I didn’t realize that I had built such high, seemingly impenetrable walls around myself until I began therapy sessions with Stephanie Strouth, my therapist at Anchoring Hope Counseling in Wise VA. As we began to talk and I began to learn some of my walls came down, but only for her. I was able to learn to release pent up frustrations, fears and worries and she helped me learn why they exist within me in the first place.Stephanie shared with me a book called “The Boy Who Built a Wall Around Himself.” That book touched my heart deeply and opened my eyes. She reads it to both children and adults during counseling sessions. This book is incredibly helpful and gives greater insight into children who are facing or have faced abuse or trauma. I highly recommend adding it to your home library and most especially if you’re a guidance counselor or foster parent. It’s also a wonderful book to teach other children how to understand a friend or relative who has suffered some sort of abuse. It isn’t scary for children, it has great visuals to help children see what they’re also hearing. You can join Stephanie’s virtual story time event here on Facebook, as well as learning more about the book itself by clicking on the image of the books cover.
I personally have terrible trust and abandonment fears, “The Boy Who Built a Wall Around Himself,” addresses the reasons why we as children of abuse do this. For example; I worry excessively about Shawn or London if they’re out of my sight for very long. If Shawn arrives home later than he said he would be, by thirty minutes past time for him to be home I’m almost frantic inside. When he finally arrives I can do little more than collapse into his arms and thank God he is back home safely. No one sees this, I just bottle it up and hold it in, putting on a happy face and pretending I’m not scared. Then when Shawn arrives home I can finally release the tension.
This fear comes from a lack of stability in my childhood. I never knew where home was, when social services would show up, where I was the most safe. I was taken from my Granny, my mothers Mom and my great aunt Em who lived with Granny most of her life. They are who I wanted to be with, but social services said no, that my home with Granny wasn’t fit, because she was poor, illiterate and backward. No amount of crying and reaching for Granny would suffice. THEY knew better than a little child… of course. Certainly there would have been problems, but I knew I was loved, I was held, someone washed my face and held my hand when I went outside. THAT is what I needed and those are the things I cling to.
On the flip side of my home with Papaw and Mamaw, Papaw was my caregiver. My crib bed was in his bedroom it sat there in the corner for years after I had outgrown it. He sat with me to help with homework and rubbed my legs when they hurt. But he became very ill and I became his caregiver. He was no longer able to hardly sit up with me of the evenings and watch Wheel of Fortune or Hee Haw, the programs he and Mamaw enjoyed. I was mostly left to my own accord. This is good in some ways, but dangerous in others. I recall long spells of time on some days where no one spoke a word to me. There were moments where I would sit in the yard and pick grass until there was a spot all the way around my body that was void of green and only an outline of where I had sat remained. There were moments I would sit in the old barn for hours (I still love the smell of a barn), I’d climb trees as high as I could go and some days when I just sat in Papaw’s old rust colored recliner and stared out the picture window. The positive side of being left alone is that I built a BIG imagination. The downside is that it would have been nice to have shared some of my playtime with parents.
With Granny and Aunt Em I was never alone. If I went outside, they went outside. If I fell down, they picked me up, if I was scared I could run into Granny’s arms and she would hold me tight. But again, as I said, social services didn’t see these moments, they only saw our tiny house with no running water or indoor toilet and deemed my home unfit. I had Barbie dolls there, my favorite. I had crayons and coloring books too. Home is made up of much more than walls and nails. A home isn’t a home without love and protection. Yes I survived my childhood at that house on the hill with Papaw and Mamaw, but no one could see the lack of caregiving I actually had, because social services never paid visits to the house on the hill. It was big and full and looked perfect from the outside looking in. If DSS had done their work, they would have seen where I was happiest, but I was just one more spoke in a wheel of children that had to be taken care of and someone, somewhere was convinced that their work with me was done.
Papaw, had he remained alive as many, many, MANY people have told me would have made sure I was taken care of. You see, some people knew the troubles, Aunt Jenny (Mamaw’s sister in law who lived under the hill from our house,) Murrell (Mamaw’s niece who lived within walking distance from us down the road,) and Barb (Mamaw’s niece by marriage who also lived very close by.) But as much as they tried, pleaded and showed they’re anger for the way Mamaw treated me, they couldn’t save me. They weren’t inside the home and to know Mamaw was to know that she wouldn’t listen to God Himself if he stood in front of her. Her nickname was Duke, she was stubborn as a mule and she’d shut a person out rather than listen to their advice about how to raise a child. But thank God for the times they did get through to her, those moments were part of what saved me. The days I spent at Aunt Jenny’s, Murrell’s and Barb’s houses helped me so much, they gave me a sense of what it was to be a kid and be free.
Papaw loved me, he never hurt me intentionally. I would learn that he may have overlooked a great many things, but he didn’t do it, because he wanted to hurt me. He made me feel special, but I lost him all too soon. He was the only Daddy I ever knew and my heart longs for him still. He was a good man, to the best of his ability. He sadly was entangled by the controlling trappings of my Mamaw and that made his love for me forcibly hidden. He would buy me a candy bar and say “don’t let your Mamaw know.” He had to tuck away and shield his love for me and that in and of itself is heartbreaking and taught me the lesson that keeping the peace with a temperamental person is more important than true love.