As a child I grew up living in an environment of family violence and abuse. One of my siblings had an intellectual disability coupled with a complement of disorders that played out in regular psychotic and violent episodes. This was experienced as excessive controlling, manipulative and aggressive behaviour that exacerbated in puberty when physical size and strength intensified the periods of rage.
Whilst there was physical assault on family members and sometimes members of the public, the abuse extended to self-harm with cutting, punching windows and walls and swallowing fabric and toilet paper, which resulted in hospitalisation. It wasn’t uncommon to be threatened with knives and scissors, particularly as we woke from sleep, but most of the time these items were hidden in the strangest of places to protect us from physical harm.
I was the youngest child and my role was to be the ‘runner’ because I was fast. I had to run with my dog in my arms to protect her from harm, and I had to run to get my father to come and help with these episodes.
Each week there would usually be an incident and I would need to be locked in the house for safety. I watched out the window as my father tried to calm down my brother but his rage was overpowering. My father would be punched, hit and wrestled to the ground as he tried his best to defend himself. On many occasions my brother had to be taken to hospital and I would stay home with my sister to clean up the mess that was left behind.
My parents forbade us from talking to outsiders about what was going on in the home and we were told a story that we were to repeat if anybody asked. We had to honour my brother’s right to privacy – but I always felt the real reason for the silence was because my parents felt embarrassed, ashamed and blamed themselves. I honoured their wishes and kept the secret.
Living daily in this environment took its toll and I began to shut down from life. I became so deeply saddened and watched as my parents hardened from the pain of it all. They functioned of course, and provided for us, but they were struggling to cope with life themselves. The tenderness that I once enjoyed from my mother was replaced with panic, stress and nervous tension, and my father regressed into a depression where I could no longer reach him. I missed seeing the loveliness of my parents which I remembered all too well from those early years.
Quite often when an episode of violence subsided there was a short period of time where my brother expressed a genuine display of tenderness and concern for what had happened. As a child I felt these moments provided me with a glimpse as to who my brother really was, although it was never long before the threat of violence returned.
In my teenage years I found myself unable to deal with the relentless fear and anxiety as well as the sadness, anger and frustration. I didn’t want to feel what I was feeling, nor could I stand to see my brother control the family with threats of violence anymore. I chose drugs and alcohol in an attempt to dull the hurt.
One evening at a teenage party I was raped whilst intoxicated by alcohol and drugs. It was at this point I became more harsh and critical of myself, which was exacerbated by the cocktail of substances I continued to consume. The care I gave my physical body at this time was functional at best, and there was little true connection or tenderness for myself, let alone anyone else.
By now I had hardened myself to my brother and completely ignored him even though we resided in the same home. I cannot describe the level of anger and resentment I felt towards him, which of course would have been felt by him as well.
I had longed for the time when I could leave home and did so immediately after I completed high school. This triggered many episodes for my brother who wanted the same opportunities. Eventually an aggressive and violent incident placed him in the hands of the police and it was here that life changed for everyone. My brother was placed in a facility where his behaviour could be managed.
Returning to Love
Many years later at age 34 I started attending Universal Medicine presentations and with the loving support of a number of Esoteric practitioners and the student body I learned to pull down the protective wall that I had built as a child. I started to let people in and trust once again.
I realised that I had avoided taking the powerful step to provide myself with love, care and tenderness and was instead waiting for someone else to show me love, as I did not love myself.
Seeing a greater truth and healing childhood hurts
I visited my brother only a couple of times when he left home as it was always so difficult to be reminded of the way it was in my childhood. When we met as a family, we would immediately settle into the same uncomfortable roles.
Recently, however, I felt it was time to reconnect and so I organised a visit. My awareness on this visit was so much greater than ever before and whilst much about the visit felt familiar, there was a lot that felt different too.
I could feel on this visit how much I cared for my brother and I could feel his loveliness too. My brother really liked people, and this came to me as a great surprise. There were many times when I was able to observe how open and trusting of others he could be and that he didn’t hold back from saying hello and starting a conversation with a stranger. He was reflecting to me something that showed that I could be open like this too.
It was touching for me to observe the genuine level of care and support offered to my brother by his care workers; it made me see that he too is being given the opportunity to evolve and to choose more self-loving ways. It became clear that the opportunity to return to love is there for us all – notwithstanding our ailments, disability, past hurts and prior behaviour.
There were many opportunities and reasons for my brother to withdraw from humanity because of the way that he was treated and yet he did not choose this for himself. As a child he was teased by other children because he was different, he became obese as a teenager and was watched and whispered about as he walked down the street. Now in his early 40s he has lost his teeth and his appearance is that of someone in their 70s. For the first time I realised that my brother had his own hurts and that he was more than his behaviour.
In the past I had distanced myself from my brother but I realised after this visit that we shared a similarity – we held deep hurts and we reacted to those hurts with anger. The only difference was that I buried my pain while he exploded with his. These behaviours kept people out of our hearts so that we didn’t have to feel the pain that was inside of us, and we both suffered as a result.
Throughout my healing of family violence and abuse, I realised how easily I had given up on my own love and self-worth, and how the pain from years of self-abuse hurt much more than the actions of those I had allowed to abuse me. I experienced first-hand that the more I honoured and nurtured myself, the more naturally I allowed myself to trust and feel love for others, including those who behaved unlovingly in the past. I now hold a greater understanding about my life and feel a newfound freedom to be my true loving self.
With love and deep appreciation to Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine for supporting me throughout my healing process.