How my own past trauma helped my son to heal

Today we can nurture that child within who couldn't help himself enough

Joe MacDonald avatar

by Joe MacDonald |

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In middle school, I faced bullies just about every day. I often experienced physical violence during the three years I attended what was then called Burbank Junior High School in Houston. The beatings occurred so frequently that my speech teacher allowed me to stay in her class and practice for upcoming tournaments, thus sheltering me from a very unsafe place.

My crime was that I had different interests from most boys my age. I’ve loved the arts for longer than I can remember. I moved heaven and earth to be a part of the choir or a participant in the school musical. When I was on stage, I was at home. I never found a place that proved as accepting of my true self as when I participated in a play or sang in a choir.

For that, bullies wanted to punish me and make me ashamed of who I was.

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My son still struggles with PTSD from his childhood medical trauma

It took many years of therapy to recover from my middle school experiences. I relived the times I faced cruel children who’d stop at nothing to destroy my soul. Many years later, I realized that, sadly, I was one of the participants who reinforced my shame. My adult self judged my younger self harshly. I spoke to the wounded child within me and said, “Why didn’t you tell anyone about the bullies? Someone could have helped you if you’d spoken up.”

I realized that I judged the little boy as a full-grown adult who might be capable of rising above the situation and handling the noises and pain that were inflicted by those around him. Healing came for me when I could redeem that boy inside, that young, innocent child who did nothing wrong. He kept silent, thinking he was protecting himself. He feared that others would judge him and think he wasn’t a “real boy” because he didn’t defend himself.

I grew to love that boy, the one inside of me, and offered grace and protection to him. It took many years before I could redeem my inner child’s story. I’m proud to say that we’re now in a very good place, he and I.

Passing down lessons on healing

Recently, my younger son, Caeleb, who has hemophilia, talked about a few times when he experienced great pain as he struggled with internal bleeds as a child. For years, my poor boy spent many nights in a hospital room, screaming in pain as the feeling of a thousand needles left him agonizing in bed. Many times, he needed several days to find any relief from the onslaught of his bleeding disorder.

As Caeleb shared his thoughts about dealing with joint bleeds, he said, “Dad, I should’ve listened to what you and Mom said when I experienced pain. I didn’t do the right thing. Maybe if I had used a slower breathing technique, I wouldn’t have hurt for such a long time.” I saw tears forming in his beautiful hazel eyes.

Thinking quickly about my own situation, I asked, “Son, did you have the maturity when you were a young boy to follow through when everything proved scary and out of control?”

He shook his head and said, “I just remember the horrible pain that drove me crazy.”

I acknowledged his feelings and asked him, “How would you help that little boy in the hospital bed now? You’re grown now and have more wisdom. Stop punishing the child within and offer him grace.”

Caeleb looked at me; a lightbulb had gone off in his head. “Dad, I never thought to help the little boy inside. I spent too much time beating him up for not following the right protocol.” I assured him that we often hold ourselves to a standard too high to reach.

I reminded him of when he sat on his bed, looked at me, and said, “Dad, I hate hemophilia.” My response to his frustration went something like this: “Oh, but son, I can’t hate hemophilia because I love everything about you. How can I hate something that is a part of you?”

I hugged my incredible son and thanked him for a great conversation. I reminded him that he’s fearfully and wonderfully made. He thanked me for listening to him and appreciated the ability to have in-depth discussions. I assured him that I was available anytime he needed to talk.

As Caeleb left the room, I looked up to the heavens and said, “Thank you, God, for the gift of my mighty son and our bond as a strong family.”

Note: Hemophilia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Hemophilia News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to hemophilia.


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