A tough childhood doesn’t have to damage us irretrievably

By Nina Steele 

Women choosing not to have childrenI had a conversation with a friend recently. It is a new friendship yet we both feel so comfortable with each other that we have been sharing some uncomfortable childhood stories we both experienced. The very sensitive nature of some of those stories means that my husband is the only other person I have shared them with. That I felt comfortable enough to open up to this person has surprised even me.

Upon hearing some of the traumas I have had to overcome, she was surprised because most of the people she knows who have been through the kind of stuff I told her, usually have messed up lives. Some of her own stories are equally damaging, yet she too doesn’t seem to have done too badly for herself. We have talked a few times and the more we open up to each other, the more we realise how much we have in common. The other thing I am being reminded of from our conversations, is how much baggage we all carry.

A few months ago, I called out a journalist on Twitter for referring to Harry and Meghan as “damaged”. I reminded her that we are all damaged to a certain extent, some more so than others. Show me someone who carries no baggage at all. There is no such a person. Even those born into loving families have issues. It is the very nature of being human.

We all carry pain, most of it from our childhood. How we deal with that pain and our ability to overcome it depends on many factors. I have an inbuilt resilience that allows me to get back up whenever I am down. It is a character trait I have inherited from the women who came before me. I may disagree with my mother on some aspects of my childhood, and there are many, but I am also grateful to her for some of the character traits that have allowed me to be where I am today.

We often hear stories of people who have gone through the most terrible of experiences growing up, yet have managed to build a successful life for themselves. Equally, some people never recover. Life is tough, whichever way you look at it.

As I grow older, I have come to accept that not everyone can be saved. It is just what it is. Some years ago, I still believed that we were all meant to find peace in this lifetime (I am of course referring to people living ordinary lives, as opposed to those in war zones for example). I really did believe that, until I started reading stories of people who have spent most of their lives in therapy and have resigned themselves to the fact that they will never find peace.

I didn’t get to where I am today without making some tough choices. When you grow up in a toxic environment, you either repeat that dysfunction as an adult, or you completely reject it. I hate drama precisely because of my childhood. I will do anything for peace. Making those tough choices has become easier the older I get. Life is tough enough as it is, the last thing I want is to take on other people’s drama too.

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