For an Adult Child of Neglect, Trust is a Stretch

Compassionate Love:Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2014 Nancy Virden

You know that moment when  stretching and maneuvering finally lands your fingertips on that mug on the top shelf? Skin touches the answer to your need while you feel hopeful and taste victory!

Suddenly it is gone, slipped beyond your reach, and no amount of fumbling about will bring it back. Your choice is to give up or fetch a footstool and try again.

If you are an adult child of neglect, you may experience relationships to be like reaching for an elusive mug. It may seem undeniably impossible that one day someone could know you and care about your well-being. Your self-doubt, history, and even self-hatred does not allow for that hope. Your eyes are always searching for traps.

In your mind, smiles from people are not sincere or are offered in ignorance. Love, kindness, empathy, a helping hand – none are to be trusted because what you have known is for those to be temporary and unpredictable.

Nonetheless, one day you realize that your nemesis is actually your perceptions and beliefs. Learning to challenge those familiar enemies is difficult with many small advances, huge fall-backs, and so on. It takes a decision, determination, willingness, and support to challenge your worldview. 

You are so extraordinarily vulnerable now because one foot is in the grave called “can’t,” and the other is barely interested in doubling its efforts. Those who have come into your life to help, temporarily have enormous power because one wrong move and you’re doomed. You’ve no idea how to stand on your own anymore.

It is new to rely on someone else. Their consistency, boundaries, kindness, and God-forbid investment in you is unnerving. These are foreign concepts and you are certain you do not belong in this area of the world. Admitting you do not know what to do, suspiciously you reach for their hands anyway, and begin to gain some balance.

Then a conflict. A disappointment. A misunderstanding. New life has begun to seem achievable, you touch it, and then feel it slip away. Guilt returns in force, “Look what you did, you pushed too hard.”

One option is to give up. Another is to decide to reconnect with possibilities,  grab the footstool of trust, and try again.


NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline   1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

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