The other week, my therapist used the word “abuse” when referencing events in my childhood. I myself have used, though not necessarily embraced, the word in my own descriptions. Somehow, having a trained professional identify “abuse” was worse.
When I think of abuse, I think of something active, something malicious and pernicious. When I think of my own childhood, I think of something far more passive–like I was just collateral damage or something. Like my parents’ choices just impacted me secondarily.
I’ve been wrestling with the issue of abuse, since I see things so differently now that I have children. Why couldn’t my parents have been responsible enough to wait until bedtime to argue? Why couldn’t they have reined things in enough not to physically break things, slam doors, hurt each other? Why couldn’t they have kept me and my brother out of it–not leveraging us and manipulating us as pawns in their arguments? Why couldn’t they have protected us? Been the grown-ups, the parents?
I realize that what I experienced was abuse. Some of it was actually active–my mother was verbally and emotionally abusive toward me; when I’m honest, I realize that to some extent she still is. Some of it was more along the passive neglect type of abuse, or at least in terms of emotions.