• Barbara Elk

Not All Valleys Are Beautiful

I'm overdue for a blog post. I've been focused on health issues of someone so very dear to me. So please forgive me for my tardiness.

As a child who experienced trauma, I tended to live inside my head versus living among others in the world. I looked at the world around me with fear and trepidation. I desperately wanted to have friends and to be involved with my own group of friends. During elementary school, the only friendship I had was awkward. It was with a shy girl by the name of Debbie whose uncertain smile was a stapled expression. She would listen as I rambled on and would sometimes answer in a quiet voice.

Making friends was difficult. Aside from the obvious which was my skin color, I spoke with a strong Canadian accent, and was painfully shy. I didn't know how to fit in with a community whose personalities were so very different than mine. It was no wonder why my only friend was with someone like Debbie.

There was also another reason for this....

I carried a deeply embedded dirty secret. I don't want to describe the minute details as I'm not ready to do that on this blog. But this I will share enough with you to help you understand why as a child, I was skittish, quiet and uncertain.

After being taken from my family and tribe, my sister and I found ourselves standing in front of a temporary foster home in the middle of the night. The woman who answered the door was not happy to see two crying children, accompanied by a social worker, on her doorstep. I could tell by the way she looked at us with a dour expression on her tired-looking face that she wanted no parts of us.

We were led down to the basement that was dimly lit by two single bulbs. Rows of beds and bunk beds were lined up against the gray, concrete block walls, with more beds lined up side by side in the center of the large room. Every one of those beds were occupied by children who stared as if they were examining us, gauging our vulnerability. The atmosphere was heavy and unwelcoming. The nightmarish, painful acts played out on me and my sister during our brief stay traumatized us. We were never able to speak about it since days later, we were separated and she was moved to another foster home. We didn't see each other until years later, when we were young adults. After seeing each other face-to-face, we couldn't speak. We both fell into each others arms and sobbed, grieving the past and re-living those terrifying and horrific moments where we were held against our wills in the dark, dank basement, our mouths covered by pillows and hands.

A child who endures trauma does not know that they need therapy. It is up to adults to help guide them. My adopted parents, even though they were encouraged to get me into counseling, opted to raise me the way they saw fit. Had I been in counseling, chances are, I might have been taught how to cope with my peers instead of living a life filled with flashbacks and daily fear. My life at my new home only added to the trauma and fears.

Children can cope with a traumatic past, but their lives may be burdened even more so by unhealthy choices; cutting, drugs, alcohol, abusive relationships, promiscuity, gangs, etc. The list goes on. As a child of 9, 10 and 11, elementary age, I felt powerless. I was on the verge of tipping over the cliff into a shadowy valley. This would be a deep and cold valley that I was going to have a difficult time climbing out of by myself. It would be decades until I would see and feel the warmth of the sun on my face.

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