How I healed my inner child

My childhood trauma began at age seven when my mother left us and our father, who physically, sexually, and mentally abused her. He was 27 years older than her. After my mother left, my father abused me. I was courageous; I found my mother and told her. Her reaction confirmed this was not supposed to happen. And telling meant he didn’t have control over me.  

This prepared me for the second time he tried to abuse me and every time after that. Because I wouldn’t do what he asked, the abuse went from sexual to mental. He was rarely physical with me; maybe because he was so old, I could outrun him. But he made fun of me and looked at me with hatred. Filthy, rotten words directed at me daily.  

I’ve gone through two deep seasons of healing. The first one, healing from sexual abuse, happened after the birth of my second son. That’s when I began sharing my abuse experience. I found so many other people out there just like me—more than I ever imagined. Sharing my feelings with other victims made me feel like I was not alone and that I, too, could overcome my heartache and shame.  

Ten years later, I started healing from abandonment and verbal abuse. Even though my mother and I reconnected and became extremely close, we never talked about her leaving and what it did to me. When you don’t address those feelings, they take over, and you look at every situation through a flight-or-fight lens.

 This wasn’t just about forgiving the person who hurt me. I had to identify patterns I created to protect myself from the pain I experienced as a child.  

Realizing my childhood trauma was affecting my children gave me the strength and perseverance to re-train my mind. The habits I believed were protecting me were actually hurting me and those around me. 

The first thing I did was write down the five things that caused me the most severe pain in my life. That was the hardest part. I had ten years of talking about it, but not once had I ever written it down. Written words stay forever, putting things into perspective. 

I identified the lies and situations that triggered my pain. I got a better understanding of why I reacted to situations as I had. 

“Forgive and forget” won’t fix your soul. To get to your soul, you must dig through all the armor you built. Once you expose your abuser’s lie and understand the truth, it frees your soul from the armor that keeps you from healing. 

The moment I asked God to please heal my broken heart was the moment the armor started breaking down. The lies were that I was not lovable or valuable; I was not smart enough or good enough. 

It wasn’t easy; I’ve never worked harder in my life. I’m not sure that my soul will ever be utterly pain-free until the good Lord brings me home.

But I stopped the insanity of toxic relationships. I use boundaries and other things I’ve learned to keep dysfunction and insanity out of my life. 

I love this amazing journey.

According to the landmark CDC/Kaiser Permanente study on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), witnessing violence in the home can cause lifelong trauma for children. Learn more about the effects on children of witnessing the abuse of a parent here.  You can help make sure this never happens to another child. Learn how by subscribing to our newsletter and supporting our work. Read about the ten categories of ACEs by following our blog. Do you know your ACE score? Take the ACE test here.

If you or someone you know is struggling with the long-term effects of ACEs, we encourage you to talk about it with your primary care physician so you can be connected to the mental and physical healing options that are right for you. You can also reach out to one of these national hotlines: 

Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline

(800) 422-4453

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

(800) 273-8255

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Options for Deaf and Hard of Hearing)

For TTY Users: Use your preferred relay service or dial 711 then 1-800-273-8255

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline

(800) 662-4357

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Kathy O’Neill Finlan

Kathy O’Neill Finlan

Entrepreneur & Writer

Kathy is passionate about sharing how her life experiences have given her a stronger purpose than she ever imagined, so she can help other people and make a difference.

Kathy has an ACE score of 9.

Authors express their own opinions which do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Stop Abuse Campaign.