Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Big Lie

When I posted The Town Square, the essay about how I deal with depression, I had no idea how you would receive it. The perception of my blog, for the most part, is that of a profane guy who bounces off the walls of his padded office. As it turned out, that post received the most comments of anything I’ve written for this particular blog.

I was heartened, to say the least, because that piece came straight from my heart. And so does this one, culled from both personal experience and working with drug addicts.

* * * * *

The Big Lie

Toddlerhood. Littlehood. Childhood. The early years, the best few years of life. The time when everything is brand-new and wonderful and fascinating. Like discovering toes. And mom’s favorite knick-knacks. Laughing at dad’s funny faces. Laughing at dad’s regular face. Just laughing because it feels good. The time when everything is an adventure. Discovering grass and flowers. Bugs, both alive and dead, and trees. Stepping in dog poo for the very first time. Sun and rain and snow. Especially snow. The time for singing silly songs with nonsense words and playing silly games without any rules. Running and jumping and climbing, but mostly running. A sandbox with a pail and a shovel. Sand everywhere, in hair and ears and clothes and between fat toes.

It is a time to be proud. Learning to tie shoes. Making breakfast in bed for mommy, and even though she doesn’t eat much, she loves it and cries. Building a birdhouse for the robins with dad, and hanging it on just the right branch. It is a time of wonder. Waiting for Santa and the Easter bunny because of course they are real. Wearing beautiful costumes, and mommy’s high heels, and getting lipstick everywhere except on the lips. Dressing up like a cowboy or a pirate or a baseball player. Listening to incredible stories either read from books or told from memory.

Most of all, it is a time of love. Feeling mommy’s warmth and breath and heartbeat when she holds you in her arms. Laughing and squealing when daddy tickles your tummy and gives you piggyback rides. Knowing, when mommy and daddy say, “I love you,” that it is true. Doubt does not exist, but trust does because there is no one else to trust, and innocence does, because there is no one to take it away.

Except for the toddlerhoods and littlehoods where there is little or no love at all. The childhoods where life is full of doubt and there truly is no one to trust. Innocence, the most precious gift to the young, ripped away forever in an instant. The sins and the faults and the angers and the hatreds and the lies and the addictions and the sicknesses and the selfishnesses and the perversions of the parents or the protectors become those of the child. Automatically, by association, by merely existing. Trust and innocence, stolen by words. By fists. By touching where a child knows he or she should never be touched. By neglect and abandonment, both physical and mental. By sick and perverted punishments for simple childhood infractions and mistakes.

And therein lay the seeds of depression and worthlessness and unlovableness and shame. Especially shame, the belief in my soul that I am truly bad and evil, that the simple act of being a child, of being born, of being alive, of being me, is the cause and the reason for fists and filthy names and molestings and abandonments and punishments. The early years, the best years of life, are gone forever because of The Big Lie, “I am a bad child and I deserve it.”

So sad, so pitiful, so heartbreaking because it is all so wrong. A child should never, ever have a sick soul. A child is never, ever the reason for abuse. A child is always, always a victim. Always a victim.

But the child doesn’t believe it.

And as the child grows physically, the teenaged child doesn’t believe it.

And as the teenaged child grows physically, the adult child doesn’t believe it.

And as the adult child grows older, the adult child still doesn’t believe it.

Emotional growth stopped, it came to a shrieking halt, the moment the child believed, “I am bad, and I deserve it.” The Big Lie.

So we walk around in adult bodies with the emotions of a child. We doubt everything, especially ourselves, and we trust nobody, especially ourselves. We cannot give or receive love. We feel empty because we are empty. We feel pain, though, and we feel despair, and we think about suicide. We self-medicate with alcohol and drugs and food and sex and shopping and gambling and a dozen other addictions to hide the pain, to push it away, to stop it for a just little while. But it doesn’t work, it never did, and it never will.

The pain doesn’t stop until we start to un-believe the lie. Until we truly believe, with our mind and our heart and our spirit, our soul, that “I am good, and I deserved none of it.” Only then can emotional growth start again and healing begin.

I know because I have been there. And I have returned. I haven’t regained my innocence because that is impossible. But I have regained my childishness, and I revel in it.


Kim Ayres said...

So powerful, Charlie. So powerful.

savannah said...

That knocked the wind out of me, Charlie! Powerful is the right word, sugar. xoxoxo

Diane said...

I'm left speechless; I want to say more, but I can't - thanks for the powerful post Charlie

Pat said...

My heart goes out to that little boy Charlie.xox

Tiffin said...

Oh Charlie, that broke my heart. What courage that little boy had, to find himself again.

Fay's Too said...

Charlie! Thank you for that powerful post. And yay for you! Take of your shoes and socks and have a good look at your toes! They are totally rediculous! Have a good laugh, Darlin'. And whenever you need it, your toes are there to make you laugh.

Ponita in Real Life said...

Oh Charlie... what words can spoken in answer to that post?

None... only hugs... and gladness that your inner child has been found.

Enjoy your new found freedom from the depths of despair, the pain of hurts and lies. Lock that door and throw away the key...

Kevin Musgrove said...

wow. I don't have a halfway-adequate response to that

best wishes, Charlie

Robert the Skeptic said...

I was fortunate, the abuse in my family was mostly between my Mom and Dad, and alcohol played strongly in that.

My wife worked for 17 years as a Child Welfare Case Worker. She was told by police officers that they couldn't do her job. The cases come and go out again.. but they are never ending and there is never a time a caseworker can say, "finished, done, close the office". She did the best she could and when it was time to step away, she had to resign herself that it was someone else's turn to deal with the never ending "lies" that haunt our society.

We cannot change what happens to us, but we can live mindful lives and promise never to pass those experiences on to the ones who come into our care. We do our best, Charlie, as I know you do.

Meg said...

"So we walk around in adult bodies with the emotions of a child." So true. Unbelieving the lie - you're right, that's where it starts. If only that part was easy.

Mary Witzl said...

That is powerful writing, Charlie. I like what Robert said about doing the best we can. That's all we can do in this world, but it can be huge.

I remember being told once, in Sunday school, that we were all worthless and God could step on us like worms if he felt like it. I asked my mother if that was true later and she said it was nonsense. That we were flawed, but full of potential goodness, if we just learned how to exploit it. It's a tall order, but I know how important it is to try. And I can see how hard you try. Well done.

Attila The Mom said...

I love you, Charlie.

TechnoBabe said...

To grow up knowing unworthiness is so hard to change after sixty something. I didn't self medicate, I disassociated. I could be gone in an instant. I learned that when I was three or four. Too much pain trains to leave because that is the only way to survive. The beginning part of this post was so much to fantasy for someone like me, I was respectful and kept reading and then you started writing the way I could relate. You said "The pain doesn’t stop until we start to un-believe the lie". One of the best ways to say it. Keep writing and discover that as you let out the secret ugly stuff you have a chance to be filled with happy whole empowering stuff.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

That was heart-wrenching in its honesty. I hope that many more people can regain their childhoods.

Angie's Lil' Nothings said...

It took me several tries to read your post because it hurts and rings so true.

mapstew said...


All I can say is that Annette & myself constantly tell our girls how loved they are and what a fantastic future they have ahead of them, whatever they decide to do!

And, I like you a lot Charlie.
I like you a lot! :¬)

Charlie said...

I am overwhelmed by each and every one of your comments. It was one of those pieces that writes itself—the words just come out because they have to.

For those who are still suffering from childhood abuse, it is time to start unbelieveing The Big Lie.

tshsmom said...

Thank you for this beautifully written piece Charlie!
My husband grew up in similar circumstances. He still believes the "lie". He hides away, like Technobabe, which hurts me.

For years I've tried to get him to come to terms with his past. He denies there is a problem and everything is "FINE!" The "lie" is horribly powerful.

Unknown Mami said...

Holy crap! I had never read this because I did not know you when you posted this, but I came over at Technobabe's suggestion and you have no idea what this means to me. My childhood sucked in so many ways. Something happened to me from the age of about 10-13. I've always felt that I was somehow complicit. That I did not have the right to be angry or call it what it really was because I was so lonely and starved for attention that maybe I courted it, but the truth is that I was a child and I should have been protected and loved and even if I had somehow misguidedly courted inappropriate attention, the adults should have taken care of me.

I have to go now because the 10 year old in me is crying.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I came here after reading Technobabe's roast, and I think my heart stopped with the truth of this. I am one of those children who carries such pain, and you have provided a really good starting point toward recovery because although I raised and love my own three children dearly, I never even had the confidence to believe that I deserved them. Thank you for a truly beautiful post. I will definitely be back for more of your wisdom.

Charlie said...

MAMI & HEART: It is 6:45 p.m. on Saturday, just after supper. I decided to check my email, not expecting much because of the holiday weekend, and there were both of your comments.

I read each of them three times in a state of shock. "Oh no, not again," I thought, and the tears began to flow. Not for me but for you, Mami, and for you, heartinsanfrancisco.

The good thing is, you have both broken your silence, the code of omerta, and found the courage to open up and speak out. It is a hard thing to do, really hard, but it is the first giant step toward recovery from The Big Lie.

Thank you so much for trusting me, and I love you both for the beautiful human beings that you are. And always have been.

Lucy said...

Ocean girl invited me over and I am just truly so glad she did. I am seeing things and hearing things that I can relate to that I felt I had resolved.