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My daughter, Marie, was severely abused as a toddler and young child. She came to live with us at the age of 7 after being found wandering the streets barefoot at 2 am carrying her infant brother looking for formula for him. The effects of the abuse were immediately apparent. She couldn’t stand to be touched, and would cower under the table if she felt threatened. She was angry all of the time and refused all attempts at affection. (When she was with us for a few years, she finally allowed me to give her a “fist bump” as a way of showing my love for her, a love she certainly did not reciprocate because she didn’t know what love was.)

Posttraumatic stress episodes were explosive and frequent, and required restraints and hospitalization. She had superhuman strength while in the throws of PTSD, as I am sure the EMTs and firemen who came to transport her to the hospital can attest. She turned into a super kicking, screaming, biting and hitting machine, and it was amazingly frightening to see.   If put in clothe restraints, she would eat through the cloth like a ravenous wolf. The adult restraints were too large and a smaller hole would have to be cut to fit her slim wrists and ankles. She learned to bite the inside of her mouth to spit blood and they tried to put a mask on her, which she immediately sucked into her mouth and gagged on. At the hospital, she would get a shot of Haldol, go into a trance, and wake up questioning what happened. With her hands still restrained and unable to sign regularly, her little fingers would finger spell “Where am I? Why?”

The number of PTSD episodes have subsided to once every 6 months or so. She has learned to love and be loved by her family, and, fortunately, she is making tremendous progress. Marie is going to be 20 years old this month and still attending a specialized school where she can remain until she is 21.

Marie, citing her age that she is an adult, has come more into her own. On her own, she got a tattoo of a dolphin on the inside of her wrist. She loves dolphins since swimming with them at Discovery Cove on her 12th birthday. By choosing that particular tattoo, she reasoned she could look at the dolphin every time she gets upset and it would remind her of a happy time instead of the times she was abused. Like other young adults, she has colored her hair a mixture of blue and blonde, has a lip ring and likes to pick out her own clothes. Her newest adult adventure is finding a girlfriend; recently reconnecting with an amazing girl a few years older than her with whom she attended school many years ago. They have started hanging out and Marie is giddy with excitement. (Marie has never had a real friend of any kind before.)

Yesterday the 3 of us went to Dave and Buster’s at the mall. While Marie LOVES to play the games, sometimes the crowds overwhelm her and she gets anxious, moody and socially unresponsive. Her sweet friend, who does not know the extent of Marie’s early childhood abuse, kept asking her why she was mad at her, which eventually turned into a full blown argument in the car. By the time we got home, her friend was no longer talking to her and said she was never coming to see Marie again. Marie went down and sat on the wall overlooking the lake, her head drooping down. She texted me on her phone, “Help Me”. Joining her on the wall, I noticed she was crying, something I have never seen Marie do. The tears spilled out of her eyes and were running down her cheeks like an ever-flowing fountain. Her mouth was quivering and her sad eyes said it all. I hugged her and the tears turned more torrential. After a while she signed to me “She thinks I’m mad at her and that I have an attitude. I don’t know how to tell her.” Meaning she didn’t know how to tell her about her abuse and that sometimes it still affects the way she acts. She didn’t know how to tell her how much she loved her as a friend, her FIRST friend, and she didn’t want to hurt her, but sometimes she couldn’t control her emotions. She asked me to come with her to talk to her friend to help her explain.

Her friend was annoyed. Marie began about her family history and her friend said that SHE, too, had a mother addicted to drugs and that SHE, too, had been adopted. She said she learned to just “get over it” and why couldn’t Marie? With this criticism, Marie ran from the room and back to the wall by the lake. I explained that Marie had an extremely traumatic childhood, far and above just her mom doing drugs. I explained the hurt, the hospitalizations, and the challenging life she has endured. Her friend’s angry face softened with understanding. As I was talking, a tear slipped down her cheek and she got up and went down to the wall by the lake. When I looked out the window, they were both hugging and laughing.

I pray that Marie’s friend will continue to be her friend and accept her with all of her emotional baggage. It would take an amazing friend to do that, and I have a feeling she IS that amazing!

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Comments on: "Here a Friend, There a Happiness" (17)

  1. What a wonderful mother you are to Marie, and I truly hope this young woman will be just as good a friend to her! I know that without you in her life, Marie would never even be at this point of being able to have a friend, have a quarrel, forgive, hug and make peace. God bless you all!

  2. Tears for Marie’s pain, for the amazing grace and progress, and for the growth yet to come. The abuse I suffered as a child doesn’t compare to what Marie went through, but I’m still working on healing at 51 yrs. old. Bless you for taking her in and for loving her, for giving her the safe place to grow and heal.

  3. I had to read the first paragraph twice, holding back the tears ready to flow. It was nice to read she has made and continues to make great progress. I hope her friendship survives.
    Love and hugs.

  4. Peadar Ban said:

    I’m crying, too.

  5. Wow. Thank you for sharing… Praying that the friendship would go from strength to strength.

  6. so happy she made a new friend, she is amazing and I feel joy at what she’s achieved. XX

  7. Bless her heart and bless her friend too. I am so glad she has a friend who is willing to understand the rough parts and love her through it!

  8. Oh the happy tears of today at the end of this amazing bit of life.

  9. Reblogged this on Sometimes Care Giving Stinks and commented:
    Caregivers are “Blooming Idiots” who tend and nurture while being sliced and diced by thorns. Beauty grows no other way.

  10. I think you are pretty AMAZING to after reading this. Here is to a long friendship and lots of hope.

  11. I hope their friendship remains and provides them both comfort, support, and strength. You are truly an amazing mother.

  12. i join you in praying for Marie and her friend to become grace for one another.

  13. Wow, you have a wonderful amount of patience. That says alot about what a truly a good Mom you are. 🙂 Enjoyed the post.

  14. I am an abuse survivor with PTSD and other ramifications…plus multiple disabilities. My abuser was my Mother. I am glad your daughter has a friend. I will pray after writing this that they would both be a help to each other. Perhaps her friend (I am suspecting) has just pushed it all aside and not “gotten over it.” I hope your daughter can show her friend that healing is the better option.

  15. I’m so happy she is making a friend. It’s really sad she’ll find so so many people that don’t understand and will have the get over it reaction even if they’ve been through similar situations. I’m hoping somehow she can get to a place where she can at least intelectually know that people’s reactions have more to do with them and not her, and she has every right to feel how she feels and try to explain her reasons for emotions that may be out of place. But that this will likely happen more often than not. Sorry for the cynical response, I do feel connected to Mari as someone with both mental illness and deafness. And finding people accepting from either or both communities is very difficult. Plus watched a totally deaf friend go through the same. I wish the world were more accepting it’s just not.

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