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Guest Post: Surviving Childhood Abuse

I have had the pleasure of working with Dina Hannigan in the Needham youth field hockey program here in our town of Needham and getting to know her over the past few years. My daughter, Parker, plays field hockey in second grade and I am one of the youth coaches. Dina has been a great supporter of me in my sobriety and is a wonderful influence to much of the youth in our town. She has done so much for girls sports and continues to reimagine and redevelop the programs for our future youth. Also, Dina was recently awarded the USA Field Hockey 2022 Humanitarian Award - an incredibly prestigious honor.

Dina has a unique story and background, and she was generous enough to write about it for us. Thank you so much, Dina, for your vulnerability and writing contributions to this blog. and on instagram: @needham_youth_field_hockey @deensyweensy

A story of survival and thriving despite a childhood of abuse

Written by: Dina Hannigan

"I guess you could say that when I was in the thick of it, I thought my childhood and the relationship I had with my mother wasn’t so bad. I knew it wasn’t normal. I knew she had demons, she was an addict as long as I can remember; but it wasn’t until I became a mother myself that I realized how toxic the relationship was and how abused I truly was. I will spare you the details, because this article is about rising above, dusting yourself off and choosing a successful path for yourself.

When one goes through trauma as I did, there are two very different paths they take as they enter adulthood. Don’t get me wrong, my first year in college was not good. My first semester I was put on academic probation which threatened my ability to play field hockey, a sport I loved so much; and is now my lifes’ work as a coach. I was able to reign myself back in after that first semester, but in the coming years a quiet storm brewed inside of me.

In December of 2003 I became a mother for the first time. In January of 2004 my mother died unexpectedly; we suspect from an accidental overdose. I had been estranged from her at the time at my own choice.

Up until this time my way of dealing with the pain and memories from my childhood was to suppress. If I don’t think about it , I’ll be fine. But what started happening after I became a mother, happened without provocation or warning.

Out of nowhere a feeling of unbelievable sadness would rush over me. I couldn’t imagine how anyone couldn’t love and protect a child as much as I did my own. The years and years of denial and suppression started rearing their ugly head more and more as my oldest son got older and I had another baby.

It was at this time, that I decided, on my own to seek counseling. It took a while until I found someone that I liked, but more importantly trusted. It took many years of HARD work. Work that sucked. But once the suck part happened, and I cried (a lot) amazing things started happening.

I started giving myself permission to grieve the childhood I never had. I became the most present mother myself. I was no longer lying to myself that I would be okay. I WAS okay because I was doing something about it.

I forgave.

I stopped doubting myself. I became proud of the woman I was, instead of constantly beating myself up with the internal voice in my head that said I wasn’t good enough, strong enough, smart enough.

Deserving enough.

Now at 48 years old, I have a successful career, family and friends I adore and I give myself permission to actually enjoy it. This is also why I have dedicated my life to helping others, and more importantly why I am so passionate about being a role model through coaching ; being the woman I so desperately needed at that age.

Do I still have work to do? Sure I do. Don’t we all!

But now, with the tools I have learned through therapy, I am armed and ready to conquer the world. "

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