I’m sure my mother was frustrated when she accidentally became pregnant by a man who had so many emotional problems, who would rape her, have a history of violence, who was a thief and a convicted felon. Now I understand people can change for the better after making bad choices, but only IF they want to. It appears that my biological father was never going to learn and was doomed to be a loser. My mother had to be frustrated for putting herself in that situation, and was unable to live with the consequences: me. I felt that I was a mistake, and that she was going to make me pay for it every time I behaved badly. I couldn’t believe my own mother would hurt me as badly as she did, or be so vindictive.
I have been haunted by extreme child abuse where I was burned by scalding hot water. This particular abusive moment that happened to me as a child has followed me throughout my life. It has literally haunted me every time I take a shower. Before I get into the shower, I’ll test the water with my hand to make sure it isn’t too hot. Every time I touch the water, it automatically takes me back to the moment when my mother held my little hand under the scalding water. It was uncontrollable. I could not block it out of my mind. I just lived it over and over every day of my life. It was like a broken record, constantly repeating over and over again. I had to make sure the water wasn’t hot. I would look at my left hand and remember the skin burnt off and the pink color that showed beneath. I am grateful that foster care saved my life.
I would also recall this horrific event every time I washed dishes, got into a hot tub, or washed my hands. If the water even had the possibility of being hot, I would recall the awful memory of being burned. I have thought about what my mother did to me every single day of my life, ever since the day it occurred.
I believe this was the greatest obstacle for me to attain complete joy and healing with myself at an early age. This unhappiness followed me everywhere. Anger would flow through my heart, then sadness. Every day I had to relive that experience, and it would put me in a negative frame of mind. If I could not get over it quickly enough, this negativity would color my entire day, affecting others around me.
Watch motivational and inspirational speaker Derek Clark share part of his story regarding child abuse.
As a child and teenager I tried many different forms of therapy. But there is one particular kind of therapy which worked amazingly well in ridding me of the fear of hot water. I highly recommend it to others. It is called EMDR (Eye Movement and Desensitization and Reprocessing)
HOW DOES EMDR WORK?
“No one knows how any form of psychotherapy works neurobiologically, or in the brain. However, we do know that when a person is very upset, their brain cannot process information as it does ordinarily. One moment becomes ‘frozen in time,’ and remembering a trauma may feel as bad as going through it the first time because the images, sounds, smells, and feelings haven’t changed. Such memories have a lasting negative effect that interferes with the way a person sees the world and the way they relate to other people.”
WHAT IS THE ACTUAL EMDR SESSION LIKE?
During EMDR, the therapist works with the client to identify a specific problem as the focus of the treatment session. The client calls to mind the disturbing issue or event, what was seen, felt, heard, thought, etc., and what thoughts and beliefs are currently held about the event. The therapist facilitates the directional movement of the eyes or other dual attention simulation of the brain, while the client just notices whatever comes to mind without making any effort to control direction or content. Sets of eye movements are continued until the memory becomes less disturbing and is associated with positive thoughts and beliefs about one’s self.
During EMDR, the client may experience intense emotions, but by the end of the session, most people report a great reduction in the level of disturbance.
WHAT KIND OF PROBLEMS CAN EMDR TREAT?
Scientific research has established EMDR as effective for post traumatic stress. However, clinicians have also reported success using EMDR in treatment of the following conditions:
• personality disorders
• panic attacks
• complicated grief
• disassociative disorders
• disturbing memories
• pain disorders
• eating disorders
• performance anxiety
• stress reduction
• sexual and/or physical abuse
• body dysmorphic disorders
The above information on EMDR was from a pamphlet from the
EMDR Internal Association.
Another unfortunate event happened to me when I was about five years old. I sometimes had a problem wetting my bed, or if I was mad at my parents I would pee on their things. That was my way of telling them I didn’t want to be treated the way they were treating me. If I wet my bed the night before, my stepfather would become very angry with me. So he’d pull me over to the toilet and force my head into the bowl. He would stand over me and push my head down, forcing me to stay there. Now I didn’t ever come close to drowning, but it wasn’t a nice thing to do to another human being. He was treating me like a misbehaving dog or animal. He probably considered me an animal. He did not like me. I was the middle child, putting major pressure and stress on his marriage to my mother. He had his own son, the youngest, and I was now the bad seed. I’m sure he was nice to me in the beginning, at least until he won my Mom over.
Well this one time when he was sticking my head into the toilet, my mother heard the commotion. He was yelling at me about peeing my bed, telling me how angry he was. My Mom told him to stop holding my head down in the toilet. I felt as if I was drowning. There was a huge argument, and in the heat of it all, as he continued to force my head into the toilet, she grabbed my left wrist and yanked my arm back. She yanked it so hard that she ripped by arm from my shoulder and caused severe damage and never took me to the hospital. It was so painful that she made me a sling to hold my arm up and it healed wrong. Years later, I still have pain in my shoulder, and it always rests higher than the other one. Every morning I have to try and force my bad shoulder down and stretch it out so that it’s comfortable throughout the day.
At least after that day, my stepfather stopped putting my head in the toilet.
Abuse is hard to live with, but fortunately I am a fighter. I am a conqueror who has set his mind free. Life isn’t fair. The only thing I can control is my attitude and outlook on it. My philosophy and motto are simple: I WILL NEVER GIVE UP!
Derek Clark knows first hand on coping with adversity and overcoming hardship. His 13 years in the San Francisco bay area foster care system reflected a life of humiliation, aggression, emotional distress and overwhelming anxiety. Having suffered unthinkable child abuse, abandonment, emotional distress and being wrongfully labeled, this has never held Derek back from accomplishing what he set his heart and mind to.
Derek is an inspiring motivational speaker, the Ambassador for the Foster Care Alumni of America and an expert on CNN Headline News and The Ricki Lake Show. He recently delivered powerful keynotes at the World Foster Care Conference (where 30 countries were represented), State Circuit Court Conferences, National Federal Bureau of Prisons Conference and the National Foster Parent Association Conference. He is the author of “Never Limit Your Life” and the “I Will Never Give Up” book series.
As a speaker, author and singer/songwriter, Derek has spoken and performed his music for tens of thousands of people including a former President of the United States. His maxim is to make no excuses. He has turned his situation from a victim to a victor, equipping him with the Wisdom and the Will to never give up.