Talking About Mental Health Issues Is Not Attention Seeking
We talk about mental health because it helps us — and others — to know we’re not alone
“People who go on and on about how messed up they are seem like they’re just looking for attention or sympathy.”
“At some point you have to grow up and get over it.”
How many times have you heard these arguments used against survivors of childhood trauma?
After all my work recovering from my own childhood and speaking out about trauma recovery, it will come as no surprise how close to home these comments hit every time I hear them. I feel indicted by these words, but I also feel guilty because I used to hold the same views myself — before I began to realize how the trauma I sustained as a child shaped my behavior over years and decades, without my being any the wiser.
Childhood traumatic experiences often replay in adulthood
I am thirty-eight years old. I have children of my own. A house, a car, a job, all the grown-up things. Yet when my mother texts me I still get a pang of childish apprehension before I see the message. Am I in trouble?
I’ve been out of the house now for longer than I was in it. I’ve had drug habits, abusive relationships, and an eating disorder. Yet until just a couple years ago, I blamed all these things on my addictive personality, my inadequacy, and my lack of willpower.
I’ve lost pregnancies, pets, and relatives. I’ve graduated, gotten married, and had babies. Yet a single thought — or even a smell — can transport me back to when I was eight, or 12. The fear I felt when I was locked in a shed as my much-older cousin wielded a huge knife, and the helpless rage I felt when my mother cornered me with her hateful words, feel just as real to me now as the joy and sadness from these other events.
I still occasionally say and do odd things that are inappropriate in professional or social context, just because I was never taught any better. I still binge eat, I still find it hard to make friends, and I still cry and shake uncontrollably when I’m angry.