is the norm (or perceived to be the norm).
From the time I was eleven years old until I was in my mid-forties, a day didn’t go by that I didn’t wish I was dead. I hated my life, I hated myself, and I felt that I was less than a person—the darkest soul ever to inhabit human form. Oh, that’s so dramatic, but I didn’t look at it that way. I looked at each day as another day of getting screwed over, of not counting for anything (because I didn't count for anything), of being rejected. The thing that helped me recover from such feelings, to rise from the depths of depression (in fact, to rise from my bed each day), and to appreciate my gifts, talents, and worth is one of the many things for which I am grateful.
Not all abuse victims grow up to be depressed or suffer from other mental illnesses and dysfunctions, and many who do pull themselves out of it—when they do the hard work it takes to get past the past. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to tick off the good things in life, instead of the reasons life sucks. So here, in no particular order, are the good things in my life, the things that make every day a cause to celebrate and every breath worth taking.
- The knight in shining armor who rescued me from what was little more than a shadow of life (husband FCE).
- My kids who know first-hand about the cycle of abuse, but who managed to be the stopping point.
- My grandkids who know how to be their own people.
- The people who felt I was worth getting to know, no matter how hard I made it on them.
- Prozac—the first step in turning my life around and keeping it (mostly) balanced.
- Hot showers and cold tea (preferably Diet Snapple Peach Tea)—not necessarily at the same time.
- A sense of humor.
- A spiritual journey.
- Dogs & cats, especially when they’re not fighting like…well…you know.
- The ability to accept that this is not a perfect world, and I can’t change people.
- My personal philosophy.
- Reliable transportation.
- Prescription eyewear, especially when the puppy hasn't eaten them.
Sometimes when I would pass grand mansions and estates, I would think “I wonder if they know what they’ve got.” I don’t know if the people living in those houses do, but I am grateful to be aware of how very rich and full my life is (although I certainly wouldn’t turn my back on a windfall!)—in other words, I am grateful for the opportunity to be grateful, even at my most cantankerous, self-absorbed worst moments.
Nope, I’ll never be perfect, but I’ll never be the intellectually and morally inferior person who deserved punishment—the person I was conditioned to be, the person I learned I never really was.