Growing: Healing the Inner Child

I turn the ring, push on the door, and step through
into a realm that is so vibrant and colourful that I laugh with delight and excitement.

From where I stand, paths go off in all directions through stunning landscapes.
It looks like the kind of place where my inner child might hide.

But do I really want to go back to my childhood?
I turn and look behind me, but the door has disappeared, leaving no trace as if it had never existed. Apparently, the only way out is through.
So which path shall I take?

Since they all lead into similar landscapes, I choose one at random and wander down it.
The walk feels like it’s taking me back in time one step at a time.

A farmhouse appears in the distance and soon grows closer.
My childhood home was on a farm. I smile. These little houses are so cute with their tiny sheep and colourful hills and …

Wait a minute.
Are you kidding me?
This idyllic world isn’t real.

Yes, I was lucky to live in the country, but I also remember …

I didn’t understand.
What was I doing wrong?

I was always ‘too much’,
too much for people:
too loud, too bold, too intense, too energetic; too sensitive; too bright; too aware.

People turn away.
Being moderate is difficult.

Yes, you were a very creative child.

Your cat was important to you.
A true friend.

You lived in the world of your imagination because the real world was either dull, cruel, overwhelming or baffling.

You created intense and visualised-in-great-detail imaginary worlds that you returned to many times, over months, years even.

You had a fantasy mother – the one you wished for.

Reality wasn’t like that.

‘Even you rejected me,’ she says.
‘When you talk about me, you say she, not I,
and you, not me.
You can’t even claim me as yourself.
And, unable to say it for decades,
you can still only just manage to whisper my name,
and always with reticence,
like you wish I’d never existed.’

I shrug.
I admit, there’s some truth to that.
‘But I never wished you didn’t exist,’ I say.
‘That accusation’s a bit strong.’
But it does give me an idea of how much my abandonment hurt.
Hurt her.
Hurt me.

She turns away.

‘Wait!’ I say.
‘Don’t go.
You are precious to me.’

‘I am the mother you longed for.’

She turns back,

‘I had to cut you off so I could leave my childhood behind,’ I tell her,
‘so I could remake myself,
become the woman you knew I could be,
the one you always imagined for yourself.’

She scoffs and pulls a disbelieving face.
‘Most people just grow up.
I don’t think they cut their child off entirely.
You didn’t like me.
Just like everyone else.’

I wince.
My heart aches for the child I was,
the child still within me.

Did I add to my own trauma?
I don’t think I could have offloaded my childhood baggage any other way.
Though it seems I never got it all.
Clearly some is still left.

‘It’s not that I didn’t like you,’ I explain.
‘It’s that I didn’t like what others had made you into.
A mere shadow of a self.
A vague reflection of who you really were.
I had to leave that false self behind.
It wasn’t me.
And it wasn’t you.’

She shakes her little head,
‘You put me behind you like trash.
You think I’m weak.’

I think you’re adorable.
And I honour your incredible imagination.
That was your strength.
Though for a long time, I never saw that.
Not until I realised that I am the woman you imagined yourself to be.
Your imaginary worlds allowed you … me … to survive our childhood with our sense of self intact.
I know now that you’re incredibly strong.
No one showed you how to survive a world that never recognised your gifts.
You made your own way.
That takes strength.’

‘I feel your sparkle,’ I continue.
‘And I care for you now.’


It’s like a loving ache in my heart,
as if she were my own child,
birthed through my body.

Her little eyes narrow.
Of course she knows my thoughts.
‘And yet you still say you and not I,’ she says.
‘There is still some barrier between us.’

I don’t know what to say.
I’ve run out of words.
How can I convince her I care
when I feel that barrier myself.

This place has grown dark.
But the child is still here.
She sits on the floor, her back against a wooden crate,
watching me with suspicion.

A gentle breeze wafts in,
and the smell of roses perfumes the air.
Persephone returns.

She looks at us both, one after the other, then turns to me.
‘What qualities does your child have that you share,’ she asks.

‘Sparkle,’ I say without thinking, then add,
‘wonder at the world,

a fierce sense of justice.’

I remember being a champion for those bullied at school,
standing up for the little kids.
Perhaps because no one stood up for me at home.
I was the little kid there.

‘Anything else you share?’ Persephone asks.

I smile.
‘A sense of oneness with everything,
and enjoying being on my own.’

Persephone nods and gives me a knowing smile.
‘These are the gifts you share.’
She watches me for a moment
perhaps to see if the truth is sinking in.

It is.
A wave of acceptance rushes over me.

Persephone turns and leaves,
her work done,
her footfall making no sound on the carpet of roses beneath her feet.

It’s always been this way, of course.
My child and I, the same person.
I just never wanted to see it before.

My embrace is automatic.
Decades of self-estrangement fall away.

I can’t help noting that all that Buddhist practice I did never healed this rift within my self.
I just pretended it didn’t exist.

I look at the little girl.
She’s become more ethereal,
and she’s standing now,
still watching me.
A tentative smile crosses her face.

The challenges we face, I realise, are also the same:
exhaustion after overstimulation,
social difficulties,
thinking too fast,
running into things,
trouble catching things,
brain shut downs,
rejection sensitivity,
difficultly doing anything in which I’m not interested,
and the flip side of all the gifts, of being ‘too much.’

Awareness rises once again,
like a light bringer cutting through the darkness

No wonder life was a puzzle.
These gifts and challenges, I realise, are all neurodivergent traits,
from our amazing and misunderstood neurodivergent brain
– the one we share.

I laugh.
Ah ha. You really are me.
And, yes, I am you.

The look she gives me is indescribable,
as if she can’t believe how long it took me to get to this point.
She twirls away into the darkness,
and a white heron flys in and settles on the ground before me,
wings spread in greeting.

My heart warms again.
You are my spirit child.
My essence.
My white heron.

‘You?’ she says as she skips closer.
With that she withdraws again,
then returns.

‘Fine,’ I retort.
‘This is all happening in my mind, anyway.
There never really was any separation between us.’

‘Only time,’ she replies before floating away again.
Like a breath.
In and out.

Smart kid.

Her little laugh tinkles inside me.
So joyful.
‘Show me your world,’ I say,
longing to return to the child I once was,
before I learned not to be me.

‘I always wished I could see fairies,’ she tells me.
‘But I never did.
Except in my imagination.
But I knew they were there.’

She laughs at the picture in my imagination.
‘No, not like that.’
And for a moment I glimpse something raw,
unfiltered by concepts.

I’m astounded.
Is this my childhood perception?

‘What about these ones?’ she says.
And more images appear in my mind.

I’m speechless.

‘They’re the tricksters,’ she tells me.
‘They’re not all nice.’

Where did she get such imaginings?
They aren’t what the word ‘fairies’ brings to my mind.
I would call them ‘fae’.
Fae are tricky beings,
but my experience of them has all been safely in books.
So far.
Or am I forgetting something?

She giggles at my confusion.
‘You might like these ones better.
They’re some of the pretty ones.’

‘I don’t think fairies is quite the right word for them,’ I say.
‘Nature spirits fits better.’
But I’m talking to myself.

The child that is me
has dissolved into my heart,
leaving me feeling warm, nourished and whole,
restored to myself,
both parent and child,
as one.

I’ve become the adult I’d imagined myself to be
with all the qualities I had to hide as a child.
But can I accept them now as strengths rather than weaknesses,
as gifts rather than curses?

And what mysteries, like the flower beings I glimpsed, lie in my pre-verbal experience of the world?
Before the cover up.

The same eight doors appear and suddenly surround me.
I hope the answer lies in one of the worlds to which they allow entrance,
because I’m intrigued now.
I want to delve deeper.
This journey is taking me places I never thought I’d go.

I look at each of the portals in turn.
The red door draws me for a moment,
but a jolt in my heart warns of danger,
so I step towards the mirrored art deco one,
then hesitate.
Mirrors might be too revealing.

A cloaked figure steps out of the shadows,
and a bony hand thrusts towards me, palm up.
‘Entry requires a token.’

The gatekeeper again.
‘Okay, what do you want this time?’ I ask.

‘Your understanding of yourself.’

I consider that for a moment,
while he waits, devoid of any movement.
Eerily still.
My understanding of myself has been too hard won and is too precious to give up.

‘You cannot see yourself as you really are,’ he says,
‘for so long as you hold onto your present understanding of yourself.’

I get it.
This guy is wisdom without a face.

He points to the chains of understanding that hang from my necklace.

I unhook them and hand them over.

Once again, he disappears into nothing.

Along with any ideas I had of myself.

I take a deep breath,
and open the door to the world of reflecting.

Follow me or choose a different door.