My grandmother told me once, “I just don’t understand why you are so hell bent on destroying yourself.” I wasn’t either. I didn’t know why I would drink myself to oblivion, keep company with every abusive asshole that ever entered my path, ran around on empty, punishing myself. I thought I hated myself. I thought I hated myself but I didn’t know why I did. There was something in me that I was trying so hard to destroy and from the outside looking in, it did look like I was trying to destroy myself.
The voice that told me I loved myself…was not very strong.
But in those rare quiet moments in my life, where it was just me and the stars, I knew I loved myself. I didn’t want to die and I didn’t want to keep doing what I was doing. But I didn’t know why I was doing it, all I knew was that there was something in me I wanted to annihilate. The voice that told me I loved myself, the voice that told me it was somehow all going to be ok was not very strong. In fact, most of the time I couldn’t feel it or hear it at all. But sometimes, in those quiet moments under the stars, I could hear it. “It’s going to be OK.” “You are loved.” I would hear it for a very small moment and then it would go away. I’d go back to trying to destroy that invisible thing that I thought was me. And as the years dragged on, I got tired. The pain was becoming bigger and bigger; in destroying myself, I was destroying my life. Everything in my life from my possessions to my children were lost and when I lost it all, that invisible thing inside me grew so huge that I went to some extreme measures to destroy it. And one night, as I laid on the bathroom floor, barely able to move, I realized whatever it was that I was trying to destroy was only getting stronger. I was the one being destroyed. I didn’t know how I was going to do it. I didn’t even know if it could be done. But I told myself I had to stop.
I surrendered. I went to rehab.
On September 11, 2016 I made a choice that changed my life forever. I surrendered. I stopped fighting the actual things that could help me. I went to rehab. Therapy. A mental health professional. Group therapy. I realized that it was never myself I was trying to destroy at all. I was trying to kill the pain. The pain I carried in me, I was trying to destroy it. I was extremely misguided in how I was going about it though. I was trying to destroy the pain with things that were only creating more pain. The pain of being molested by two of my mother’s husbands. The pain of her calling me a liar my entire childhood when I talked about it. The pain of her constant abuse. The beatings, the emotional and verbal abuse. The pain from her multiple husbands and boyfriends, one in particular. Joe, the most evil and distraught human being I have ever encountered. He enjoyed beating my sisters and me, he enjoyed molesting me, enjoyed terrifying me. He was methodical and sadistic in his abuse. He was extremely violent. Throwing me down and kicking me in the ribs kind of violent. My mother would just sit and watch and as I screamed, she’d snap her fingers at me to be quiet. If I ever expressed pain or anger over how they treated me, they told me I deserved it. My mother and Joe were so abusive that in any normal area of the world, they’d have both gone to prison. But we’re in West Texas and this was 20 years ago. Plus, I was way too scared to say anything until after she took off to Arizona and he was out of the picture.
I never realized how internalizing all of this pain affected me until I started getting better. I learned that I had been going about it all wrong. Trying to kill the pain by doing things that hurt me only made the pain worse. Trying to kill the pain period was not ever going to work. I had to acknowledge the pain by loving myself.
The only way to heal was to start loving myself.
Not destroying myself. Going to rehab was the first step and as life went on, loving myself became a series of things I did every day. Going to the gym. Eating well. Setting boundaries with people and getting rid of the toxic people in my life. Standing up for myself. Making choices every day that were good for me and my life. Learning to love myself definitely has not been easy. A lot of people in my life, sadly, the people who should be MOST supportive, didn’t know how to respond to me no longer being a hot mess. When they saw me start school, get a good job, start living my life in a healthy and happy way, I think they no longer understood their roles in my life. A lot of their self esteem came from judging me and putting me down when my life was chaos, and without that, I think they didn’t know who they were in my life. Imagine watching a relative struggle for years, and in that time, you aren’t supportive or a friend, but instead, you kick them when they’re down and talk about how amazing you are for not being like that. And then that relative gets it together and you can’t do that anymore. You’d look pretty stupid first of all. And you’d definitely look like an a**hole. I am a forgiving soul however, and I was ready to forgive. But some people in my family just totally wrote me off once they couldn’t put me down anymore. And so that was hard. But it’s OK. Those are their issues, not mine.
It was hard setting boundaries…
with people in my family because for my entire life, they grew accustomed to certain ways of treating me and talking to me. At first my family resisted a lot of my boundaries, but in time, the ones who truly love me came to respect the boundaries. Rebuilding the relationships with my children hasn’t been easy. I’ve had to take responsibility for a lot of things I did when they were little that weren’t fair to them. I put them through things I shouldn’t have. Coming to terms with the fact that I hurt my children when my mom caused me so much pain was really hard. Part of healing pain is acknowledging my past mistakes as well and there were a lot of them. So that wasn’t easy. So in healing there is still lots of pain. In healing however, some amazing things happened. I gained some friends, some real, true, amazing friends, to help me through this process. I learned how to be a good friend myself. I have learned empathy, compassion, humility. I have discovered aspects of myself that I truly love. I have formed a stronger connection with the creator, and that little voice that I used to barely be able to hear is now much stronger (well, I hear it better, it was always there) and I know exactly where to find it if I feel lost. (Meditation) That voice I used to barely be able to hear is what I consider to be my true self. We all have it. And now that I am actively loving myself, I am able to hear that voice loud and clear most of the time. Last night I did a meditation on gratitude. When I envisioned a person I was grateful for, I envisioned my grandfather. (There are many people I am grateful for but he is who came to mind first.) And when the guide told me to envision an experience I was grateful for, the first thing that came to mind was the absolute worst time of my life: after the kids left and I went supernova on trying to destroy the pain/myself. Why? Because that’s what broke me. That’s what absolutely destroyed me. That’s what took my self-destruction to a whole new level, and I had to make a choice: die or stop. Die or live.
I chose to live.
I truly had been absolutely destroyed. But it was because of that destruction I was able to rise from the ashes as a better version of my true self. I was just broken pieces, shattered pieces of this pain, that pain, scattered all over the dirt. And inside of whatever it was that broke was a light, a whole light, that was now free. That little voice that used to guide me when I was alone, that once free, I could hear better and better. I am so grateful I broke so that I could be free.