Post-Traumatic Stresses of Growing up in a “Messy” Home

photo 2It’s hard to move on with life when your home is in shambles. I say this because of the never ending construction going on in my house right now—but I also mean it in the emotional sense.

Did you grow up in a home with lots of fighting? Uncertainty about the future? Fear that Mom and Dad might split? Then you might know what I’m talking about. It’s hard to move on, it’s hard to grow up, when your home life is in shambles.

Today I had trouble focusing on my to-dos, primarily because my house is a wreck and has been for almost two months. When I finally got Sam down for a nap, I had to pray extra hard and reread my index cards of Bible promises just so I could move on with the day. My brain felt so cluttered I knew I could not be productive unless God cleared things up. The verse that most calmed me: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee” (Isa. 26:3). As I concentrated on God, my scattered thoughts, well, scattered. And then, Sam woke up…an hour and a half before he was supposed to (grr). Glad God calmed me beforehand!

I wish I had learned to rely on God earlier in life. When I was a teenager, my home was in shambles, in the emotional sense, and I suffered in many ways, for many years to come.

I didn’t rely on God. I relied on keeping busy to numb my pain. I relied on building up myself and my skills, determined to acquire things that no one could ever take from me. In the early years, those things included a straight-A record, a good reputation, and lots of experiences to pad my college applications. In my adult life, they translated into two college degrees, a full plate at church, and a teaching career: AKA, resume builders.

photo 3

These things aren’t bad in and of themselves. But they’re bad when you do them to avoid confronting your pain. Life gets lopsided really quickly when you do those pain-stuffing behaviors to the detriment of everything else.

I’ve come a long way from the life I’m describing. I finally gave up the career chase to have a kid, for one. And I’m making a concentrated effort to relax in my thirties (wait, did I just contradict myself?). But I still feel myself lagging behind in plenty of areas.

Because I married when I was twenty, I’ve been able to shunt many adult responsibilities onto my husband’s plate: paying bills; navigating home, life, and car insurance; and setting up internet service, to name a few. I don’t know the cost of our monthly bills, and I wouldn’t know who to call if our electricity went out. Perhaps, most shamefully, I still don’t understand how to read and/or fill out a W2 (or is a W4?) when I start a new job. I am always embarrassed at needing help to fill it out. (But amazingly, I don’t take the time to correct this lack of knowledge).

For that matter, many, many things around me go unnoticed, things I should know just by virtue of living on planet earth or living in Texas.

Exhibit A: When I was twenty, I voted in my first presidential election without knowing the difference between Republicans and Democrats.

Exhibit B: When my parents visited from Minnesota and we walked around my neighborhood and they asked, “What kind of tree is that?” “What kind of plant is that?” “What kind of bird is that?” I had to repeatedly answer, “I don’t know,” “I don’t know,” “I don’t know.” I did not know, and I did not care.

Exhibit C: Sam was born with a large birthmark on his shoulder (I mean LARGE), which turned out to be an “infantile hemangioma,” or a benign tumor, according to his skin care specialist—and when my friend asked me about the long-term effects and other basic questions, I had to answer, “I don’t really know, but the doctor said not to worry, so I’m choosing not to.” Shouldn’t a mom be curious about these things? Shouldn’t she bother to know? Nonetheless, I still haven’t done any research.

Why don’t I bother to know more about my surroundings, or my son’s skin condition?

Probably the biggest reason is I feel my brain only has so much room, and to overload it is to risk meltdown. (That must be a lie, a bad root, I gained in adolescence—I’ll have to pray about that one some more.) Similarly, I have trouble adding new things to my routine: for instance, everyone tells me I need a Pinterest account—”It would make life so much easier”—but the thought of having to regularly check one more website confounds me (keeping up with my blog is hard enough!).

photo 1I simply don’t have room in my brain to accommodate one more thing. Which is why I used to be oblivious to the news. My husband would ask me what I thought about some really big news item, and I’d respond with a blank stare. Happily, caring for Sam has helped me to turn on the news almost daily (I get bored with bottles and diapers all day), so my news knowledge has increased about 100%.

My point is that I’m still decompressing from growing up in an emotionally messy home. For many years it took all my energy to put one foot in front of the other and take care of myself (I didn’t realize that God already had my back)—how could I care about the world around me? It’s only by God’s grace that I’m here today, somehow swimming in the current of adult life.

God has been gentle with my transition back into the world, giving me a loving husband and plenty of guardian angels to guide and protect my uninformed, oblivious steps. It’s hard to move on, it’s hard to grow up, when your home life is in shambles. But by his grace, people can do it. And because of his goodness, I am.



5 thoughts on “Post-Traumatic Stresses of Growing up in a “Messy” Home

  1. ccyager June 11, 2014 / 8:29 am

    Hi, Lindsey!

    It sounds like the upheaval with the renovations has triggered some stuff from the past. Maybe it’s time to take a longer, more in-depth look at your past. The thing about stuffing emotions, they don’t go away. They’re going to come up again and again until you process them. Sometimes, they come up in totally inappropriate ways. Getting help with processing the past is a sign of strength, not weakness or illness. While God may have your back, God also expects people to take care of themselves. You need to do your part of it. I tend to believe that the Universe will help me when I demonstrate that I’m ready and willing.

    I have every confidence that you’ll figure it out and do what’s best for you which will be what’s best for your family. Have you tried meditation?


  2. lindseygendke June 12, 2014 / 6:41 pm

    Cinda, thanks for the thoughtful response and suggestions. It was interesting to see your take on this post, because I had something else in mind when I wrote it. My intent was to draw a parallel with my current, physical, upheaval, with my past, emotional, upheaval. It’s possible I have more stuff to work through (as we often can’t see the “planks” in our own eyes), but I can honestly say I feel pretty comfortable with my past and feel that Jesus has brought peace to that corner of my life. However, I try to be open to him bringing up more stuff if and when I need to face it. Incidentally, I think the past was on my mind because of working on my book proposal for my memoir, which is all about my past.

    You may be right in that it’s time to take a deeper look at the HABITS I’ve developed BECAUSE of my past: I WOULD like to do some more growing up and taking responsibility as far as the mundane aspects of life that I mention in the post (learning how to fill out my W4 and understanding the family finances, for example). I think we can get so used to “doing life” a certain way to protect ourselves, that it stays a habit even after we’ve healed from the initial wound.

    Sounds like we have different world views, which I totally respect; I would say I do “biblical meditation”: reading scripture and thinking about what it means for me. This has brought a lot of peace in the past. With the baby, I know this has slid a bit…so there’s an area to work on. Thanks again for your thoughts!

  3. Vinodhini June 20, 2014 / 4:48 am

    I just wonder how God meets my needs through blogs.. Only two days back I was thinking of so many areas in my life which are just messy… I have a great family, a good job however many times I do not do what is required of me and that makes a mess.. Sometimes I’m too lost doing the same things and not using my time wisely… This post kind of opened my eyes to the fact that – many physical and emotional situations in the past have their roots in some of the actions and behaviors and I need to really pray abt them.. Thanks for sharing this post…

    • lindseygendke June 20, 2014 / 12:35 pm

      I’m so glad this post was helpful to you. It’s amazing how our current struggles stem from our past. I’ve concluded that I’ll be forever finding more roots to deal with. I will always be a work in progress, but as long as we keep seeing these things and trying to improve (with God’s help, and lots of prayer, of course), then I think we’re on the right track. God bless you!

      • Vinodhini June 22, 2014 / 12:44 am

        Yeah that;s right… Continuous improvement is really very important and we can succeed only with Gods help.. I help backsliding but somehow God helps me with some momentum and I keep moving 🙂 God Bless you 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s