The incredible shrinking woman

Ever wish you could hit a refresh button and start anew? I do. All the time.

Sometimes in therapy, we do a little exercise where I think back to a trauma and imagine myself now, standing there, watching it – what do I know now as an adult that i didn’t know then. Truth be told, most of the time with this exercise, I mostly want to bitch slap my abusers, kick them in the junk, and take the child that I was away to safety. There are no words. Just bitch slap, kick in the junk, and walk away.

I watched the movie The General’s Daughter the other night and when she recreates the scene of what happened to her and screams, Look at me! This happened to me! This did happen!  I completely understood why she would do it.

“You need to get over it.”

When people that I consider friends and my extended family say “You need to get over it.” I struggle to breathe.

I don’t disagree in this idea of getting over it, I would love to get over it, but when the perpetrators did not, will not, and won’t ever admit what they did or that it did happen – I am the one left standing degraded and traduced.

One fateful summer was the first time I ever experienced cruelty, deception, and some slight physical abuse, and it was almost 20 years ago at the hand of my grandmother, cousin (female), and aunt. With the little exercise I mentioned earlier, I’ve come to a new understanding:

  • I know now that I don’t need to get out a soapbox and proclaim my innocence.

My parents believed me, my sisters believed me, my brothers believed me. My true character should withstand annihilation and defamation to those that know me. This pain I’ve carried, the need to somehow prove myself to be true to my accusers/abusers has no merit because they don’t want to know me for who I am, they don’t want to know me at all.

  • I don’t need them to love me, I don’t need their approval.

Why, why, would I want their love? Why would I want their approval? I was a happy, enthusiastic, eager-to-please child when my grandmother accused me of being a liar, a thief, and told me that I was ugly and worthless. I have no need for the love and approval of someone who would treat a child as she treated my mother and myself.

  • When I see what happened through the eyes of an adult, I can honestly say that I wholly disapprove of the actions of my grandmother, aunts, and uncles.

There was no love, no apology, only silence when it was found that the accusations against me were false. Denial of the entirety occurring has been the mantra for my grandmother, aunt, and cousin. There were other aunts and uncles around, they saw what was happening and they did nothing to stop it. In fact, they took my sister 75 miles away from me and left me alone with the grandmother and the cousin.

That summer, what happened in it, has haunted me and made me conscious of my every move in life and in my career. It changed the course my life was set on because I felt I always had to have witnesses, proof that can hold up to support me.

What I know is true today is that I had support, I just didn’t know to reach for it. When I told my parents the truth, they believed me. My brothers and sisters stood beside me, believing me, supporting me.

I used to want to write a letter to my grandmother and aunt, asking for an answer as to how they could have treated a child like they did, but I know it is worthless.

I used to close my eyes really tightly, practically clicking my heels together like Dorothy and wish that I could wipe my slate clean, clear my name, rebuild my character… but that is where I went wrong. I held onto wanting to change my past so badly that my present and future suffered for it for the last 20 years.

I can no longer stay quiet in this world, I have a voice and I feel it reverberate off my internal walls, making its slow climb upward until its melody can be heard all around.

Elin Stebbins Waldal

When I revisit the trauma, as I mentioned earlier, I can see the whole scene playing out, but as an adult, I see my father, I see my mother, I see my husband, I see my brothers, I see my sisters, and I see the overwhelming wealth of love and support that I had, still have, and will always have from them. That love and support, far outweighs the cruelty that my grandmother, aunt, and cousin inflicted. It’s well past time to refocus the lens I’ve been looking through.

I will not be the incredible shrinking woman anymore.


Oh, and Grandma, get bent.

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