Humpty Dumpty Had a Great Fall…
Does everyone have one day in their life where everything disintegrates into a thousand pieces with no hope of ever putting it all back together? I call my own my “Humpty Dumpty” moment.
It was the day the police came to our family-run restaurant, arrested my father, and took him away in handcuffs. I moved through the process of wondering why, to disbelief at the reason offered, to resignation that nothing would ever be the way it was before I woke up that morning.
The charges against my dad were harsh and evoked reactions of shock, disgust, and shame that would reverberate through our family for decades. There was no conversation, no connection, no support that could undo the damage that was done. We each become isolated in our own journey of grief, shame, and the encompassing stigma that followed us wherever we went. We created subconscious survival strategies that would in some ways serve us well in the short term. But in the long term, those same strategies would be our downfall, from a mental-health perspective.
The charges, and follow-up conviction, were for sodomy and sexual interference among a collection of underage males. Even reading or speaking these words evokes strong emotions to this day for me. It speaks to the victimization, the lifelong implications for those boys who suffered at the hands of my father. It evokes the impact of being a family member of a convicted felon. Enduring the legal process to conviction took about two years. Enduring the disintegration takes a lifetime. My lifetime.
I have moved through the milestones we tend to achieve: jobs, marriages, children and grandchildren, illnesses and deaths, with the ever-present cracks from my Humpty Dumpty moment. Finding the strength of mind to glue some of the pieces back together made it even harder to reconcile all the cracks. But those cracks have become a driving force lately. I moved away from seeing them as damage, towards a vantage point of allowing the light to shine through the cracks and illuminate all that was good in my world.
When the arrest happened, I learned fairly quickly that this was a taboo subject—that there was no opportunity to chat with a friend about it over a cup of tea. I was told, and it was expected, that I would forget about it, move on with my life, and never talk about it, with anyone. I did what was expected, but eventually all my close relationships began to break down. Having a parent do unspeakably bad things, whether it is to you or someone else, sits in the body and mind as trauma, and impacts our attachment processes. We now have the research that speaks to the impact of unresolved trauma, and thankfully, some strategies to mitigate the damage and turn us towards mental and physical wellness.
I am grateful for the opportunities that have come along more recently in my life, that have opened the doors to conversations with people about those hard things that happened. Vulnerability creates moments of courage and hope. My hope, which is driven by my courage to share my story, is for those that struggle to hide the shame of their own Humpty Dumpty moments.
While all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again…we can have a different outcome. The place to start is in a conversation with someone safe. Connection takes you to a place where you can get help to start picking up the pieces and putting yourself together again!