what i've learned along the way
asking the tough questions . . .
Published on June 11, 2007 By lobsterhunter In Misc

My Aunt Nila stopped by my house yesterday afternoon. She and her husband, Donald, were in the Metroplex visiting their children, and she called to see if the rumors she'd been hearing about my elopement were true. I told her all about my destination wedding to California and caught her up to speed on all the recent happenings in my life.

Out of thirteen children, she and her sister Rita are the only siblings who makes a concerted effort to maintain a relationship with me. Over the years, Nila and Rita would send birthday cards, and they always showed up at the major life events like graduations and weddings. Nila is the oldest girl in her family, and I have always considered her the most spiritual one of the Britten clan.

After giving her a tour of my home, we sat down on the couch to visit for awhile. The subject of my homeless mother came up, and Nila and I had a very candid conversation about Vickie's mental illness and drug addiction. At one point during the discussion, I asked the following question . . .

"What exactly happened when we were small? What were the circumstances surrounding our removal by Child Protective Services?"

Her reply . . .

"Do you really want to know?"

And without skipping a beat, I blurted out, "Yes! I'm a grown up. I can handle it now. Tell me."

I was not ready for the dialogue that unfolded. Nila explained that at the age of two, I had been severely beaten and left alone in an empty house all by myself. I have no memories of these events, yet somehow I am certain they have haunted me for a lifetime. According to her rendition of the story, my mother's new live-in had a deep seeded hatred for me, and I became the target of his aggression. After battering my toddler body and pulling out chunks of my hair, the adults in my life locked me in a room and left me alone in the dark for hours before a relative stopped by and found me crying hysterically. Black and blue traces of rage would later be discovered by an unsuspecting social worker after my maternal grandparents contacted the authorities.

It will probably take some time for me to process the details Nila shared. My brain tries to come up with a reason for such a senseless act, and my heart breaks when I picture myself so small and so fragile. So many different emotions flood my mind as I attempt to understand the implications these events have had on my life. The fear and trepidation I’ve experienced for almost twenty eight years can probably be traced back to those very moments. I’ve always felt irreversibly flawed and unwanted. I’ve always been afraid of being abandoned. No wonder . . .

I could tell this conversation made Nila a bit uncomfortable, but I am grateful she was willing to walk with me through this devastating piece of my past. Looking at the ugly parts of your family isn’t an easy task, and acknowledging the failures of those we love can often leave us feeling unworthy. The next time I ask a difficult question, I should probably brace myself for the answer. Knowing the details of my childhood victimization makes it all the more real, and a broad spectrum of emotions surface. Thankfully, I have an incredibly compassionate husband who held me in his arms as I cried for the wounded little girl who lives inside of me. Healing is a process, and perhaps blogging is part of my journey toward forgiveness.

on Jun 11, 2007

I was excited to see an article posted by you till I read it. then I truly felt pain. Man o man what an animal would do that to a child? {I am sure you are asking yourself any question I could come up with}


be well, process well,

the best revenge is having a good and happy life and of course breaking the chains of abuse.


elie, aka MM

on Jun 13, 2007
I can't bear to let my tiny children's cries go unattended for even a moment...How absolutely inside-out of any adult to mistreat an innocent child...your story is heart-wrenching.

Although you have no conscious recollection of that trauma, how significant that you've been informed so you can at least piece together the life-lasting effects it's probably had on you. Too bad the effects of such traumas can't fade along with the memory.

How wonderful that you're a whole, beautiful young woman now, married, doing well.

Ditto what Modman said:
the best revenge is having a good and happy life and of course breaking the chains of abuse.
on Jun 14, 2007
Wow. I can't imagine what you're going through hearing all this and not having recollection. It's possibly good that you don't remember.

Ditto on what Elie and Whip said about insight and growing and breaking the chains.
on Jun 14, 2007
I love you Tenille.

I am so, so, so sorry.