Vacancy: Self-Worth in the Mind of a Childhood Abuse Survivor.

I feel exhausted today.

Just drained with nothing left in me. No smiles, no laughs and just feeling pooped the very moment I stepped back home through my apartment door. In fact, I kinda felt weary this morning when I got to the gym. I lacked energy and motivation at boot-camp and it didn’t help when I noticed Mac & Tosh walking, instead of jogging around the track during warm-up. I honestly felt like joining them with their walk and early bail-out to Starbucks.

Another burpee? No thanks.

And please, not another push-up.

What didn’t help was the thought of going into work right after as well. And to be clear, there’s nothing really stressful or taxing at work today that made me dread going in. I just simply wasn’t feeling it today.

Despite loading up with caffeine in my cup of green tea followed by a cup of coffee, I knew it was going to be a long day.

Simply put, I had an empty tank.


I messaged my friend around 10am this morning:

“Hey Chris(tine), it’s me. I really feel blah today.”

I often use the word blah with her to describe my feelings of: heaviness, loneliness, boredom, lack of energy, lack of motivation, depression, fatigue, reclusiveness and blue. But instead of listing all of these feelings, blah typically captures it all, and she gets it.

She’s one of my most compassionate friends I have. She always shares a word or two of understanding and never jumps right into problem solving mode. She offers the listening ear, without judgement which a good friend always does and today was no different.

She described my feelings as “emotional exhaustion” and right away, I replied, “Nailed it!”


In the past three months, I’ve presented in four major mental health events, one of which was my own author reading at Western Sky Books. I’ve discovered in this past year that I really enjoy sharing my story with others to help them break the ice about their own personal struggles. Time after time, after each presentation I make, I receive the warmest words of gratitude and appreciation from audience members for sharing about my stories of childhood abuse, trauma and my struggles as an adult with anger, depression and anxiety. This is always (and I mean ALWAYS) followed by at least one individual who openly shares about their personal challenges and experiences, relating them to mine.

I get goose bumps whenever I hear them talking about their stories of childhood abuse. On one hand, my heart breaks for what they’ve gone through and continue to go through. And on the other hand, I’m filled with joy and hope for them because I believe that their capacity to talk about their painful experiences is a step in the right direction towards a life of recovery. I also feel good about myself when I know I can make a difference. Former NHL hockey player, Theo Fleury @theofleury14 (who’s someone I really respect for speaking out about his experiences with childhood abuse) recently asked followers to tweet him any question.

I asked him, “What’s the best form of therapy for you?”

He tweeted back, “Helping others.”


And after all these events in the past few months, I think I’m emotionally crashing and feeling the need to recenter myself. As much as I draw energy from helping others, I also feel the need for some rest and to remind myself that by helping others, I’m also retelling a lot of my stories of childhood abuse which may have a deep down draining effect on me.

I had the following thought while driving home today:

Sometimes there’s a hollow feeling inside myself that I can not seem to fill and I think other childhood abuse survivors can really understand and empathize what this empty space is, which I’m about to describe. Despite all the successes I’ve had in my adult life, this hollow void in me needs to be filled with self-worth, self-acceptance, self-forgiveness, self-compassion, self-esteem and self-love. However, it’s something which I need to replenish and fill on my own. No one else can give that to me; my son, my friends nor my family can fill it. And most definitely, material goods can not fill that space either.

The feeling of having a healthy supply of self-worth is something I can only imagine might have been more readily available, natural and automatic if I was able to see that in myself as a child. As an adult survivor of childhood abuse, self-worth was not supplied in healthy doses while growing up, thus there’s sometimes a “vacancy” sign inside my brain where self-worth is supposed to reside in. Thus, as an adult, I’m responsible for replenishing that space inside myself with reminders, affirmations, self-talk and recognizing that my childhood abuse experiences were not my fault. It’s a lot about positive reinforcements and getting to know myself better. At my author reading, an audience member asked me, “Are you currently in a relationship?” I confidently replied, “Yes! With myself!”

However, this process of rewiring my brain in order to give back to me what I lost can be sometimes exhausting and lonesome. Like on a dusty desert road, it’s a journey I sometimes feel I have to endure alone. And I think I’m feeling the emotional drain of it, especially today.


I might go to bed a bit earlier tonight to help recharge and reset myself. My amicable millennial colleague Stella, often teases me about my early 9 pm bedtime (she jokes that it’s bedtime for seniors). Today at work, I explained to her how tired I was partly because I went to bed later last night at the unthinkable time of 9:30 pm.

“Later?!” she cried laughing.

I’ll bet that I can make her laugh even harder tomorrow when I tell her that I went to bed at 8 o’clock tonight. I think it’ll be a good laugh for me as well, and heaven knows, laughter’s a healthy choice  I need to include in my mental diet more often.

living with the dragon abuse
Jason Lee, Living with the Dragon. Photo by Kristi MacFarlane Photography.


7 thoughts on “Vacancy: Self-Worth in the Mind of a Childhood Abuse Survivor.

  1. Jason, This is a very personal testimony that many many struggle with. Thanks for sharing it. Someone will gain a little bit of healing from it. I know I will. Praying for you.
    Oh Btw… I mentioned your blog in a recent post Bloggers Support Bloggers Award because I wanted others to know how supportive you are. I mentioned it in a section that is not part of the nomination because I know you are award and tag free. May God bless you for your heart for others.
    Here is a link to the post.

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    1. Thanks u very much Gail for such a lovely comment. It certainly is a personal testimonial and I realize now that I need to fill that void myself. It’s tougher some days but it’s my responsibility to do so. Thank u for sharing my blog. I’m honoured and flattered by your kind words and glad that it resonates with you too. All the best, Jason

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