I received an email today from someone in the US, and she’s recently started memory recovery…and asked me this question. It made me think.
The simple answer is: no. I’m glad I was born.
In actual fact, I wouldn’t change most of my past if I could. If someone said “here’s a time machine. You can choose to go back and change things if you like,” I’d be at a loss. Maybe this sounds mad. Wouldn’t I want to go back and save my babies? That’d be the first feeling. And save the other children sooner… and if I had the chance, I would do.
But I don’t have that chance. There’s no magic time machine and spending my life wishing there was will just gradually destroy me. Instead, I look at what their deaths caused. I could focus on the grief it caused…but again, that’d destroy me. Instead…the fire – the fury, and determination to let their lives have some worth – it’s only from that fire that I’ve ever had the strength to stand up to the abusers, and get others out of there.
Of course I’d have liked it if there was less pain, less grief, less fear; less sadness; less confusion…etc etc. Of course I wish those children and I never had to go through such horrors.
But when I think of them, I rarely immediately think of their tears. I don’t focus on trying to cleanse their wounds, or holding them and singing softly until they sleep. I have deeply sad memories of just holding tiny children whilst they sob. But this wasn’t their identity; they were fighters, and compassionate…and truly heroes. When I think of them, I think of running around outside making daisy chains. I think of how we fought for each other, and defended each other. How we all fought for what was right. I think of how the tiny boy stood up to the fully grown man on my behalf, because I was too upset to do so myself. I think of their silly giggles. If I’d never been born, I would never have met the most inspirational, courageous group of children. I am honoured to have met them and to have learnt from them.
What was the biggest thing I learnt? The incredible power of the child’s mind to remain sane. I fully believe had we all been adults and subjected to that kind of treatment, we would have given up. I guess being able to see so much further ahead, and to understand so much more, actually can be a problem at times. We didn’t think far ahead; it cost too much energy and besides, it was so unpredictable. We lived in the moment. We made sure we found something to laugh about every day, and surprisingly more often than not it was quite easy. Also, the children’s instinctive need to protect each other was incredible to watch. I am nervous of physical contact, especially from adults…and guess this is reasonable, but the idea of being completely scared of physical contact is alien to me. The children and I would hug, stroke and lightly touch each other’s faces etc in order to provide comfort. If I see a child now I instinctively want to hold them and shelter them. Most nights I wake up feeling like a small child is pressing into my chest. I know they’re not there, but it’s a comfort.
My past has also shaped how I am now. I could just list the flaws in my character that are a result of the abuse, but this will only mean I focus on what’s wrong with me. I do this enough times as it is. But, I am far stronger than if I hadn’t been abused, I’m sure. This isn’t to say I’m never scared, or laugh in the face of danger. I am almost always feeling scared; very scared, and with no way out. But if I’m struggling, I can look at what I have survived… and I can’t argue that I have survived, because I’m here. Suddenly I feel more able to cope, even if by just a bit. I think I try to understand people more than if I’d had the perfect childhood. I have learnt the hard way that people can be far different to who we think they are; it’s become somewhat an instinct to try to read people’s eyes, and to try to understand reasons for their behaviour. I wouldn’t be a musician if I hadn’t needed it as a release, and now I can’t imagine my life without music. I have made the most incredible friends, and yes although mostly they’ve had to see flashbacks of terrible things, the more down recovery I go the more I have the space to tell them about the special moments with the children.
So do I wish I’d never been born? There are moments when I do feel like this; mainly when the depression is having a grand ol’ moment. But, generally speaking, I’m glad I had my life…in a weird way. Of course if I had the chance, I would take it all away and none of it would have happened. But I’ll never have that chance, so now it’s important to make good of what was otherwise a world of absolute hell and extreme abuse. My abuse made me who I am today… a survivor, a musician, a maternal-lioness, and someone who seeks humour in even the most desperate situations..and who has memories of the most incredible childhood friends.