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Rolling Away from the Apple Tree

Last updated on January 31, 2023

As I begin a daily (ish) Spiritual Practice of writing my story here I find myself comparing to others lists of abuse or trauma, trying to justify or qualify my “right” to share my story. Was my childhood difficult enough to justify a decade-plus of paralyzing complex PTSD (before anyone called it that, while being diagnosed with ten other mental illnesses, over-medicated/under-medicated/wrongly-medicated etc)?? Can I claim the trauma and the effects, and also claim responsibility for what I did while stuck in those patterns of over-reacting, abreacting, losing time and often raging or hiding-from-my-rage without minimizing either? How do I find compassion and empathy for my own children who’ve much lower ACE scores, much fewer incidents of trauma, yet have their own very different stories of pain and disruption at my hands?

Today Brian seemed to read my mind when he posted on Path To Freedom about how comparison doesn’t belong here. He lovingly reminds us all that what matters is that the events that shape are significant and important to each of us, from our own perspective.

Sexual abuse both violent and of the groomed variety, physical abuse, fundamentalist/spiritual abuse, psychological abuse, violence in the home, financial, time and friendship control, massive manipulation, gaslighting, raging, unpredictable psychotic breaks, homelessness, abandonment, rejection, insidious and vicious cruelty, extreme isolation—upwards of 9 on on the ACEs list.

Compared to…

Homelessness, divorce, witnessing violence and rage, multiple moves—“just” three on the ACEs list.

There are big picture differences between those lists. To have rolled the apple much further from the tree that I fell from is a powerful and invaluable gift for my children. And a gift for myself—choosing to create an abuse-free home-life no matter what gives me a space to continue healing.

Yes, my own list is the first one and my children’s is the second.

And yet it is my firm belief that I heal more deeply when I admit that the patterns I recieved I participated in passing along to my children. My relationship addiction with its many screaming conflicts, threats, slamming doors and running away, the almost constant financial uncertainty, housing insecurity, my churning through friendships/relationships/family connections as I tried to learn the difference between walls-vs-enmeshment and what the heck is a boundary.… Quite literally the consequences of terrible abuse in my childhood has flowed down to the hurt-person-I-was hurting those I love the most.

The only way this apple (me!) grows a new Apple Tree in a whole new safe meadow is to aknowledge that I have had to cut down my own tree, roll even further away and start growing all over again, several times over. This process of healing in and of itself causes trauma.

Here is how I’ve blunted the force of that ongoing trauma for my own children.

Since my girls were toddlers I’ve looped in safe, supportive, honest (to the point of telling me when I am being harmful!) people deep into our family—both accountability partners walking alongside to counselors and support groups and training groups and other forms of ongoing self education. While I learned long ago that indiscriminate sharing is counterproductive I also determined to never have secrets that only our nuclear family knows.

Does this mean my own children don’t feel the trauma? No! What it does mean is that as we hurt each other we participate in healing each other too.

What does this have to do with comparisons and feeling unworthy? Or with justifying my years of messy recovery?

The way I keep moving forward is by reminding myself that healing is the only loving choice I can make. When I am a knowledge my trauma and the pain it’s caused me, I can’t turn a blind eye to the pain I’ve caused. This helps me accept the years of non-functioning and the grief of the destruction I left in my wake during my most-reactive times. Forgiving myself, expanding my own ability to practice giving love and connection as I practice receiving them, is transforming a legacy of trauma into one of healing.

None of this is easy. All of it is priceless.

Safe hugs, Elise Photini

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