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As a new parent, I am mindful of myself and others more now than ever. Everything I say and do I think of how it will affect others – positively, and negatively. There is a difference in tough love and bullying. A lot of people don’t even realize they’re saying or doing harmful things. With children, you have to be extra mindful because they don’t know how to control their emotions yet. Some parents don’t even realize if they’re being emotionally abusive until it’s too late.
One of the main reasons for childhood mental illness is child abuse. Child abuse is defined as an act by a caregiver to intentionally do harm to the child. These acts include physical, sexual, emotional and verbal abuse. Children who grow up in poverty tend to have poor socialization skills, inadequate family support, parental mental illnesses, or drug abuse and these children are vulnerable to child abuse. Personally, I have had a bit of everything sprinkled all over and throughout my childhood. In my case, it wasn’t done by my parents, for the most part, not intentionally anyways. My dad wasn’t in the picture, and my mom struggled with PTSD and depression haunting her from her childhood. We did not have much money growing up, and along with 2 siblings plus some to share everything with. When I was very young, I witnessed my older brother, who is autistic and has organic brain syndrome, being physically abused by my sister’s dad, causing me to live in fear wondering if I’d be next. Thankfully I wasn’t, but there were many more instances where I witnessed, or was victim to, similar abuse. Growing up, I resented my mother and acted out because I felt she neglected me. I was an anxious mess. I had little to no socialization skills. Leading me to forgive friends who have done me wrong, which I still struggle with today. I feel like that comes mainly from my want for attention due to having a brother with disabilities. Obviously since he has organic brain syndrome and is autistic, he needed much more attention and guidance than I did. I perceived her treatment of me as neglect because my brother required so much of her attention and as a child I didn’t understand that he needed it more than I did.
What child would understand that? I don’t want to say that my mom neglected me, because I know she tried her hardest. But because my brother was so high maintenance, she spent more time with him than she did with my sister and me. I went through a rebellious stage of blaming all my problems on her and doing everything I could to defy her. Because of all of this unintentional neglect, I had gotten so detached from her and everyone else, making it hard for me to address my emotions and connecting with someone properly, in friendships, and romantically. As I grew older and saw more and more abusive situations, I started developing a few of the common negative mental side effects.
Early childhood abuse and trauma comes with an array of mental side effects such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and various addictions. Many studies have shown that high levels of stress associated with child abuse can cause damage to the hippocampus, which may affect people’s ability to cope with stress later in life. All kinds of abuse can cause damaging effects to children. Whether it’s verbal, physical, emotional, or psychological – it can all result in long-term difficulties with emotional, behavioral, and mental health development. When children are abused, they may show unusual forms of attachment and patterns of emotional response towards their caregivers, possibly leading to attachment disorders. Children also lash out at their parents, teachers, and other caregivers because they don’t know how else to process the abuse.
Some of the many impacts of childhood abuse include isolation, alienation, anxiety, depression, lack of trust, rebellion, difficulty to ask for help, lack of trust, and becoming overly loyal. These are just a few of many. Everyone reacts differently to the abuse they’ve encountered. My difficulties will not be the same as another individuals’. I struggle with depression and anxiety because of the things that have happened to me. I also see myself as overly loyal to some friends, to the point that it hurts me more than helps me. I have a very hard time asking people for help and trusting anyone. I work very hard on a daily basis to try to overcome these things. Asking for help can be the hardest step in recovery with mental illness. When I was younger, I had a teacher who noticed I had been cutting myself. She took me home to my mother that day and I started counseling soon after. For months I just sat in silence while this stranger staring at me trying to pry open my thoughts. I didn’t want to share myself with anyone. Most of the time, you know something is wrong, but you don’t know what do about it and reaching for a helping hand is scary more than anything. Sometimes you just have to suck up your pride and open up so that your problems are resolved. I hated my mom for making me go to therapy, but in the long run I appreciate her for caring enough to do so. It helped me a lot even though it took me a long time to open up, so i encourage you to make your kids go too if you notice any signs of mental illness, its best to nip it right away, than to let it progress. Even if they don’t talk to the therapist for a while, it still shows you’re trying to help them. The things that happen to you are not what define you. You’re more than the abuse you’ve gone through. Mind over matter.
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