timeouts.

As a young girl, I often found myself in timeouts; my parents’ way of enforcing discipline. The house had been riddled with “timeout corners,” but one spot took precedence over the others: the spare bedroom. The room was empty except for a small chair made of wood and metal that sat in the middle. The walls were covered in a blue patterned wallpaper, which quickly became dizzying if stared at long enough, and the floor nestled the chair in it’s gray carpet that looked a lot softer than it felt. It was stale and uninviting.

When I found myself sitting in that room, the rule was to remain quiet for five minutes and I would be released of my duties. The idea was simple, but to me it felt like an inescapable prison.

In my mind, timeouts were there to remind me I was unlovable, to tell me I deserved rejection and prove that I was unwanted. Surely, something I had done had deemed me the owner of these qualities and the panic and fear I felt from that took over my being.

One time, somewhere between four and five years old, I sat in that room screaming and choking on words, begging for my mom to come back and get me. If I could only see her again, it would mean I was still loved and still wanted. I knew I needed to calm down so I could escape that hell, but I couldn’t get myself to do it. I was scared. Terrified.

Tears were streaming down my cheeks, my heart racing, and my body drenched in sweat. I was trembling with such an overwhelming panic that my body lost all control. My bladder let go and I slowly became soaked with it’s contents. I was so overcome with the fear of being rejected, I had wet myself.

I share this story for one reason; to speak of the trauma associated with adoption and the fear of rejection it can impress. As a child, I believed in order to be loved I needed to be perfect or I would be warranted as unwanted. As an adult, that fear still has it’s claws firmly planted. Sure, I don’t have a problem with incontinence due to that anxiety, but I still struggle with the pressure of perfection and the uncertainty of letting people in.

If I keep people at a distance, it won’t hurt when they leave me. If I present myself with perfection, I can’t be told I’m not good enough. Both lies, and both wired deeply into my being.

The more I lean into the fear, the more power it’ll have. The more I tell myself those lies, the more I will believe them. But I can combat them with truth, vulnerability and grace.

Let imperfections shine. Let people in. And let patience an trust abide.

8 Comments

  1. I am glad that you now know that to seek perfection in any area is to court personal disaster, to blame yourself for not achieving perfection leads to loss of self-esteem. Everyone knows you as a kind soul with a good heart. God made you in His image and likeness. I am glad you are beginning to celebrate that. Take personal risks in life by opening your heart to others, as you already have done and continue to do.

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  2. Thank u for being so real. As a foster parent (which I hope to be loving in every way) you remind me daily of the trauma from my daughters past and my hopes to avoid for the future. Thank you.

  3. So many of these words resonate with me. People are astonished when I say I only had one timeout growing up. It’s not that I was a perfect child. Instead, my mother could see how much fear and anxiety I had during the timeout – fear of abandonment again – and that was much greater stress and punishment than anything I could have done.

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