The Lost Child's Silent Scream
Frederick A. Levy LCSW

Only Teddy could make Cathy feel safe. When her parents argued, and their alcohol soaked threats would burst into flames, she would run to her room, pick up her bear, and rock herself into her dreams. She could hear Teddy's soothing words then, warmed by his promise that no harm would come to her as he stood watch. Surrounded by softness, she could sleep, deaf to the war drums her parents were pounding just outside her door.

In the morning, Cathy would sit hungrily through breakfast's armed truce. Nervously, she shifted in her chair, doing anything to avoid mother's soul piercing glare. "How strange," Cathy thought, "to be home alone and surrounded by my family." She screamed inside, but just like that little boy in the movie, no one would hear. Then, as Teddy stood his post, she shuffled off to school, leaving without breakfast or hugs.

Cathy, an Adult Child of an Alcoholic (ACoA), was her family's lost child. Mother's drinking created chaos; everyone was caught in the turmoil, but Cathy was lost in the shuffle. In the midst of daily crises, she tried to hide, and learned to become a mistress of disguise.

Like most lost children, Cathy found comfort in the cloak of invisibility. By blending into the background, and doing little to attract attention, she could usually avoid the abuse that her brothers and sisters suffered. Her parents even praised her for her stillness; she was the one child about whom they never had to worry.

But Cathy learned survival at a price. After years of hiding, she seldom knew what she was feeling, wanting, or needing. And by the time she reached her teens, she had become a complete mystery, especially to herself.

Finding friendship at school was hard, and her loneliness hurt. When kids did notice Cathy, they would frequently mistake her fear of people and lack of confidence for aloofness and conceit. She lived unnoticed: passed over for parties; uninvited to proms; she reached sweet sixteen, longing to be kissed. In groups at school, no one ever seemed to remember her name. Alone in her humiliation, Cathy needed something to fill her emptiness.

While some lost teens might resort to alcohol, drugs, or sex, Cathy found comfort in cookies or anything edible that could soothe her hungry heart. But rounds of compulsive eating followed by frantic dieting only left her feeling ashamed and out of control. She longed to belong, but there was no where to turn. So at night she would close her eyes, and conjure a fading reverie of a prince that might never come.

But somehow, despite her struggles, Cathy still managed to make a pretty good life. She met a man who fell in love with the gentle light trapped inside her. And all the self sufficiency she had learned became a real source of strength to this young woman struggling to make a career.

But secretly, Cathy still felt empty and alone. Her successes felt unreal, as though she were standing outside her life, watching. Sometimes, she imagined that if she should drown, someone else's life might pass before her eyes.

Cathy felt trapped in her prison of fear. But one day, suddenly engulfed by her pain, she began sobbing for the child inside who had never counted enough to be noticed. For the first time, Cathy began to notice, and in her heart, drew that child close to her.

In that moment, Cathy felt real. When the sobbing stopped, she experienced a peace unlike anything she had felt in years. She had found a way to belong to herself; a way to connect to her life. Now, through the lifting mist, she could finally glimpse a way home.

Copyright Fred Levy, LCSW all rights reserved