Another fight followed by another tear
Another dreadful name ringing in my ear.
How can I think when lost in confusion?
How can I go on when things look so bleak?
How can I remain calm when tension burns within me?
How can I be strong when I feel so weak?
How can I bare it?
I look to someone who can help me out.
Someone to pick me up,
Someone to brush me off,
Someone to show me love I have never known.
For no longer can I get up,
No longer can I stand,
No longer can I make it all alone.
- Hannah Smiley (Siller) Age 13
Behind the Poem
Of all the poems I wrote during this phase of my life, “Alone” is the one that brings up the most emotion. When I wrote this, the physical abuse from my mother had just begun. I had faced abusive type situation in the past but never so blatant as a mother actually punching her child.
After my grandfather died, my mother fell into a deep depression. To cope, her alcohol consumption increased, which in turn lowed her inhibitions and brought out her inner demons; what had been toxic behavior before turned into violent behaviors. She was often unaware of what had transpired after the fact, but my bruises were proof.
In the beginning I was fairly vocal about what was happening and showed the marks to several adults in my life. Most didn’t believe me or if they did chose to ignore it. The few who did believe me wouldn’t believe me long. My mother was a master of manipulation and soon had those people believing I was the violent one, and it was in self-defense he gave me those marks.
The summer between Junior high and high school was two of the worse months of my life. My stepmother being one of the ones who believed her story had decided it was better if I spent more time at my mothers rather then at my father’s house with her and my younger sister. It was a test in survival as I was thrown into the fire and forced to stay alive.
It was during this summer, feeling the full weight of my abandonment, I wrote this poem. It reflects on the actual experience of my abuse and the pain I was left with after every episode. It speaks of the help I tried to find and the loneliness I felt when none was found. This was the moment of my surrender. The moment I realized I was not strong enough to make it through this and that I was officially broken.
By the time school started again, I was a different person. I hid my bruises and my pain, knowing that the burden I bore was mine alone and that no one was going to save me from it. To say I was closed off would be an understatement, and this hardness became my strength. I was in full survival mode, ready at a moment’s notice to do whatever it took to stay alive…but that’s a story for a different time.
This was the moment of my Surrender
There is no doubt that with abuse comes depression, low self-esteem, and long term relationship issues. These kids face a reality in their parent/child relationship that kids raised in healthy homes will never have to face. Most people view this relationship as unconditional, an unbreakable bond. Children in abusive homes are taught this is true while at the same time suffering physical harm from the person who should love them above everything else.
It can be very confusing for the child as they have to wrestle with what the truth is. Either this IS unconditional love, or they are not loved unconditionally by the one person who should. One path will lead to a pattern of abusive relationships as they justify the way they are treated. The other builds a lack of trust in all relationships and one’s self-worth. These kids will love their abuser in the way nature and society tell them they should while being mistreated right back. To not love will feel unnatural, to love leaves them open to continued pain.
These children rely on the intervention of others in order to escape this cycle of abuse. Their relationship bond, mixed with fear, will keep them confused, unwilling, or able to take action against their abuser. They may even resist help, but that is only because they simply don’t know it could be better at this point in their lives. The denial is strong as they have likely justified the situation in a way that avoids the reality that their parent does not love them, or is incapable of love for some reason.
Children have a limited understanding of the world. They learn only what they are shown and taught. These lessons at such a young age will be long term and persistent, impacting many areas of their life. The voice of a child is small, and their power is limited. We have to be willing to listen and protect them even when it is hard.
* I have worked hard to heal from my past through professional therapy and personal growth. Over the years I have become comfortable enough to start using this story in public speaking events and as a major part of my writing. Writing about personal trauma can be very triggering and is not recommended for those still working through trauma unless instructed to do so by a mental health professional.
Read more about my story in my Diary of a Trauma Survivor project.