On surviving emotional limps.

If you were raised with abusive parents, there are a few different ways of thinking about that situation. You could say “They did the best they could.” Or you could say “They could have done better.” Both have good and bad points.

If you fall and break a leg, you could say “At least I didn’t break both legs.” While this reflects positive thinking, it fails to acknowledge the pain and the loss of the use of the leg that IS broken. Saying “it could be worse” isn’t helpful. It does not honor what is, the reality of the situation.

Saying “they did the best they could” kind of lets the abusers off the hook. It acknowledges that they weren’t perfect. Perhaps they were abused as children themselves. Perhaps they were too proud to ask for help. Perhaps they were living away from family and were just not mature enough to be married, much less try to raise a child. Saying “They could have done better” is kind of vengeful. It acknowledges their lack, their fault. It pulls “should have” into the conversation. “Should have” doesn’t fix anything, however. It didn’t happen. So what do we do now?

It isn’t helpful to dwell in the past. What is done is done. The abuse won’t go away if you think about it or don’t think about it. It is important to acknowledge the reality of the situation. You need to be honest about the fact that your leg is broken. The fact that you are broken.

I think it is essential to understand that this is something that was done to you. It isn’t your fault. You are the victim, not the perpetrator. For some strange reason there is a sense of shame in our society in being a victim, and there shouldn’t be. It wasn’t your fault that this happened to you.

Perhaps it helps to distance the emotions from this. Perhaps it helps to think of this as a tree falling on you. You still get hurt, but there is no malice in the tree falling. Wondering “why” it happened isn’t helpful. But now you have a choice to make. It happened. What do you do now?

Perhaps you walk with a limp because of that broken leg. Perhaps you have walked with this limp for so long you think it is normal. Then either someone points it out to you, or you figure it out. Then you have to decide what to do. Do you leave it like it is? Do you get physical therapy for it? Or do you have surgery?

The same is true for realizing that you were raised by abusive parents. You may not know that your childhood was less than ideal. For you, it was normal. That limp is just the way things are. But then when you realize it, what do you do? Change is very hard. For some, the fear of change will prevent them from getting better. They will muddle along, damaged and hurt, because that is what they know.

Part of being raised in an abusive home is often that you feel you don’t deserve to get better. Psychological abuse is insidious like this. It is the pain that is self perpetuating. Even though the abuser isn’t saying hateful things any more, the abuse continues in your head. That groove has been so well laid down that your mind will only go on that track. It takes a lot of energy to make your train of thought go somewhere else other than “Loserville.” You’ve been taught that you are not worthy of love. If you have been taught this, it is very hard to work up the energy to get help. It isn’t impossible – just difficult. It is slow going, but it is important work.

Say you decide to get therapy or surgery. Both are very painful and take a long time. Both require focus on the problem. Both require a lot of work. If you decide that you want to stop walking with that emotional limp, it is going to be a hard journey. But at the end you’ll be better. You won’t be perfect. But you’ll be stronger than you were.

First you have to acknowledge that the damage is real. Then you have to realize that you aren’t to blame for it. It is something that happened. It wasn’t personal. In fact, it was as impersonal as you can get. If your parents were able to really see you for the amazing person you are – the amazing gift from God that you are – they wouldn’t be able to abuse you. But they didn’t have eyes for that. Perhaps they didn’t realize that they themselves are children of God.

You are special. You are amazing. And you are worthy of love. And that starts with you. It is OK to get help. And it is going to hurt – but it will get better. Lean into the pain. You’ll make it, one step at a time.