A Child Abuse Survivor: How can I turn my life around at 50?

by Lisa
(Quitman, Mississippi, USA)

Darlene, I am a licensed BSW (Bachelors in Social Work) and am going back to school for my MSW (Masters in Social Work). As a child I was physically abused, sexually abused, emotional abused, and neglected in every way thinkable. I weighed only 135 pounds when I came to work for the MDHS (Mississippi Department of Human Services) in June 1994. Now I weight 200+ pounds.

I married at age 17 and had a son and daughter in 1976 and divorced in 1990. My son was a perfect child and teenager. He now tells me that he is a homosexual. My daughter inherited all of my negative behaviors. She is expecting her fourth child and she now lives with the baby's daddy and not married.

I remarried in 1992 and inherited a four- and five-year-old, as their mother is a crack cocaine user. The past 16 years has been a rollercoaster, and my life felt like I was doing social worker 24/7. My stepchildren love me, but they know that they can't act like they do around their mother's family, and so they don't come around me often. I am angry at myself for taking care of everyone else and not my own self.

When I married my husband I had A-one credit. Now I cannot buy a piece of bubble gum. I am still here, and he receives Social Security benefits and I work all the time. He rides his motorcycle and plays.

Before I die, I would like to stop feeling like a failure. My homosexual son does not come around often because I cannot totally accept his life choice. I cannot talk to my co-workers about my feelings because they are all under 35 and I will turn 50. I was always in shape, now I look like a Good Year blimp. Can you give me some suggestions? My husband has nine heart stents and four herniated discs, and I feel sorry for him. Stupid 1958

Note from Darlene: My answer to this Ask Darlene question "A Child Abuse Survivor: How can I turn my life around at 50?" can be found below. If you do not see the comments I've written, please be patient, as there is a system glitch regarding comments going live on my site. Lisa, I replied to your query June 8, 2008, comments titled "Regrets, righting wrongs, and a responsibility to yourself..." Keep checking back to this page. I thank you Lisa and my other visitors for your understanding while I work at getting this minor malfunction resolved

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Comments for A Child Abuse Survivor: How can I turn my life around at 50?

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Jun 08, 2008
Regrets, righting wrongs, and a responsibility to yourself...
by: Darlene Barriere - Webmaster

Lisa, you have reached an age, the time in your life, where you are looking back with regrets, wondering what it is that you are doing that makes your life continue on this "rollercoaster" ride, saying to yourself, Surely to goodness there must be more to life than what I am living!" Questioning is the first step; and a major one at that. The second step is to actually make changes in your life.

You came from every kind of abuse there is. The effects of that abuse have been long and far-reaching. If there is anything I've learned in my own 50 years is that an unresolved past will continue to haunt you, unless you take steps to deal with that past.

If you continue to refer to yourself as "a failure," if you continue to identify who you are by the actions and inactions of your family members, (husband, daughter, son, stepchildren, etc.) if you continue to pass judgment on the choices your children and stepchildren make, you will not achieve the peace of mind you are so desperate to find.

And I would be remiss if I didn't address the issue of your homosexual son. I do not believe he has made a "life choice." I believe he has chosen to live his life. I do not subscribe to the belief that we as humans choose homosexuality. Your son IS homosexual. When you make statements like "I cannot totally accept his life choice" you reject who he IS. He is no more capable of changing the fact that he is homosexual than he is of changing his DNA. When you refuse to accept this, YOU are the one who suffers, because he does not want to be around someone who rejects him. My gosh, you raised a son who has a strong, healthy self-esteem. You have to be proud of that, after all, isn't that what you wanted for your children? You CAN right this wrong, Lisa. Your son has much to teach about self-esteem.

We cannot live in the past, nor can we live in the future. There is only Now, this moment. But you must decide to live in it. I strongly recommend you enter into some form of counselling in order to establish why it is that you continue to make choices in your life that you are so unhappy with. As you resolve those issues, you may find the rest will fall into place; they certainly did with me. I also highly recommend two books from Eckhart Tolle: A New Earth, Awakening to Your Life's Purpose and The Power of Now. The pain that you are in right now tells me that you could be ready for the messages in those books.

One more thing: I will NEVER address you as "Stupid 1958." You are not stupid, Lisa; you were wounded as a child. A wounded child often grows up into a scarred adult. Respect from others starts with self-respect. You have a responsibility to treat yourself better than anyone ever has.

Darlene Barriere
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir

Jun 08, 2008
Hold to your convictions--but discard distructive beliefs.
by: Linda Settles

Lisa, You have had so much pain and turmoil in your life. You have worked hard to gain wisdom and understanding (your degrees prove that). You have a heart for helping others. There is so much good showing up in your life. I agree with Darlene that you have to recognize destructive thought patterns and refuse to accept them.
You have come so far--there is not stopping you now. I have said it before--and I will keep saying it-- survivors of abuse are some of the strongest, most determined, most thoughtful people that I know. We have been to hell and back--and we will never be the same!
I would like to ask you: Are you in a care group where your heartfelt beliefs and convictions are supported? I am in a small group through my church and also attend Celebrate Recovery, the recovery program out of Saddleback Chruch (remember Rick Warren's famous best seller- The Purpose Driven Life? Rick is Pastor of Saddleback. You will find their resources on the web. Recovery does not happen alone. And it will not happend by constantly giving out without taking proper care of yourself.
As for your son, you did not 'cause' him to become homosexual, and whether you believe, as Darlene does, that sexual orientation is a part of who a person IS, or if you believe, as I do, that homosexuality is something to repent of and recover from, either way, your son's choices are about him--not about you. You can love him for who he is without condemning him and still not approve his lifestyle. Does that mean he will avoid you? Perhaps. But it is SO important that you love him UNCONDITIONALLY, just as God loves us unconditionally--and let God deal with your son. Period. An old AA slogan may be usefully applied here: Let go and let God. Yes, you can do that. You don't have to fix anyone--not even yourself. If you are a counselor then you know that 'fixing' doesn't work. Do the right thing and let go of the burden. Get into a loving support group, forgive yourself for your mistakes (we all make them) and I hope you can begin to see all the wonderful things inside you that we (Darlne, myself, and others) see in you!

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