Navigating Trauma Bonds and Breaking Generational Cycles: A Personal Journey of Love and Healing

Navigating Trauma Bonds and Breaking Generational Cycles: A Personal Journey of Love and Healing

In the past six years, we’ve experienced the devastating sudden losses of my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, my mother, and three close friends, all of whom passed away unexpectedly. 

During my time in Costa Rica, I suffered a severe leg injury that went untreated for two to three years, resulting in prolonged pain and difficulty. This was also happening during the confines of the pandemic where I had to grieve alone with my partner being a frontline worker.

Adding to our harrowing experiences, my partner, who works as a train engineer, tragically encountered his first fatality on the same morning as my nanny's funeral, who passed away on my birthday. 

These are just a few glimpses into the immense hardships we've faced together. Our shared journey has exposed us to such profound trauma that we have become interconnected, relying on one another to navigate the overwhelming effects of our past. I can't help but recognize the echoes of deep-seated abuse that have shaped his mindset. It's as if I'm personally experiencing the unravelling effects of generational trauma, as though I were his own child.

I find myself shouldering the daunting task of intervening in my partner's addiction, which I unwittingly enabled due to my own codependency stemming from our shared trauma. It deeply saddens me to think that others might perceive him as a monster because he is not. He never had a fair chance from the start. Born to parents who were just 15 and 17 years old, it's evident how profoundly he suffered from verbal abuse and emotional abuse alone, amongst other events.

The abandonment he experienced was truly heart-wrenching. After a 40-year marriage, his father abruptly left, abandoning him and his sister after his mother suddenly passed away. This abandonment speaks volumes about the values instilled in him during his upbringing. Having an eight-year age difference from his late sister growing up, he was often left out and overlooked in the family; never involved in family trips, even. His sister, only 38, passed away unexpectedly from mixing alcohol with a lap-band surgery. She was also struggling with grief and abandonment. 

His fear of being abandoned runs incredibly deep, leading him to self-sabotage any chance of happiness. The unhealthy patterns he struggles to overcome have been deeply ingrained in him for nearly five decades. Between the complex childhood trauma he isn't able to recognize at this time, the toxic environment of the patriarchal system he grew up in, surrounded by individuals who were far from well, and his work on the railroad, where a singular focus prevails, he has faced an uphill battle in breaking free from these destructive behaviours.

It is truly remarkable when you consider the circumstances my partner has faced. Being nonverbal and undiagnosed for his entire life, he has struggled to understand his own mind. When you add the layer of childhood trauma, which is painful for me to discuss, it becomes even more astonishing to see how far he has come. While I have played a significant role in supporting him, he must recognize his own accomplishments in breaking generational traumas. It is crucial for him to acknowledge that he is powerless over the mental health challenges he faces.

As I share our personal stories as a means of intervention, I believe he will begin to gain respect from others in our community. There are likely many people silently empathizing with him. I find myself as the sole remaining family member, stuck in the complex position of being both his caregiver and a victim. I understand that none of this was personal. I recognize that I can be difficult to live with, but that should never serve as an excuse. My own childhood experiences and the negative feelings I harboured about myself enabled him to continue the cycle of abusive behaviour.

The extent to which I have gone to help someone who has caused me pain demonstrates a level of loyalty that may be unprecedented in my partner's life. Like many of us who have been affected by our shared traumas, we have learned to shut off our emotions as a coping mechanism when faced with death, as it has become all too familiar for us. 

Learning to understand my partner's needs and reading his mind has been essential in taking care of him. However, when I assumed custody of my children, I found it challenging to meet his ego-driven needs as a neurodivergent individual. It took education and developing an empathetic lens for me to truly grasp this. I firmly believe that there is no monster within him.

While I have set boundaries for the past two years, I am realizing that in my area, many men struggle to comprehend and respect women when we assert our boundaries. They are accustomed to the patriarchal society that dismisses our concerns as if we were the boy who cried wolf. Many women have come forward with similar experiences to mine, and those who are astonished by someone staying in such a situation are fortunate to have never had to navigate life on their own.

I may have given up on my sister in the past, and we all know that you cannot help an addict who does not want to be helped. However, I firmly believe that you can love an addict who does not want to be helped. Shame is a significant factor in fueling addiction, and I acknowledge that I have unintentionally added to the shame my partner already feels due to his nonverbal nature. With his multiple panic attacks and memory loss, I no longer understand what he is thinking. This is my final attempt to get him the help he truly deserves.

When it comes to my family, I won't give up.

I am happy to say that the emotional turmoil is at bay in my home at this time. As much as it disheartens me to publicly speak on someone else's behalf, it has been my only option after three long years of fighting this fight alone, in the quiet.

If you would like to help create change, please sign the petition HERE for updated common-law rights in Canada. There are many others who aren't as lucky as I am to have the ability to afford separate living arrangements.

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