My brain was affected and “wired up all wrong” is the best way I can describe how the abuse influenced me. It shaped every aspect of me, mind, emotion, soul, and body. One of the areas it totally screwed with was my learning.
The abuse I experienced meant I missed out on the so called “normal” development a child goes through. In a healthy environment children go through a series of developments where they gradually become familiar with their bodies, this includes; sexual identity, learning about their anatomy and the way it functions, right through to how it feels to touch and be touched by others. The attachments and interactions children have with their parents, siblings and pairs helps set the stage for bonding and intimacy later down the line. This is one of the main reasons why sexual abuse at a young age has such a detrimental effect on a child, and in my case it filtered through every aspect of me.
Because I grew up in a disharmonious family, was bullied at primary school and regularly abused, I was a very stressed and insecure child. I felt unsafe, I didn’t want to go to sleep at night due to the fear of tomorrow, I couldn’t relax and there was definitely no space for me to heal. My wee body was often in a state of fight and flight, always on the outlook for danger and constantly feeling frightened. I remember sitting on the school mat, feeling all woosey and swirly, like my emotions were snakes wreathing around inside of me.
This woosey sensation, combined with being stressed and disassociating (this is where one basically drifts off into la la-land in order to escape feeling pain) had a huge effect on my ability to concentrate and learn. At age 8 I could not read, sometimes I couldn’t even say my alphabet because I would forget, or the information just wasn’t in my mind for some reason? It was the same for spelling and maths, sometimes I could access the information I had learned and other times it just wasn’t there. It was very frustrating for me and the only conclusion I could reach was I was dumb.
When I was still at primary school my Mum tried to find a reason for my inability to learn. She took me to be assessed for dyslexia but to all of our disappointment my results came back as normal (it would have been good to have something to put it down to). My parents, my bother, and I knew there was something not quite right but sadly we (yes I include myself) just couldn’t decipher the signs of sexual abuse and I was left thinking there was something wrong with me and that I was stupid.
Thinking I was stupid had a hugely detrimental effect on my self-confidence and interest in learning, as when you think your dumb you have no interest in learning. As a result, my whole way through high school I played the rebel. It wasn’t until I went to Natural Therapies College and graduated with mostly A’s that I realised this was a lie and that I was indeed an intelligent person! Since then I’ve been constantly studying something, and loving the fact that I’m a smart woman capable of achieving anything I put my mind to.
The lesson here is that children make the best sense that they can of what’s going on in their worlds. However, they don’t have the ability to rationally assess these sorts of situations like an adult can, and they tend to assume it’s their fault or that there is something wrong with them.
These thoughts quickly become beliefs, setting the ground work for a person’s belief system, and level of confidence. If these beliefs are negative as in the case of my one about being stupid, it can make the future years very hard indeed. Also the more of these beliefs (I like to call them lies) one carries about them self the harder life is, and it seems the more trauma a child suffers results in the number of these sorts of beliefs increasing.
This is why therapy, mindfulness and emotional healing are all important parts of the healing journey. First we have to understand where these beliefs came from and why they are there, the next steps are to be able to catch these lies in action, heal the trauma which enables us to reprogram our beliefs at a core level.