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Caleigh Burnham: How Abuse Can Manifest Unhealthy Relationships Later On

I was emotionally neglected as a child by both my parents. I received no physical touch, no affirmation, no love. My mom became an alcoholic after my brother died and my dad became suicidal. I always thought I was the problem because they would break down into tears when they saw me, knowing there should be another child there. Because of the heavy grief they bore, they never exemplified what love looked like in a relationship to me. I saw distance, cold words, and blank stares. 

As I started dating, I looked for those qualities in a partner; I was taught that love was silent and bitter. This absent love led abusers to adore me. They would provide me with just enough normal looking love with the abuse and neglect that I was comfortable with. I would put up with it because it was my normal.

I was sexually exploited by a neighbor when I was a seven. My mom watched it happen from afar, questioned me about it, and looked at me with eyes of disdain; eyes that asked, “Why did I have you at all?” I learned that day that I was disgusting and that my body was to be ashamed of. I was the one who did something wrong, not my neighbor who was twice my age. 

When I was raped in college all of these previous ideas of my body being revolting, that I don’t deserve to have unquestioned love, and that I am always the problem spurt out at once and made me spiral into trying to commit suicide multiple times. My mother told me it was my fault. I believed her because it had always been my fault. I ruined their marriage, I asked for the neighbor’s hands on me, I chose to go to my rapist’s house. I was always the common denominator. 

After my rape, I started dating men that used me. I started to sell my body because that’s the only way I could see any worth in myself. I believed I was reclaiming my body when in reality I was searching for someone to take it in and cherish it the way it was meant to be. These abusive men saw the struggle in my eyes, they knew I was consistently seeking the affirmation I never received. They took advantage of me. They discarded me once they no longer found me useful, pretty, pure. I am terrified of intimacy because I have this nauseating fear that the person I could love will be revolted by me, what I’ve done. How could anyone love me if my parents never did? How can anyone respect me when the only hands that have been laid on me were those of lust and greed? To this day, warmth makes me uneasy. People who are kind to me, who want to hold my hand and my heart carefully, petrify me because I have this twisted idea that everyone has an agenda. 

Therapy has helped with thoughts of unworthiness. I talk through new relationships and how I can not sabotage them immediately. I check in with myself and I am setting boundaries each day. My therapist tells me each time that my body does not need to be given up for me to receive love. The people who love me, truly, are patient and honor me even when I don’t honor myself. Despite all the horrors I have met in my life, I know there are good people. I know I am one of them.How Abuse Can Manifest Unhealthy Relationships Later On:

I was emotionally neglected as a child by both my parents. I received no physical touch, no affirmation, no love. My mom became an alcoholic after my brother died and my dad became suicidal. I always thought I was the problem because they would break down into tears when they saw me, knowing there should be another child there. Because of the heavy grief they bore, they never exemplified what love looked like in a relationship to me. I saw distance, cold words, and blank stares. 

As I started dating, I looked for those qualities in a partner; I was taught that love was silent and bitter. This absent love led abusers to adore me. They would provide me with just enough normal looking love with the abuse and neglect that I was comfortable with. I would put up with it because it was my normal.

I was sexually exploited by a neighbor when I was a seven. My mom watched it happen from afar, questioned me about it, and looked at me with eyes of disdain; eyes that asked, “Why did I have you at all?” I learned that day that I was disgusting and that my body was to be ashamed of. I was the one who did something wrong, not my neighbor who was twice my age. 

When I was raped in college all of these previous ideas of my body being revolting, that I don’t deserve to have unquestioned love, and that I am always the problem spurt out at once and made me spiral into trying to commit suicide multiple times. My mother told me it was my fault. I believed her because it had always been my fault. I ruined their marriage, I asked for the neighbor’s hands on me, I chose to go to my rapist’s house. I was always the common denominator. 

After my rape, I started dating men that used me. I started to sell my body because that’s the only way I could see any worth in myself. I believed I was reclaiming my body when in reality I was searching for someone to take it in and cherish it the way it was meant to be. These abusive men saw the struggle in my eyes, they knew I was consistently seeking the affirmation I never received. They took advantage of me. They discarded me once they no longer found me useful, pretty, pure. I am terrified of intimacy because I have this nauseating fear that the person I could love will be revolted by me, what I’ve done. How could anyone love me if my parents never did? How can anyone respect me when the only hands that have been laid on me were those of lust and greed? To this day, warmth makes me uneasy. People who are kind to me, who want to hold my hand and my heart carefully, petrify me because I have this twisted idea that everyone has an agenda. 

Therapy has helped with thoughts of unworthiness. I talk through new relationships and how I can not sabotage them immediately. I check in with myself and I am setting boundaries each day. My therapist tells me each time that my body does not need to be given up for me to receive love. The people who love me, truly, are patient and honor me even when I don’t honor myself. Despite all the horrors I have met in my life, I know there are good people. I know I am one of them.

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