You may not have had a great childhood, but at least it's over!



It can be extremely difficult for an abuse survivor to make a scrapbook of their childhood. Some don't make a childhood scrapbook at all. Others leave out the bad things because they can't bear to think about them or don't want anyone to know about them. For some people that works well--it sort of gives them the childhood they never had. But many people want to document at least a few details about the past. Sometimes this in a scrapbook that no one ever sees, that only close family sees, or that is left for people to see after they are gone.
I come down on the side of doing the scrapbook or journaling even if you don't let anyone see it. The process is painful but I have never known anyone who didn't think if was beneficial afterwards.
To all of those who found this file by searching for the word 'survivor', you are already on the road to recovery. The day you start thinking of yourself as a survivor instead of a victim is the day you can start healing. It is a long process and can sometimes seem like one step forward and two steps back. But at least you are heading in the right direction.

Also see Scrapping the Difficult Times.


Survivors

I was glad when the term for people with a bad childhood changed from 'victim' to 'survivor'. Of course in the beginning you actually are a victim but the sooner you start to think of yourself as a survivor the sooner you will start to heal.

Scrapbooking can be one way to deal with past problems but sometimes it takes more. There are many places on the internet that can help no matter what type of issues you are dealing with. If you are looking for a book that deals with your situation here is a web site that has reviews along with links to purchase the book.

There are also websites that have excerpts from books. Many times the excerpts are very extensive and helpful in themselves without buying the book. And at least they give you enough information to help you decide if the book would be helpful so you can buy it or get it from your library.

There is a good book called How To Survive the Loss of a Love by Harold Bloomfield (with poetry by Peter McWilliams). This book covers all kinds of losses--death, divorce, rape, loss of job, illness, moving, loss of a cherished ideal, retirement, menopause as well as various minor or temporary losses that we all experience.

Another book that I would highly recommend to survivors of childhood sexual abuse is Silent Scream by Martha Janssen. I have found several of the poems online. Try searching on her name and the book name. The poems of hers that I like best are "Fear", "Change", and "Powerful Words".

I found a great quote on an old survivor site:

"This family is a test. It is only a test. Had it been an actual family, you would have received love, care and compassion."

Note: After I posted the above quote on a message board someone posted this response:
Just remember members of your family were given to you by God. He is still with you in that family, holding you in His everlasting arms. I too, have had a very hard time with my parents, etc. And I am very thankful for close friends that I consider sisters and brothers. But, I would be very careful not to put anything in an album that will last for generations that would sound judgmental toward my family line. I have come to realize that everyone is just trying to make sense out of their world and doing the best they can to cope. Many parents are so locked up emotionally from what their parents did to them, that they are unable to love their own children above a three level. Is it fair to judge them for that? Be grateful for those from whom you feel compassion, but be gracious with those in your family who love you, but haven't been able to express it the way you need to hear it.

This is the reply I made back to her.
Some of what you say makes sense but every family is different. Some people make choices because they want to and not because of something in their past (for example, a father who leaves one wife and child but is a good husband and father to his next family). And not many years later when they have had a chance to mature but immediately after leaving the first family).

I truly believe that many people are doing the best they can--but NOT everyone. You can see families that are loving and supportive to all their children but in which one child turns out badly (with absolutely no abuse of any kind) and many times those parents end up raising their grandchildren.

I do not think everything needs to go in a scrapbook but I do think it would be very misleading to leave out pertinent facts. They can be told in a compassionate and understanding and non-judgmental way but still have the facts. I think it will be a big benefit to future generations to understand the reasons for some things that happened in the past. If you leave out a significant fact like an alcoholic parent, a parent who abandons his family, abuse, suicides, etc. there will still be evidence that they occurred. There will be people not shown in the album and things that people do that seem inexplicable. However, if you include at least the basic facts about what caused some of them you will create families with more understanding, not less.

I hid the truth about my childhood as best I could from my children for over thirty years (a few things could not be hidden). It turned out that it would have been much better to tell them as they got old enough. They ended up misunderstanding a lot of the things I did that were caused by my childhood. Now that they know some of it we have a much better relationship (there was nothing badly wrong with the relationship but not nearly as close as I would have liked). They both want me to include at least the basic facts in my heritage and childhood albums.

There are many ways in which people can use their past to help the future. For example it could be very beneficial to someone who's child seems depressed to know that a grandparent committed suicide after suffering from depression for several years--you would know to take it seriously and seek help. You can also see the results of child abuse so you will be more aware of the things it can do to a child.

I think in most cases knowing the facts make people more compassionate and not less. My daughters have been extremely supportive of my (very belated) recovery process and have also been able to look back and understand the things that had puzzled them about some of my actions and attitudes in the past.

I would really like to believe that the people in my past who treated me badly actually loved me but just didn't know how to show it, but unfortunately I do not. I do believe that many people have a hard time expressing love (myself included) but sadly some people do not express love because they do not feel it. Some people treat others badly because they have severe emotional problems but other do it just because they want to or because they do not care. Even people who love one child sometimes do not love another. Of course, loving isn't something you can force yourself to do but you do not have to mean to a child just because you don't love them.


Quotes


Songs about Survival

CreativeFolk.com has a lot of info related to Songs about domestic violence, sexual assault and survival.



At Last--Mother's Day cards that tells it like it is!

I suppose you did the best you could...but I could really have used an authentic mother. You still pretty much drive me right out of my mind so it's no wonder I live 3000 miles away.

As you grow older, Mom,
I think of all the gifts
you've given me.
Like the need for therapy...



Merry Christmas

When I started to resolve a lot of my emotional problems it greatly upset a person who was largely responsible for those problems. The more self-confidant I became the more she tried to push me back down--while pretending to others how happy she was at my progress. I was quite amused to receive a handmade Christmas card with this greeting: "We hope your Xmas will be as great as we think you deserve."
You have to admire the intellect and creativity that it took to come up with a greeting that would sound nice to others but give me the message she wanted to get across! The confused look on her face when I thanked her profusely in front of other family members was gratifying. She never did know if I was being sarcastic or if I really misunderstood her intent. (I can be creative myself at times.)



Correspondence

I am going to include quotes from some of the emails that I have gotten while working out the plan for this site. In some cases I will just post my reply to preserve the privacy of those involved.


Here is a link to a good place to look if you are experiencing any type of inner turmoil.

HealthyPlace

Here is the message that lead me to first visit HealthyPlace. It was an email sent to me after a post I made to a message board:

Denny,
I read your post with great emotion and I am not sure why. My childhood was okay--not wonderful. And my mom's was obviously not very good. Her father committed suicide and was an alcoholic. My mom is one of the people who tried to hide the past. Then I came along and got interested in genealogy!
Boy, she sure did not like that!
Anyway, I wanted to tell you about Healthyplace.com. It has a Journal section where many of use keep a diary on line about all kinds of mental health issues.
There is a section on Abuse. The journals are kept by people in all stages of the recovery process. Should you feel the need to write about your journey, you can post there. The purpose of these journals is to let others know there is hope and they are not alone, now matter what stage they are in. There are also Chat boards, and they have guest "speakers" on different topics. I belong to several boards, but I found the journaling very helpful.
You only use your first name and they provide you with free email so you can't be tracked down if you don't want to be. You don't have to use your real name. You can decide--just never use your real name when you contact the site. I have found this site very helpful in my own recovery. Writing has always been therapeutic for me. However, by the time I could get to my computer after my accident, things were buried too deep and I was unable to write. It took me over two years to be able to write again.
I feel as if something overtakes me when I write and I don't even think I realize what I have written until after I go back and read it. I know it is coming from someplace deep inside me and once it is out, I do feel better. (Donna K.)


A reply to something I posted on a message board:

Thank you for sharing your story with me and so many others. I too had a terrible childhood and have been in psychotherapy for the last 7 years. I am finally going to be okay, thanks to hypnotherapy. That was the only way that I could get to the part of me where the pain was so deep. I could not consciously go there.


My reply to an email from someone who grew up terribly neglected:

Recently I attended my 35th high school reunion. One of the people who didn't attend happened to be at a party where my daughter was. He told the people at the party that he was not going to go to the reunion because everyone in the class had hated him and would not want to see him. I told my daughter that that was definitely not true. As far as I know no one in the class had hated him or felt strongly about him. He was one who came to school ragged and dirty, hair uncombed, teeth unbrushed, etc. In the way of many children I am sure we teased him--though I don't remember doing so. Mainly he was just ignored and not thought of at all--as if he didn't exist.
My daughter, who is very perceptive, remarked that she thought she would rather be hated than just be not regarded at all.


Sounds

(Vicki Finger)
Sounds . . .
Sounds are all around me
Like stone walls
Enclosing the sounds within.
I want to shout
In hopes that the stone will crumble.
But the sounds
Are only echoes of the past
Forever imprinted upon my mind.

(Here is part of a note that I got from Vicki along with the poem. "Here is an original poem by me. Written in 9th grade, but only recently did I really understand what it means. I think you will know. If you want to post it on your site, you have my permission as long as you give me as the author. Maybe it will help someone else.")


A message on the personal benefits of scrapbooking

(an email I received after I posted on a scrapbook board about dealing with childhood abuse.)

When I read articles on how making scrapbooks aids in healing, I very often get very, very sad. Nobody ever talks about the type of healing needed when abuse was part of the family life. We all want to forget about it, but it is part of what made us strong, turned us into fighters for what is right and against what is wrong in life.

Even though I am not the one the abuse was directed toward, it almost destroyed me. I threw myself into scrapbooking--as if the photos were proof that there was good somewhere in my past and the happy life I had led wasn't my imagination. Sometimes, after I had cried myself to sleep, I would wake up at 3 a.m. and come out and get on the computer and write down my feelings--then delete them so no one in the world would ever know. But when I worked and worked and worked on a scrapbook for my mother, I just wanted to be able to confirm that, whatever evil had crept into our lives, we weren't all bad and I was not trash.

It did help. When I saw how beautiful my grandmothers were on their wedding day and the preciousness of their families, the healing began. I am guessing that your experiences made you look for the beauty in life and cherish the preciousness of it where you found it. I've looked at your site often. I see a sensitive and beautiful person.

I am directing this message to you personally to tell you how brave and wonderful it was for you to be the first one to speak out about painful emotional memories--and to encourage you to add to your site a new section for those that turn to scrapbooking when life hurts. We are out there. I'm going to post just a sentence for everyone else to see . . . but fighting back tears, I want you to know that I am grateful for your bravery. We are still screaming silently, aren't we?
Thanks Denny, and God bless.
Nancy T.


Broken Toys

(B. J. Thomas, written by: Gloria Thomas, Martin Jerald Derstine, & Gary Harrison; BMI/ASCAP; Gloria Thomas Music - 16 Stars Music - MCA Inc.)

Such a pretty little face,
with a heart that's been torn.
Living in a borrowed space,
from the moment she was born.
How many times she's cried,
but never tears of joy.
Someone's taken a little girl,
and made a broken toy.

Two sad little eyes,
painted heartbreak blue.
The simplest of his dreams,
never will come true.
Someone else's pain,
fell on this little boy.
Someone's taken a soldier,
and made a broken toy.

Broken toys,
who will mend these broken toys ?
For everyone one we break,
a broken life takes its place.
That one day will break toys of its own.

Oh Lord, we've got to mend these broken toys.
And let them be children again,
give back the innocence stolen from them.
Broken toys,
who will mend these broken toys ?
For everyone we break,
a broken life takes its place.
That one day will break toys of its own.
Oh Lord, we've got to mend these broken toys.


from Family Portrait

(Pink)

I hear glass breakin'
As I sit up in my bed
I told God you didn't mean
Those nasty things you said
You fight about money
'Bout me and my brother
And this I come home to
This is my shelter

Can we work it out
Can we be a family
I promise I'll be better
Mommy I'll do anything
Can we work it out
Can we be a family
I promise I'll be better
Daddy please don't leave

Daddy please stop yelling
I can't stand the sound
Make mama stop cryin'
'Cause I need you around
My mama she loves you
No matter what she says is true
I know that she hurts you
But remember I love you too!

In our family portrait
We look pretty happy
We look pretty normal
Lets go back to that
In our family portrait
We look pretty happy
Lets play pretend, act like it
Goes naturally

Mama'll be nicer
I'll be so much better
I'll tell my brother
I won't spill the milk at dinner
I'll be so much better
I'll do everything right
I'll be your little girl forever
I'll go to sleep at night


from a Dear Abby column in 2003

Dear Abby: I am a college student in a small town. Eight months ago, I met a wonderful young man, and we were planning to be married until I told him about my past.
My step-father molested me. It was long ago, and I have since forgiven him and my mother. (Mother is still married to him.)
My boyfriend, however, cannot forgive them. He tried to convince my mother to leave my stepfather. She refused and now my boyfriend and my mother no longer speak. He says things will never work out because of this rift he has with my family. I am willing to do whatever it takes to make the relationship work, but he says he can't be around my family, and it isn't fair to ask me to give them up. Was I wrong to expect him to support my decision to forgive them? Desperate in TX

Dear Desperate: Your boyfriend's inability to forgive you mother is rooted in his caring for you. When you marry someone, in a sense you also marry that person's family. Your family is so dysfunctional that it may have scared this young man off.
That your mother stayed married to the abuser who molested you speaks volumes. They you opted to forgive them both was a personal choice you made--but that doesn't change the fact that your mother's husband is a child molester. What makes you think he wouldn't be a danger to your children in the future? Think about it.


from Dr. Laura's column

Q: About two years ago my mother learned that my father was sleeping with another woman. It wasn't the first time she either knew or suspected something. Whenever she questioned my father, he screamed and yelled at her and called her terrible names for accusing him of such behavior. Finally, after being confronted with voice mail messages from his mistress, he admitted it all. He said that my mother had provided a home for him, but that he wanted to have fun. Since my mother was suffering from a disease that may someday leave her crippled, he could not see being stuck with her.
He could not understand why I was upset with him--I have barely spoken with him over these last two years. He left my mother financially strapped. I have stayed loyal to her and help take care of her. I have moved on without my father, in spite of family and colleague pressure to 'accept things as they are.'
My question is, why do so many people think that you must accept everything another person does, even if it is immoral and cruel, just because that person is your parent? I have no respect for this man, period.

A: We have created a unique society in which those who do bad things are shown compassion and understanding, and those who point out the badness and expect consequences and justice are called judgmental and mean. I believe this attitude is so pervasive because it provides a huge gray area in which no one has to assume any responsibility for their actions, and they are immune from annoying judgment.
You are showing compassion for the right person, your mother. Hang in there.