Guest Author - Kelli Deister
I came across a beautifully scenic picture the other day and it took me back in time to my childhood. It was at that moment that I realized I had some good memories while growing up. So often, adult survivors of child abuse struggle with the painful and negative memories of their childhood. They remember the times they were hit, yelled at, belittled, molested etc. Those memories can, and often do, overshadow any positive memories and I believe this is normal. In this article, I would like to offer a different perspective on memories by sharing my own personal experiences.
My parents were regularly at the local bars drinking while my siblings and I were growing up. Because of this, my oldest brother and sister basically raised the three of us that were the youngest. There were five children in our home. We spent a good amount of our time playing outside. I have very fond memories of our time spent outdoors. We were physically active and enjoyed bike riding, sledding, playing basketball, hiking through the woods, building snow igloos, having snowball fights etc. It was safer for us to be outdoors than to be indoors dealing with the drinking and arguing. Whenever my parents would argue during the summer months, my oldest brother and sister would take the remaining three younger ones to get a popsicle or ice cream bar at the neighborhood store. They would keep us outside until the fighting stopped. Those are also fond memories because it showed us just how much our older siblings loved us. We would sit outside on the sidewalk, enjoying our cold treats, and wait for our oldest siblings to tell us when it was safe to go back inside.
So many times, during the night, as I lay awake listening to the yelling and bickering, I would long for daylight to come so I could go outside and escape our reality. On the nights when my mother would come and wake us up to include us in her fights with our dad, as we rested up against the cold walls, I would long for daylight so I could hang out with my oldest siblings and feel safe. I would grasp for those positive moments in my life. When they happened, I would cling to them tightly.
I encourage you to think back to your childhood. Try to remember any positive moments that you experienced in your youth. Was there a neighbor that took you under their wing and gave you cookies and milk in the middle of the afternoon? Do you have an older sibling that cared for you and looked out for you in the midst of the abuse? Did you have the opportunity to play outdoors, or play in school sports? These are questions that only you can answer. I encourage you to search through your memories and cling to those that were positive. I will always love the outdoors. Whenever I see a picture of a forest, I remember our days playing in the woods and camping. Although I can no longer play basketball, I still have fond memories of playing the sport in my youth. In the midst of the abusive childhood that I had, I will always remember those positive moments and cherish them. I encourage you to do the same.