25 September 2014
Surviving Abuse: Nurture vs. Nature
I recently had a conversation with my daughter that started with 1 sentence and brought back too many horrid memories. She is a daydreamer just like I was and when questioned came up with the same excuse. She had a lot on her mind. I remember the reply my teacher gave when I had 1st said those words. “What could you possibly have on your mind?” she said in a shrill and angry voice. “At 9years old your head is still empty that’s why you’re sitting at that desk! The only thing on your mind is Barbie’s and playing house!” For most 9yr old girls this would be true. I, however, was not your average 9yr old nor had I had the upbringing of a normal well-adjusted child.
For as long as I could remember I had been the most responsible person in our home. My mother, a drug addict, had moved us in with a repulsive man who gave her drugs in return for pretending not to notice how much he liked little girls. To this day just thinking of the smell of his cologne mixed with alcohol and tobacco on his breathe is enough to cause nausea. But that was my life. I woke up every morning loaded and administered my mother’s syringe for her, then it was breakfast, shower, get little sister ready, walk her to sitter’s house and then finally head towards school only to make excuses for the bruises, dark circles, stuttering and constant fidgeting. When the bell rang I would stay as long as I could just to keep my sister away from that man a little while longer.
This particular day my daughter had been in trouble during science class. They were learning the concept of Nurture vs nature. Which in my eyes is not a valid concept. It’s silly to accept that something or someone is responsible for your actions.
“Nature versus nurture” is a psychology term related to whether heredity or the environment most impacts human psychological development (behavior, habits, intelligence, personality, sexuality, aggressive tendencies, and so on). http://www.cliffsnotes.com/…/what-does-nature-versus-nurture-mean
I asked for an explanation in her word. She looked at me with these big ocean blue eyes that seemed too old to be hers and said, I remember Mom! I remember the cord around your neck and the hate in his voice as he called you those names. I remember you begging for him to just let you go, that you would behave from now on.” “I remember talking daddy into taking me for ice cream and him telling me that I had probably saved your life.” In that very moment I realized I was my mother. In allowing this man to torture me day in and day out with verbal and physical violence I had allowed damage to come to my children. I was a product of nurture; destined to repeat what I had been born into.
While each child is born with his or her own distinct genetic potential for physical, social, emotional and cognitive development, the possibilities for reaching that potential remain tied to early life experiences and the parent-child relationship within the family.
Yet as I looked at my daughter who had been brought up in a world full of cruelty and hatred I realized maybe the nurture vs nature conundrum wasn’t something we had to live with. Maybe it was just our choices! After all she had witnessed in her short life she still made a choice on what she would give to the world. Raised by both an abuser and a victim she had chosen to be both strong and kind. It would have been just as easy to choose to be a bully and always get her way. I was so proud that I had struggle to keep from tearing up as I softly whispered to her how proud I was to which she replied; “Mommy I’m proud of you too!” I can only imagine the look of disbelief on my face as I mumbled a quick why to her statement. As she offered her last explanation I could no longer hold back the tears “Mom you chose to leave and make a better life for us! Daddy was scary when he was mad at you but you chose a different life for us than what you had. For that I am proud!”
Maybe it isn’t as easy as nurture vs nature! Yes some people have advantages that others don’t; but even with all the head start in the world if you chose to take the wrong path. You may grow up in a beautiful gated community and have the financial backing to pursue any kind of education you want but if you choose to spend more time partying and screwing around then it will get you nowhere! In the same sense you can be born with a slight learning disability like dyslexia or Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a high functioning autism disorder, and still be whatever it is you want as long as you work hard.
I stumbled upon “Another Rape Poem” by Brenna Twohy tonight trying to watch something that would make me forget but these powerful words made me remember the part of me that died the last time my ex husband held me down and beat and raped me…
the part of me that wrote and sang and danced… the part of me that played and laughed and snuggled with my children…
those powerful words woke my soul and something stirred deep inside that sent an ocean falling from my eyes and silenced every sound the world made…
powerful words that cut through the restless slumber from which I could not wake and suddenly at 30 years old I was ALIVE!
The essay “A Crime of Compassion” was written by Barbara Huttman, who was not only a nurse but had been misdiagnosed with kidney cancer and given only 6 months to live. Having made the decision to avoid medical care even while in pain I believe gave her the insight to better care for her patients, patients who sometimes cannot speak for themselves and are left to the will of those who are supposed to love them.
One of those patients was a young police officer with lung cancer whom she wrote about. Having come into the ER a strapping young man full of life and vitality only to find devastating news that would eventually reduce him to nothing but a breathing corpse. Within a short time he had lost most of his bodily functions, was in unimaginable pain and while he begged to die often; the staff kept resuscitating him. In the end the nurse relieved him of his pain and ended all of his suffering only to be labeled a murderer! Mrs. Huttman’s description was so detailed you could almost smell the decaying flesh and hear him pleading for release, like you had been witness to the once strong and healthy cop waste away. While some may only take from this story compassion to end suffering or the love and dedication felt by the hospital staff and the wife of the suffering patient but what I see is the selfishness of love and the need that men have to play God.
Having recently lived with a similar diagnosis and forced to undergo a treatment that I did not want this essay only furthered my curiosity into the working of the human heart. What right does any man have to prolong the life of another as he begs for death. When an animal is injured and there is no recovery to be seen it’s the compassion we have for another living being to put them out of their misery! Why then, would we allow the people that we are supposed love and cherish to suffer and waste away in front of our own eyes powerless to stop it? Why would we force someone to continue in immense pain as they beg to die?
Yes, there is kindness and compassion in the heart of every man to ease the suffering of others, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to house the homeless, and to put down the suffering animal, but it is the selfishness of love that causes us to prolong the life of others when they themselves have lost the will to live. It is that same selfishness that has given man the need to play God and force life upon those whose quality of life they wouldn’t want for themselves.
However in some cases the patient is at fault too! A persons overwhelming need to take care of those they love which can cause them to feel as though if they do let go that they will essentially be deserting their loved ones. So they hold on; they fight a fight that they do not have the will or strength to fight. Sometimes miracles happen and people do survive; forever tainted by side effects of sickness and treatment.
In these cases it is still pure selfishness that overrides the will of God. Men have NO RIGHT trying to decide who lives and who dies. Especially considering there is no fool proof treatment or explanation. Sometimes, for some people; treatment works but for others it does not. WHY BOTHER?
Murderer is the wrong word for this nurse, of this I am sure, and while the more accurate word is just on the tip of my tongue, my mouth fails me in this moment. I hope that if need arises I have a nurse with such bravery and compassion. I know from experience that the pain of cancer is so excruciating that it twists your insides till all you can think about is not being in pain. I know that the chemo treatments poison you and eat you from the inside out, not only affecting your body but also your mind; and if they work then you praise God and hug your kids tighter knowing you have a chance to redeem your wrong doings, but when they don’t work the kindest option left is death and to be refused relief from the agony by someone who has sworn to care for you or love you is the cruelest most selfish form of love.
Between the knowledge I have from being both patient and caregiver, the insights from “A Crime of Compassion” and the recent experiences I had with my family and my Doctors; I pray that in the future those who love me will see fit to ease my pain when the time comes and if I choose to undergo treatment again I hope they respect my wishes over their own. For in the end I will be the shadow left and there are no words to ease the pain of a lost soul. There are many ways to die without disappearing completely and I pray that if the time ever comes there will be someone who respects my wishes enough to let me go for if they fail me in my moment of need I will offer no forgiveness.
As I sat alone on the floor of my master bath, in my too big for two people beautiful house, waiting, as this three minute eternity crept by, one thought echoed through my head: “Two lines will mean the destruction of my life!” In the first four years of my marriage I would see these two pink lines a total of three times. Three years later, I would find these three beautiful monsters and I physically, emotionally, and financially abandoned I had no degree or experience, an empty bank account and just enough food to last a few weeks – or a month if I ate less. I found a job, learned to juggle bills and struggled to turn a little in to just enough. Therefore, from one single mom who had to learn very quickly here are a few of the things I have learned:
1. The importance of personal space and self-care!
o Doors: Locking and Knocking: Not only do you need your space but also children should be learning this early on. If you are in the bathroom, they will be too and if it is a public bathroom, they will shout “Yay, Mommy! You are a big girl!”
o Quiet Time: Time without noise is essential to keep your head from exploding! I personally send the kids to their rooms for 30 minutes a day if they come out the time starts over for everyone; I also take batteries out of annoying toys!
The difference between needs and wants :
Baby Wipes: I do not care how old your child is ALWAYS have baby wipes because they remover EVERYTHING! Permanent marker, make up, blood or whatever the case.
Books, Toys, or other distractions: These items are wonderful for quiet time. Just do not forget to remove batteries from any toy loud and obnoxious.
Nice clothes, Shoes, etc.…: They will get ruined so your best bet for at least the first 10 years is to think “comfortable grunge”
ANYTHING that is not for the kids: Your wants and needs will always come second to their wants because in truth if they are happy you are happy! Self-Control:
o Knowing when to laugh or yell is something I had some difficulty learning. So always keep this in mind:
Laughing: It may be cute now, but will it drive you nuts later? A cute bossy toddler turns into a teenager with an attitude problem!
Yelling: Is it that big of a deal or could you possible just need quiet time? Humor and Quick Wit:
o The older they get the smarter they get the more of a smart ass they become!
From the Mouth of Babes:
o Some things they say will make you stop and think:
I struggle every day to maintain my sanity while sacrificing everything I can for those beautiful little monsters. But during quiet time, behind locked doors I thank God for the chaos they bring, for it was their invasion of my body; the destruction of my physical appearance and the material things I had worked so hard for that reminded me of my strength and brought me back to the basics.
What I thought was the destruction of my life was in reality the rebirth of my soul and through these sanity survival tactics I began to remember the importance of myself, of my personal privacy, and of the beauty of silence. I learned the difference between need and want as I struggled to feed their bellies. Laughter now comes a lot easier and anger a little less because I finally accepted that they were made this way. Designed with tender hearts, smart mouths and occasional random wisdom having a single purpose for the first 18 years of their lives: To drive me crazy enough to always remember who I am, who I love and what I’m capable of.