This is one of my earliest memories of a thought, floating around in my young, impressionable, and confused mind.
I knew this adult word: crackhead. I did not know what it meant, though.
Someone is missing. Someone else is making frantic phone calls in the middle of the night to friends, jails, hospitals, rehabs: “Have you seen her?”
I know by the short conversation and abrupt bang of the telephone to the receiver she got another, “No, sorry, I haven’t.” No coroner has called and no collect call from the county jail’s payphone requesting to accept the charges. Nothing.
I have only recently learned that my childhood could be deemed “toxic.” I have only recently learned the ways in which this has affected my adulthood, both negatively and positively.
It is no secret that our adolescence consists of our most formative years. For cognitive learning and development, how we process situations, how we deal with emotions, how we deal with conflict, whether we were nurtured enough, what our love language is, these years are crucial.
Well, what is a toxic environment?
This is a question a counselor has asked me, and I have also asked myself.
The truth is there is no one definition because it varies for everyone. You are free to define what is toxic and what is not. What do you find acceptable and what is unacceptable? Answering this question is the first step toward freedom. This includes acknowledging the environment was toxic at all. Many of us may watch our family members living in denial, sometimes completely refute that we grew up in some f*cked up sh*t—to put it plainly.
Memory is a funny thing. I remember that others in my family seem to have no recollection of at all.
Here is the hope:
It is not my job to define or redefine their version of that time in my life. This is mine to remember and mine to define. It is mine to heal from, learn from, and not repeat in any capacity in my own household. Because, today, I have my own home.
I am not trapped. I am not a victim. I am safe.
Three Ways to Heal from a Toxic Childhood:
1. Cultivate and nurture your sense of safety.
I have spent most of my life in a state of fear, worry, obsession, and confusion. It takes time, hard work, and consistency to move from that place to a state of calm and contentment. Nurturing our sense of safety is key. Meditation, affirmations, and grounding techniques like conscious breathing and cultivating a sense of loving-kindness for yourself and others are all helpful.
2. Build a solid support group.
This sounds formal and scary, but it’s just one or two people with whom you can express your thoughts and fears openly without judgement or without making the conversation about them. There is freedom to be found exposing the fear, processing it, and letting it pass away in the air of exposure.
3. Have carefree fun.
I am an active culprit of taking life way too seriously—to a fault. It deprives me of laughter, freedom, silliness, and the carefree fun we have lost somewhere along the way between childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Carefree fun gives me freedom and connects me with my lost sense of wonder, curiosity, and sincere love for the amazing world around me.