Elisa A. Escalante/ LMSW/ 6-26-2020
“When you are forced to find peace in chaos and suffering, you will be chaotic even in peace. You can take the human out of the nightmare, but the nightmare is still in them.” -EaE
One of the most not talked about privileges of the world is the luck of being born into a family that wants you and loves you. It’s the expectation, and it’s the norm, but it is not concrete. There will forever be some unfortunate children that fall through the cracks and barely get to experience an unconditional love and nurturance. The general public will not see or view emotional neglect as well as abandonment as a form of trauma, but that is exactly what it is. If a child is in distress and not receiving comfort from their external environment/ guardians, they will grow up perceiving the world as a stressful place of little/ to no support. If a child experiences one, if not more parents abandoning them, they will most likely personalize it. These traumas produce incredibly damaging ‘invisible wounds’ to the psyche, and unfortunately children and even teens do not have the ability to verbalize most of this emotional pain.
For a neglected and/ or abandoned child, the confusion never stops. “I am being good and doing my best, yet my parent pulls away.” “Why do everyone else’s parents seem to love them, but mine hate me?” “Why are people mad or stressed with me for simply existing?” “Why am I going from place to place to place? Doesn’t anyone want to be with me or deal with me?” When a child personalizes any and all these questions, a self-hatred and a self-shame may develop. “Obviously if this keep’s happening, there is something wrong with me.”
I personally recall a time when a friendly adult told me, at the age of six, that I was beautiful. I absolutely did not believe it. My own mother dropped me and my brother off at least 10 different homes and/ or trailer parks so that she could escape and get her fix of methamphetamines and alcohol. I was not wanted or beautiful, rather consistently neglected and considered a nuisance to those that expected me to be gone in a day, vs days/ to weeks at a time because my mother went MIA. The only time she stuck around was when we lived with one of her boyfriends, but unfortunately that had its own risks too, hence me getting physically abused by one of them when she was MIA. My mere existence was a problem, it took me until the age of 20 to forgive my mother as she died on her death bed.
However, “children bounce back” as they say. Children “are resilient”. The child does not seem to be bothered and impacted by this, they stay quiet, do what they are told and seem to “function” well. When they act up, it’s just a “child being a child”. “You can’t blame your past on your present situation.” Rest assured these statements are myths and often coming from an uneducated place. Because at the very core of a neglected/ abandoned child’s belief system, is a series of cognitions, symptoms and behaviors that will set them up for an enormous amount of pain and suffering in their adult life.
Neglect symptoms, cognitions, and behavioral traits/ patterns:
- Extreme lack of confidence & feelings of unworthiness
- Loneliness & learning to isolate from a young age
- Boredom & dissociation (often seen as head in the clouds or day dreaming)
- Issue’s w/ attachment as the individual craves some much-needed attention or resists any/ all attachments because they cannot trust anymore
- Feeling “less than” others
- Anger/ rage toward those that ignore or dismiss them
- A belief that they will ‘screw up’ any social interaction they have
- The general and consistent wondering of “is life even worth living?”
- Believing they will ‘always fail’
- Difficulty with regulating any/ all emotions due to the consistent lack of a support system/ caregiver
Abandonment symptoms, cognitions, and behavioral traits/ patterns:
- Terrifying/ chronic belief that they will lose everyone they care about
- Issue’s with attachment, sometimes to include toxic/ abusive partners (bad attention is better than another abandonment)
- Personalizing & overreacting to any/ all comments or criticisms
- A core belief that they deserve to suffer
- A core belief that they are not worthy of love or good things
- Clinging too tightly to the ones in their life that choose to stick around
- Anger/ rage toward those that pull away or express frustration with them
- Perfectionism so that others may learn to finally love/ appreciate them
- Constant people pleasing due to a belief that if they help/ nurture others enough, that perhaps they will stay
- Consistently getting used/ abused/ taken advantage of but unable to see it. (Because without a consistent guardian, there is no way of learning what healthy relationships look like)
So, what does healthy look like?? A healthy upbringing where a child get’s consistent nurturing/ love from parents may look like:
- An easier time regulating emotions and getting back to equilibrium
- A healthy sense of boundaries and knowing that it is okay to say ‘no’ and stick up for themselves
- A core belief that they are good and worthy of happiness
- Self esteem and confidence, therefore more likely to engage in healthy risk taking
- An enjoyment with social engagements, can socialize with relative ease
- A healthy level of energy and concentration due to a healthy sense of safety/ secure attachment w/ those around them
Learn the difference, know the difference. If you suffered from neglect and/ or abandonment know that it is not your fault for being born into a family that was not ready and/ or gave up on you. Get help, you deserve to experience a life of joy/ happiness even though you were not given one when you needed it most. Our most rapid stages of development happen in utero and then in the first seven years of our lives. These things take time to reverse, but as a clinician I can promise you, that you are not a lost cause. Those that suffer from childhood traumas have huge mental holes to climb out of, but they owe it to themselves to climb that climb. Learn self-care despite the fact you were not taught it, learn self-love even though it wasn’t ingrained. These are the hurdles and disadvantages of an unwanted and/ or abandoned child.
One thought on “Neglected & Abandoned”
Thank you for sharing, I know that had to be extremely hard for you. I too was an abused child and at the age of 58 I still struggle. I have overcome some trauma but even through I seem okay on the outside I struggle daily with the trauma of the abuse. I pray that you continue to heal.
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