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My ex-husband showed up drunk at his Christmas with our kids. It really, really sucked. I have three kids; one cried and yelled, one would not acknowledge him, and one disappeared until things calmed down. Something in me broke.

I have spent years protecting both him and our kids, in order to keep his healing journey safe, and so as not to embarrass or expose my kids. While I believe I did the right thing for the kids’ sake, I also ignored that I am part of this life experience too, and it is part of my story. Does it need to be public? No, it doesn’t, but in my life purpose of helping others, my experiences can bring meaning, help and hope to others. This is part of my story and I should be able to share it as such.

Pain comes in many forms. Watching my kids that night propelled my pain to a whole new level. There was nothing I could do to make any part of it okay, because it simply wasn’t. We were able to salvage some of the evening, but when I went to bed that night, I was shattered. Do I understand why his drinking has escalated over the past year? I sure do. Does that mean I turn a blind eye to its effect on others? A resounding NO.

Some lessons from that sh** show night:

  1. I realized a couple of ways I’ve been enabling bad behaviour.
  2. My kids (all teenagers) still need me to be their safe place, and to provide a safe place. While I fully recognize I have done a great job, for the most part, this showing up drunk thing is fairly new water to navigate.
  3. It reminded me that I’m not always strong, and that’s okay. I have a reputation for being kind, compassionate and resilient, but there are just some crappy moments that I’m allowed to be upset about. If I don’t handle it perfectly, I will still survive. One of my greatest fears is falling apart and not being able to support my kids’ emotions through the traumas they’ve been repeatedly exposed to.
  4. I am not alone. I know that, but I sure felt alone that night. It’s the holidays, who wants to ruin someone else’s Christmas?! When I woke up the next morning, I reached out to a friend. I vented, she listened, we talked, and I hung up feeling like I could carry on.
  5. I can change how I do things, I can still be kind and compassionate while drawing strong lines and boundaries for my own mental health, so my job as the mom isn’t derailed. After all, if I’m not okay and don’t take care of myself, I am not teaching my kids how to navigate the deep, dark waters of life either.

Simply put, what I allow is what will continue.

My wish for you and for me is that we will take time during what can be a difficult season to reflect on who we are, how far we’ve come, and how the challenges we face give us the opportunity to become bitter or better.

 

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I have heard many stories, shared in deep sadness and pain, and also been witness to the immense inner-strength and resilience present in so many people affected by trauma. However, when I speak of trauma, it is not based solely on definitions such as the one from the American Psychological Association which states, “Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape, or natural disaster. Although trauma is definitely made up of these events and many more (childhood abuse, neglect, and abandonment).

I think of a quote from D.W. Winnicott (a renowned British Psychiatrist) who theorized that “there are two things that can go wrong in childhood: Things that happen that shouldn’t happen – trauma such as abuse and neglect – and things that should happen that don’t happen – such as being unloved and emotionally abandoned.”

My experience is based on my time as a trauma therapist but also from personal experiences that have caused me to re-evaluate all I do and say, especially with my children. It may already seem that I must have been raised in a difficult home. When others looked at my home life, they were very envious of what I came from. My best friend came from a broken home with an alcoholic step father and a very verbally and physically abusive mother. He loved the times he spent at my house as it was his escape from the chaos and feelings of hate, abandonment, and neglect. However, there are always different perspectives on the same situation and my perspective was much different than my friends.

I grew up in a religious home from the time I was seven. My parents immigrated to Canada from England with a one-year-old baby and another on the way. They came to a new country knowing no one as my father came to work for a family that needed a mechanic. They were isolated, alone, scared, and barely knew one another (met and married within three months).

My mother was raised in a very abusive home by her grandmother and she carried this pain and feelings of abandonment and neglect into her own family. For her to feel loved, she felt like she had to save everyone and be there for everyone. This resulted in many hours at the church helping others and bringing in countless numbers of young men who she took under her wings. My father was depressed and struggling with Colitis and the medication that resulted in extreme mood swings. We never knew what mood he would be in when he arrived home.

It took me many years of self-awareness and reflection to understand that how I respond to my wife now, my ex-wife in the past, and other females over the years was what I was missing with my own mother. I felt completely rejected and unloved during those years. I felt like I was not good enough, otherwise why would she need to bring in other young males to make her feel good about herself. Fortunately, I have a good relationship with my mother so we have been able to discuss this over the years, even more recently so I have had the opportunity to express my feelings and begin the work towards becoming a more securely attached husband, son, father, and brother. I am coming to understand that none of us is really aware what someone else is going through and even if their issues do not seem as big as our issues, it may be catastrophic to them.

We need to support everyone for where they are at with love, acceptance, kindness, and a non-judgmental attitude. We need to foster safety, comfort, and openness so those who need to talk, share, and become more self-aware have the opportunity to do so without fear or worry. We all have a unique story that needs to be heard. The more we listen, the more we hear and the more we understand. Vulnerability is true strength. I encourage everyone reading this blog to find someone you feel comfortable with to open up and share your story.

Written by Stephen Roberts, RPC – Guidance Professional Services Inc.

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