As I'm slowly finding the strength to wrestle my demons, the acknowledgement that my lifelong battle with mental illness is quite possibly genetic, but also very likely caused by the stressors of the childhood sexual abuse I suffered at very young ages.
The recollection of various moments in the lives of my children makes me realize how much my childhood trauma has impacted my parenting.
"Not every person who is abused will have a mental disorder, but it does increase the likelihood," Prof. Afifi said of the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey on Mental Health. Of these disorders, RAINN -- Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network -- an American website detailing the many mental disorders associated to childhood sexual abuse, has detailed the correlation between depression, sleep disturbance disorders, revictimization, flashbacks, dissociation, disordered eating, alcohol or drug abuse, self-injury, and sexuality, but to name a few.
Going through the list, every disorder plays an integral part of my past and present, and most likely, my future. The most upsetting consequence of my childhood trauma, however, has more to do with how the mental illnesses have affected my parenting style. Determined to protect my children from everything, more specifically pedophiles, my anxiety has kept me vigilant towards all those coming into contact with any of my children.
Coaches, male teachers, friendly janitors at my children's school; all were subject to my scrutiny, as I always remained within a watchful distance. Of course school policies and life prevented me from sitting in the classroom to keep a watchful eye on the teachers, but my children have all been asked on frequent occasions, if they exhibited the slightest bit of apprehension at returning back to school, was it because they "had been touched in an inappropriate manner."
The thought that my kids could have been nervous at doing a presentation or worrying about an upcoming test never entered my mind. My mind immediately went to the darkest corner in the school; a closet where cleaning supplies were kept or an empty classroom. These areas suddenly became alive with my own memories which I subjected onto my children by keeping my abuse a secret, but stealing their innocence with incessant questioning about whether the janitor had ever "tried to get you alone."
Simple childhood moments between siblings and friends of "You show me yours, I'll show you mine" were turned into interrogation sessions were my finger pointed at each child demanding, "Where did you learn that?" To this day, 10 years later, my kids will still remind me of those episodes with arched eyebrows, querying, "What was that all about anyway?"
And I continue to keep my secret from them, fearful that I've already done enough damage by subjecting them to a life with a mother who starves herself one day and binges the next; with a parent who becomes so alarmed at the sight of a boy's name on my daughter's cell that I have to take to my bed for days to recover from the idea that she may someday be hurt the way I was.
In the meantime, my behaviour; my disorders are wreaking havoc not only in my own life, but in theirs, as I teach my daughter to be fearful of boys; to believe that a friendly game of tag is actually an assault; all because my youth was sullied, and my spirit was broken. And really, sharing my secret doesn't seem like an option because... well, I wouldn't want them to think there's anything wrong with me.
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