Today I am going to talk about something that I have avoided for a long time. I haven’t wanted to talk about it because of the shame that comes with it and the worry of what the person involved will think. The last thing I want to do is hurt anyone. But these types of things must be discussed and addressed. And so, I’m going to talk about abuse.
I want to caveat this post by noting that I was given lots of opportunities growing up. I always had food, medical care, and the material things that I needed. I had people that supported me and encouraged me to be a successful human being. There were times that I really felt comforted and loved. But these things do not excuse certain behaviours – it doesn’t mean that a person should just take what they are given, if it is harmful.
First, the physical. As an early adolescent, when I made mistakes, I was shaken, hit, and things were thrown at me. One time, I remember getting ready to go sledding. It had snowed, and I was so excited to go out and play. I was told to wear pants this person had bought for me (a seemingly nice gesture), but they were two decades behind the current fashion trends (looking back, I’m pretty sure this was intentional). When I politely declined to wear them, I remember getting slapped and shaken and having a music stand thrown at me for it. My room would get ransacked, and I’d get thrown around. I remember crying and wondering why I sucked so much. It seemed like almost everything I did was wrong, which led to a constant need to tiptoe around out of fear. It wasn’t until I went to college that I realized I could relax and everything I did wasn’t a question of being wrong.
The physical abuse wasn’t as bad as the psychological/emotional abuse. There are many times I remember being told “I love you because I have to, but I don’t like you” on several occasions. I would go over to people’s houses and see how their mom’s would paint their nails and teach them to do their hair, and I would go home and ask to do those things together, only to be greeted with a firm “no.” I wasn’t really hugged (and never kissed) until we were in public, at which times it made me feel like it was foreign or out of place – it just seemed insincere. When I would be unemotional about it, as a result, I would get called “cold” and questioned as to what was wrong with me. I was asked, “why can’t you be loving?”
The outside world knew nothing about most of it, except for a few friends. One time I was home alone, and a tornado was heading straight for my house. My friend and her mom called me and begged me to come over to their house, as they had a storm shelter. When I called my parents, I was told no and that I could just go hide in the closet (a closet literally filled to the top with art supplies). I think I was maybe 13, and my friend’s family could not understand why I wasn’t allowed to be somewhere safer with people I knew. These outside opinions gave me the first glimpses into realizing something was abnormal.
For most of my adolescence, I honestly thought my abnormal family life was my fault. I didn’t understand why I was so hard to love. I often wanted to hurt myself. I was so angry at myself! This continued until I left and went off to college, where I suppressed it all and decided to forget it had happened at all. Needless to say that didn’t make it go away.
It turns out I’ve had hidden self-resentment all this time, coming out in the form of: perfectionism, people-pleasing, the feeling that everyone actually hated me, and a need to diminish my achievements. All of these habits are unhealthy and self-deprecating.
Over the last year, I’ve had some really hard things happen to me – which I have dealt with mostly alone (with the support of some amazing friends of course). And these trying times have really brought a lot of my deeply concealed self-loathing to the surface. I realized that I tend to blame myself for everything bad that happens – even if it is because of someone else’s actions. This blame comes out in the form of anger and hatred toward myself.
The realization that I was so angry at myself was honestly shocking to me, as I pride myself these days on being confident and loving myself fully.
But the thing is that our minds are so complicated. We have the ability to suppress things into our subconscious (especially during our developing years). It doesn’t mean it’s gone though. The trauma is all still there – poking its head out in little ways, preventing our happiness. It doesn’t matter how much work you do on yourself – you can never be whole or truly happy until you confront these beasts.
So how do we do it? How do we deal and heal from the pain of our past? It’s something I am still working on, but here’s what I know so far that helps…
I want whoever is reading this to know that if you have been abused, it is not your fault. You do not deserve it. You deserve to be loved. You shouldn’t feel like you have to earn someone’s affections. You aren’t hard to love – they are just not able to really love.