“If you had been physically disabled by a past trauma and chose to run a marathon—people would call you brave. But we don’t do that with emotional wounds. They are invisible and the parents who rise to the occasion—and parent with love and purpose—who give what they never got—they are unsung heroes.”
This is so true. Navigating parenthood as a survivor of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) can be an isolating experience and this starts at the very beginning. Nobody speaks about it. There is limited or no opportunity to bring conversations into antenatal appointments. There is no mention of trauma in parenting groups. We deal with the often highly triggering process of pregnancy and birth on our own, we might struggle with breastfeeding, to bond, or even have fears around gender – but we crack on because we have to.
The Last Taboo: Produced by Redzi Bernard and Phoebe McIndoe. A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4
Hurt People Hurt People goes round in our heads and we can’t risk our struggles being misunderstood as poor parenting. We want to be good parents. To break patterns, not be accused of causing further hurt. So we stay silent.
Here’s to all the CSA survivors doing their best to parent without the support they deserve. The ones doing their best to work it all out… to heal, to stop trauma passing to the next generation.
This was one of two poems I performed at an event by Drop The Disorder: an evening of spoken word performances to challenge the culture of psychiatric diagnosis and the pathologising of emotional distress.
I wrote it recently, on a day where I felt overwhelmed and exhausted by the consequences of CSA. In the past, I would have equated this with poor mental health and considered making an appointment to see my psychiatrist. I don’t do this anymore because the psychiatric system was unable to support me with trauma. I never experienced relief with meds, there was never enough time, my trauma history was not acknowledged as the root cause and I didn’t receive the empathy or gentle care I needed to heal. On the contrary, treatment felt punitive and came with undertones of threat and a distinct loss of autonomy.
I consider myself a survivor of CSA and the psychiatric system, and was pleased to take part in an event by Drop The Disorder: an evening of spoken word performances to challenge the culture of psychiatric diagnosis and the pathologising of emotional distress.
One of the most significant moments of my journey was the time I reached out to a GP as I was leaving an appointment. She was kind, but as there was no screening for trauma, I was set on a path that delayed recovery for an entire decade. She didn’t intend to cause me further harm, she probably had little idea of what else to do with me. Trauma-informed pathways are long overdue and it is time for change. It is hard to have conversations like these without being accused of stigmatising mental illness but those who are harmed by the system must feel able to speak. When I do, I’m not denying the experiences of those who benefit from treatment, I’m validating my own experiences as someone who was failed by that system.
I regret hesitating at the door. This poem is called Door Handle Moment
Some pieces of writing have been sitting in draft form for a while. I am always unsure whether to post things this as they don’t paint an accurate picture of where I am currently in life. This poem was written nearly two years ago, at the very beginning of my activism journey. It was a time of intense self-reflection and processing of unexpected grief. Shame was still an unwelcome and persistent visitor as I starting to speak openly but I was receiving a few negative reactions. It felt like teetering on the edge of a cliff. I nearly gave up on my ideas and aspirations but I didn’t. I had a tremendous drive to move forward to the next stage in my life that I couldn’t ignore any longer. I was just on the cusp of ‘learning to fly’.
Yesterday I was buried. Six feet under. There was no light. I could not see in the dark. When I opened my eyes, I was blind. When I opened my mouth I was choked. When I tried to shout, I was mute. I could not breathe as my chest could not rise. My arms were pinioned to my sides. I could not move. There was space for my legs but this was unfortunate. I couldn’t sit up so I lay on my back. There was no one else there because I was alone until I realised I wasn’t.
Processing trauma can feel like an ongoing battle; at times a bloody war. I’ve always known that I must process all of it. If I leave any stone unturned I will trip up and fall, most likely landing flat on my face, with a broken rib or two. It’s best to clear the ground now. To prevent the inevitable.
Trigger warning: The following post contains themes relating to CSA that some may find upsetting.
Some of the most desperate in society have suffered more than you can possibly imagine. I live near an organisation that provides help for the homeless, many of whom have challenging mental health needs. A lot, if not all of these people will have suffered traumain the pastand now facedaily judgement.