TRIGGER WARNING: Abuse mentioned.
I’m no longer a child in an abusive home. It’s been twenty years since my first diagnosis and suicide attempt, though I suspect that my mental health issues started much earlier. I have a house, a loving husband, and a beautiful daughter.
I’m tough. Some days, I can deal with an awful lot. Yet I sometimes feel like my feelings are a tower built of irregular blocks – always an unexpected jolt away from becoming unstable and toppling to the floor. Some days an unexpected comment can get past my careful constructions and reveal the tears that are so often just inches below the surface.
I’ve learned to live with mother-guilt. My child is safe, in ways I wasn’t – she’s loved, she’s cared for, she’s celebrated. Most importantly, she’s not afraid of me. If sometimes the house is a tip or the washing not folded or I let her watch TV instead of playing with her, that’s okay. She’s happy. I’ve learned, too, that perfection is unattainable, that an imperfect love is better than a hysterical crisis over perfection that cannot be achieved.
And I’ve learned that it’s okay not to cope. I’m old enough to know now that I’m strong, but imperfectly so. I’m not invincible, and that’s part of being human.
I tell my daughter often that the best way to get better at something is to practice. The lesson is for myself as well as her. I’m learning to live with depression, with the lifetime fallout of what happened to me. And I too will get better with practice.
No one should be punished for imperfection. Not me, certainly not a child just starting to learn how to be. And that’s my aim – to end the cycle of abuse that’s been passed on through generations. To make certain that she grows up with as little trauma as possible, and the tools and confidence to handle what life throws at her.
I won’t do that perfectly – that’s inevitable – but love doesn’t need perfection. Nor does life.