Pain Junkie No More

by Guest Author, Lauren Gray

Reading Nancy Werlin’s gripping novel about surviving horrific child abuse, The Rules of Survival, triggered painful memories… The first rule of survival is pretending.  Pretending that each time you get beaten up will be the last time.  This novel reminded me how adept I became at switching gears from fearing for my life to acting as if everything was perfectly OK.  It also made me realize how fortunate I am to have, for the most part, left the flashbacks, the negative voices, and the pain behind.

It is only in retrospect that I can see how very, very hard it was to let go of the emotional pain that had seeped into my essence and how I subconsciously recreated that pain by allowing negative relationships into my life and by choosing emotionally unavailable men. 

I had also been perpetuating my pain by a still yearning for the approval of a parent who will probably never be able to provide that.  For years I wanted to understand how my parent could have beaten me up, yet never acknowledged that it happened.  And how so many relatives ignored the clues.  

Why is it that certain individuals never develop a conscience?  Are capable of tremendous denial that allows them to black out their destructive behavior?

I had to accept that there is no explanation for the denial.  Letting go of that need to understand allows me to have compassion for a troubled soul.  It also allows me to keep my distance when necessary.  

I will never know whether having my head slammed against a wall time after time, year after year, contributed to the chronic bouts of depression I have experienced, but I have learned how to make choices that promote my health and kick my depression into remission.  I had a lot of help.  

Ultimately, my health depends upon my continuing to seek light, positivity, and not dark, to stay in gratitude, and to chase away those voices in my head that tell me how pathetic and unworthy I am and that I will never amount to anything.   Years of cruel derision helped to create those voices.  Before therapy and learning how to practice my spiritual discipline, those voices were automatic.  Numbing them, mainly through binge eating, ruled me so absolutely, I could not even “hear” them.  Nor did I know me, my gifts, or how to connect.

Neglected or abused children tend to become self-destructive adults.  With all the emphasis on health care lately, I would like to see effective outpatient treatment for scarred individuals including vocational rehabilitation that empowers them to design healthy lifestyles for themselves. 

My childhood did yield some unusual benefits.  Because my survival depended upon reading an explosive individual’s moods, I developed a keen ability to read people.   My experience growing up also left me without prejudice, because I saw quite a few people with quite a bit of status behaving so hypocritically and awfully behind closed doors and was helped by so many with so much less.  And I will never forget what it is like to be a minor.  The experience of childhood and adolescence is forever etched into my memory.  

Being an adult is taking responsibility for oneself.  And becoming an adult is not easy for anyone, even those blessed with nurturing parents. 


Lauren Gray lives in California and is a survivor of childhood abuse.  She works for in international mental health magazine.

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