My life has been filled with unresolved traumas up until I began my Recovery from Opiate Addiction last year.
I won’t go into too much detail about each event but it really began in 1991 at the age of 7. My Dad drove his Work Truck into a Concrete Guardrail on a Monday morning, 8 am – August 26.
My sense of awareness around people and their behaviours, emotions became increasingly high as I aged. This is typical of someone who has endured trauma, including childhood emotional abuse.
As a child, I was always extremely outgoing, eager to please, helpful and charismatic. I was also ““Spirited”, impulsive and dramatic.
At age 8, I channeled that energy into dancing ballet and jazz recreationally which led into 4 years of Competing in Ballet, Jazz, and Acrobatics.
I felt from an early age that I had a job to do and that was to be the best big sister and daughter I could be. I felt this way because it was really the only thing I could control in my chaotic life.
There seemed to be an impossible double standard, demands and expectations in our home life that I couldn’t relate to other families.
At home, there was never any consistency and it was always volatile. I could go into great detail for sure but a constant cycle emerged and it never added up with what I felt in my heart and my head. The extremes between love and anger were too intense.
After my dad died, my mother gave me the opportunity to have some bereavement therapy but it did not last long. A permanent emptiness began forming and anger replaced sadness over the years.
I had been raised with good values and morals. In my first 7 years of life, I felt loved. My father and my paternal side instilled a strong work ethic inside of me and I always had an energy for excitement.
I developed a skill of always staying one step ahead and having a precision awareness towards situations. I became an intense strategic thinker and always had a plan. In my world, I could think of various risks and worst case scenarios.
This became useful when I became a Banker because I used it as an advantage however as a child, it was too confusing and chaotic to assume responsibility for an Adult’s behaviour, especially your own Mother.
My first extreme case of anxiety developed over a 2 week period at Summer Camp. It would last for almost 2 years. At 13, I had convinced myself I must be dying because it certainly felt that way. My anxiety would trigger nightly panic attacks which led to throwing up.
The traumatic events at that time included finding out (by accident) that my Mother was adopted and her Adoptive mother; the only maternal grandmother I knew, had been diagnosed with Breast Cancer.
Finding out my Mother had been adopted happened out of nowhere. I was so confused because I didn’t understand why I hadn’t been told. There didn’t seem to be a logical reason to keep this information secret.
By this point in my life, I had several friends and spent a lot of time at their houses.
Their mothers became mothers to me and fathers adopted me as their own. This would ultimately be a saving grace for me; most of these friends and their families are a big part of my life today.
What I noticed was that the relationship my friends had with their parents seemed different. There was an openness and trust; a mutual respect and feeling of unconditional love.
The omission of my Mother’s Adoption would eventually lead to a major relationship breakdown between myself and my Grandparents who had been there for me emotionally, physically and spiritually for 14 years.
My Grandmother died the following year in 1997. My Grandfather remarried within a year and I lost one of the only male role models I ever had. This led to permanent feelings of distrust and abandonment from my caregivers.
That year; I retired from competitive dance. Now, my creative outlet for anxiety and stress was depleted and I became isolated. The intensity of high-impact dancing had delayed puberty substantially so when I quit; I gained 30lbs on a 5’2 frame and changed overnight.
It was a shock to my self-esteem; one I was not prepared for. I’m not sure what happened next or how it happened but I developed a severe eating disorder which would last for almost 15 years.
The symptoms of a more serious underlying condition would not be dealt with by anyone other than myself and my own will from the age of 15 until 34.
The common denominator in all of the ups and downs have been a severe traumatic event and a post-traumatic effect.
No real reconciliation or attempts to validate our feelings or fears were made.
For 27 years; I would remain undiagnosed and untreated for severe post-traumatic stress that began when my Father died. I would half-commit to therapy, and doctor-written prescriptions for anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications but I always found a way to pull through.
Typically, I did not have support from anyone aside from my chosen family which are my life long friends and their families. I would often be shamed for any mistake I made as it far exceeded any positive contribution made.
When I returned to a strong mind and balance, I would often feel like I wasn’t appreciated, loved or respected because I’d often be reminded of what had happened before.
Compounding mistake after mistake; with no real guidance to fix it, I started to feel worthless and suffer from low self confidence.
This would propel my anxiety and my Addictive behaviours but something would always happen to connect me back to myself.
I would go through low periods that could last a few months to a year but I always worked through it somehow. A new opportunity would always arise and I’d have my passion for life and motivation back.
I relied on Cannabis throughout for symptoms of Anxiety and Insomnia; sometimes more often than not, but it never dominated my life to the point of incapacity.
Had I followed my own heart and instincts from the start; maybe I wouldn’t have ended up a recovering Opiate Addict but fate has a funny way of working out.
The various connections between the trauma and it’s post-traumatic triggers have proven to be similar to peeling an onion back; layer by layer.
There had been an identifiable pattern from a very young age that I had been aware of but couldn’t quite believe it to be true.
I believed I could maybe be crazy or severely mentally ill myself.
I believed I was over reacting; or I was too emotional.
I believed for so long I was over-dramatic or just stubborn.
I would always stand up for what I believed in and it would cause great strain between my mother and I. As a child, I would constantly call my Grandmother crying about these fights not realizing the cycle of this abuse came directly from her.
A standard observation of emotional abuse by a parent with multiple children is that they often pit two of those kids (often the oldest and the middle) against one another to compete for love and attention.
I wanted to always believe it was the trauma of my Father dying and the stress of becoming a Single Mother of 3 kids at 30 years old.
I needed to believe she loved me unconditionally, that she would always put us first and would never want to harm us in any way.
Then I had my own children and that’s when I realized I had been right all along but by now I was trapped by my addiction to Opiates.
What I feel for my children; instinctively, maternally and animalistic-ally was beyond any level of unconditional love I had ever experienced in my life.
Rather than embracing Motherhood and all its pleasures, I did not trust myself.
I had been told for so many years I was reckless, dramatic and spiteful. Even though I did everything I could to prove her wrong, I could never succeed. There would always be something I could’ve done better or different.
I navigated new motherhood alone, without the help from my mother. She left on a 4 month vacation shortly after my daughter was born. I had help from my mother-in-law; but it’s not the same.
A daughter craves that connection with her Mother and Father. I was deprived of both for most of my life but still had a living parent. It was so incredibly confusing to have a hot cold relationship with someone who was supposed to protect you.
The anger inside of me rose to a new level but I could not show it. I had too much to lose at this point – a career in Banking, beautiful daughters, a husband and a reputation.
Things kept happening and I kept medicating. Emotions would reach boiling points between my spouse and I, but we would never fight. I had no fight left. I just kept medicating the pain and frustration; anger and sorrow.
My feelings would never be validated. There would never be a real apology nor would there be an authentic connection based on unconditional love and trust.
Trust was destroyed on my part through my addiction to Opiates but emotional trust is equally important. It is common for both husband and wife to repeat these cycles in their own marriage if not properly counselled.
When you are raised to walk on eggshells and literally tiptoe around every potential catalyst for a fight; you become exhausted and worn out.
People-pleasing and over-achieving becomes second nature as you will literally do anything to be accepted and loved but to also avoid further emotional torment. Of course, it never lasts.
If you don’t do something – you burn the fuck out. That’s what ultimately happened to me after 3 kids in 4.5 years, a demanding career and a nasty Addiction to Opiates.
My Spirit and Strength made a reappearance on June 24, 2018 when I surrendered to my Addiction. The fight to protect my addiction had lasted way too long, with way too much trauma to ever really describe. A lot of the Trauma that I caused by the way throughout my years of Active Addiction.
It’s my ability to finally recognize the patterns, triggers and traumas that can lead to my addictive behaviours and states that keeps me in Recovery.
I have much more to share on this topic as my Blog progresses. This is an extremely important topic pertaining to Addiction and Mental Health, not just for ourselves but for our children.
I look forward to educating and building awareness; not destroying character or telling war stories as that is not always productive.
If you have your own story to share, please comment below.