For Caregivers: Childhood Trauma and Self Soothing

When I was little, I would lay in my bed and brush my hair all to one side. Like someone would if they ran their hands through my hair.
When things were scary, I would hide under my bed or in my closet. If that was an option.
When I wet the bed, I got up, stripped the sheets, laid a towel over the wet spot, and put on fresh sheets.
I would journal. I listened to tapes of friendly voices telling me stories, like they were in the room.
I would take teddy and a bunch of my clothes and hide in the treehouse, pretending that I had run away and Teddy and I were on our own.

I had a way to help myself not feel so alone or hurt.

When you start a pattern of self reliance in your life, it can become a singular track. Your feet keep following the same steps of doing everything on your own. You believe a lie that says you have to, that no one is going to help you, that you are in fact, alone.
And like a lonely train you trudge on.
It doesn’t occur to ask for help after a while.

Let me connect these dots for you.

When your loved one was young and impressionable, they learned that no one was coming to the rescue. There was no magic carpet to ride away on, no fairy godmother, no loving parent to run to; everything, including love, had to come from themselves.
If you are crying and no one dries your tears, you do it yourself.

This can be one of the most difficult and isolating habits to break.

A friend of mine asked me for advice a few months ago, she said, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to ask for, as far as support, then I get upset when my boyfriend doesn’t do what I didn’t tell him to because I still need help.”

My biological mother said she used to count my underwear when she did laundry because she knew I wouldn’t ask for more if mine had worn out.
I was getting coffee grounds from a chain coffee place that my husband passed twice a day, seven days a week, 60 times a month. If I had thought to ask, I could have finished my garden in just a couple weeks. But here’s the thing: It never occurred to me that I was allowed to ask Doug to go out of his way, even a block, for something that only I wanted. I wanted it, so I should be the one to get it.
But that isn’t how relationships work.

People who are stuck in survival mode can seem selfish and aloof. We have to do everything ourselves. If something is stressing us out, we need to control it or fix it. If it isn’t bothering you, but it is bothering me, I’ll be the one to change it.

We don’t know what we need from you, because we’ve never asked ourselves that question.

So, how do you support someone whose brain skips over the part of life where you ask for help before you need it or while you need it?

I can’t give you a simple answer, but I will tell you what I told my friend:

“It helps me when Doug does little things. Like brings me a drink or does the dishes or something. 

Or hides notes.

Then it’s like preemptive support.”

Helping your partner be reminded that you love them and care for them is one of the best ways to help un-condition his or her mind to the lie that they are alone and need to do everything themselves.
Doing small things, like dishes or cleaning or making appointments for them is a practical reminder that you are there to help all the time and not just when they are feeling helpless enough to call out for you.

GOD bless those of you who choose to care for us. We know it isn’t easy.

 

 

 

 

 

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/92276054@N04/9603567274/”>BrunoBindas</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

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