When I was in my late thirties I had an awakening that's not uncommon for people that age. I realized that the family I came from was not like all other families. And that things that happened in my childhood that seem strange or painful were not normal, or okay. Or possible to bury. And that they were responsible for me having lots of very negative ideas about myself.
I didn't have a choice but to confront these issues. They were front and center in my life. And I got help, and did a lot of work, and wasn't able to rid myself of my demons, because I don't think that actually can happen, but I did learn how to talk to them. And make them feel unwelcome. Put them in their place.
I don't want to go into details, because that's not what this piece is about. Instead it's the realization that the work never stops. The things that press your buttons are still out there. And they're doing their thing, and we're basically on our own to resist the downward spiral that comes when you give in to them and let them dominate your being. You know you want to do it. There's a lot of comfort in the pain they offer. But you know it doesn't end well. So you want to resist.
A technique my teacher offered was to first project the demon on the people who probably gave it to you. My parents. I would have a waking dream, deliberately, where I dump a big steaming bowl of spaghetti on their heads (with tomato sauce!) and lock them in the bathroom, saying I want you to think about this, young man and young lady. Then I would go about my business (still in the dream) chuckling while thinking of them in the bathroom crying and feeling unhappy about the spaghetti and being locked up. The most important thing is that when they are locked up they can't fuck with me. And it's a reminder that they aren't real. (A gentle and fun reminder, not an order or edict.) My parents are no longer the menace they once were. Children acting out their misery, probably caused by their parents, and projecting it on their child. They're no longer a threat to me. But my little boy, the one inside me, the one who remembers, doesn't know this isn't still going on. At the first sign of trouble -- panic. And depression. And self-hatred. And well, lots of self-abuse like smoking and drugs.
Child abuse carries a stigma, like alchoholism. But we're addicts, and we need the same kind of support network. Someone to call to say something happened that's making me spin, and I need someone to talk with, just to connect with another adult, to help me take better care of myself. Note, it's not someone to care for you, but someone you can lean on, temporarily, to have that conversation where you reaffirm your self-love and adult competence to take care of any demons that might show up (the spaghetti and the bathroom with its wonderful lock).