Can I recover from child abuse?

I left a small child—my child—over 30 years ago because I was afraid to be a mother. I made sure he was in good hands and then I ran away. For years we have pretended that what I did was acceptable because of my own pain and my terrifying childhood. Can my son recover from such child abuse? Can I recover from committing child abuse?

The worst thing I ever did

Leaving that small boy was the worst thing I ever did and I’ve been running from myself ever since. I’ve been running from me and I’ve been running from him and his experience.

Recently, I reached out to him. At first, he rejected me by not answering me. With fear in my heart, I reached out again and said, “at least give me the courtesy of a reply.” He replied. He said he hesitated to say anything because he didn’t want to lash out at me.

Now I’ve reached out to him again and asked him to be honest, even to lash out if that is what he needs to do. But will I be able to hear what he says?

Historically, what I do in these moments, these real human moments is run away, and what I’m left with is an ocean of regrets and remorse and an empty longing that nags at me by day and suffocates by night. I am left with my own creations of hurt and sadness and one of my ways out of the resulting pain is to bully someone else or punish myself.

When I examine my need to bully others what I see is that I am running from my own pain. When I fight I feel powerful, better, more alive. If I don’t fight, ah… when I don’t fight that is where the real work comes in. For the past few days I have been not fighting, I have been surrendering, giving up, opening myself to my feelings and I have been miserable. I have been punishing myself.

Is there no escape?

I have slept more in the last four days than I have ever slept. If I wasn’t working or eating I was sleeping. I showered once. I ate little, read almost nothing and only checked my email from my phone. I couldn’t wait to go to bed, to wrap myself in my blanket and drift off to sleep to escape my own sadness and my own recriminations.

Today is day five. I only slept nine hours last night and even though I fought to sleep more my body couldn’t take another hour of being prone. My legs and back were aching from inactivity and my mind, though still mostly blank and fuzzy from sleep was beginning to stir. But most importantly my heart was breaking open again and I needed to write and I needed to feel. If I use Perception Language, I can feel myself without punishing myself . . . and there is some light in the darkness.

When I reached out to my son and he responded by telling me that he didn’t want to lash out at me, my worst fears stared me in the face. When I ran away I caused great pain—it was a form of child abuse. I hurt a child. How do I live with that awareness and how do I live with his anger?

My fear of intimacy has kept me from countless relationships and perhaps countless loving and intimate moments. I have avoided deep connections, real moments, tough moments in relationships. I’ve avoided facing you and facing me in heated moments, in tragic events, and when I have done things that I can only imagine must have broken your heart.

The only way is forward

I know that my only choice is to go forward, I’ve walked too far to turn back and I’ve opened doors that I can no longer close. I’ve asked that boy, who is now a man to be honest with me and he has tentatively agreed. I choose to stand still and honor him. Anything to help him recover. Me too.

I hope I stand without shaking and I hope I can listen with compassion and bravery. I hope he sees that even though I ran away and I can’t make things different, that today I wish I had stayed. I wish I had stayed and done the right thing, I wish I had stayed and been his mom.

And ultimately, I hope that I remember this. I hope that the next time I am face to face with you and we are in trouble that I reach for your hand, tell you I am your friend and listen to you.

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