Looking Through the Glass Window of My Emotions

Window writing

 

 

 When I am around people I don’t know well, or even strangers, I often feel translucent. It is as if they do not see me, what I am wearing or what I look like. I feel like my tanned skin becomes like a glass window, through which anyone can see, and if they do stop to glance in, they do not see muscle and bone, but instead see my truths. It’s like a video tape of my life is constantly running, over and over, for everyone to see, and no matter how hard I try I cannot close the curtains.

Insecurity is a bitch, rearing its ugly head at the most inopportune moments. For me however, it does not just attack in the moment, but every moment; anywhere, anytime, not giving me a minute’s rest. Insecurity does not walk alone. It is best friends with that prevalent negative voice that replays in your head over and over, with one feeding off the other. I don’t want to feel like a stranger’s random glance is a dirty look, or a group of people laughing, are doing so at me. Rationally, I know both of those things likely are not occurring, but convincing my mind of that is a different story.  I am tired of feeling the fear and anxiety that is brought on by these insecurities. I don’t want any spotlights shining on me putting me at the center of attention, I really just want to blend in, or at least feel like I do.

I wondered what the root of my insecurities were, for a long time. I blamed everything from the sexual abuse and the domestic violence to the insults and degradation. It must be something from my childhood that has caused these feelings so deep they feel innate.

It must be one of my illnesses then; maybe the Borderline Personality Disorder, or the Major Depressive Disorder, or the Complex PTSD.  Could I throw blame at the dysthymia or lifelong suicidal thoughts? After all, feeling insecure is common in many disorders, so it must be one of the illnesses then, or perhaps the mixed cocktail of diagnosis.

I can’t recall the moment the light bulb finally turned on, but I can tell you the revelation that came with it. My insecurity around people may have started out with past traumas however, the one place I did not look, was inside. I self-project the negative feelings I have about myself onto everyone around me, bringing me right back to the part about feeling translucent. I feel like by glancing in my window you will instantly see how I feel about myself. If I feel ugly that day, why wouldn’t you think the same? Since I feel like a failure, how could you not see me that way? If I can barely like myself, how do I expect you to do so? Since I know what my scars are from, that random person I pass on the street must know too. I could go on and on, but I think the point is clear.

“Rational emotions” should be an oxymoron.

Sadly, sometimes when that proverbial light bulb turns on, it shows a glimpse of light in the darkness but does not lead us out. So now I have identified the problem, which is me, how I fix it, or is it even repairable. Will I always feel insecure around people that don’t know me? Will I forever avoid people, places and things like I often do now?

There are no pills for this, that I know, and the years of intermittent therapy have yet to help improve my insecurities. I have tried reading self-help books and doing the corresponding workbooks, to no avail. The answer lies in the same place I failed to look in the first place…myself. The day I stop feeling ugly or like a failure, or like a walking scar will be the same day I stop thinking you see me as I do. It will be a day where I feel self-assured and fearless. It will be a day when I feel finally feel free.

I imagine what a wonderful day it would be.

               

 

 

The Challenge of Surrendering My Expectations

 

 surrender

 

I am not sure if I love my father. When he says those dreaded three words…”I love you”, it is as if the words are merely skimming the surface of my being, they become words with little meaning. When I do repeat it back to him, the words flow out habitually, feeling both empty and emotionless. Rationally I know there is some form of attachment on a deeper level, but I can’t find the words to accurately describe what those emotions are, nor am I sure I want to go digging to find out. As the past has unkindly and repeatedly reminded me, there are certain fortresses that are built with such strength and resilience they can no longer be broken down. As one brick is chipped away, three more have taken its place and somewhere behind these layers of safety and self-protectiveness lay my emotions for my father.

Not often was the abuse directed at me, but at my mother instead. I have a few memories before the first beating, but they are like scattered pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that can never be made into a picture. The cries and yelling had startled me awake but the uncertainty and fear kept me under the blankets. It was shortly after Christmas, the tree was still decorated and a few opened gifts remained lying about. My mom was crying and I had sat on the loveseat next to her, with a box of Kleenex and one of the toys I had received for Christmas. I remember feeling uncomfortable with her tears yet feeling the need to console, so I placed my small hand on her back and started rubbing. I brought new tissues, her cigarettes and emptied the ashtray more than once. I hugged her tight and told her everything would be alright, although I could not begin to understand why my dad would hit my mom until she bruised. I was almost five years old and that was the first day I began construction on a wall to keep my father out.

He perpetuated the typical abusive cycle; first was the beating, usually at night, followed by a morning of pleasantries and breakfast like nothing had ever happened, and wrapping up with some sort of gift for both my mom and I…and repeat. I cannot begin to tell you how many times this occurred, but according to him it was only a few, and my memories are highly exaggerated. To this day I can’t fathom any five year old imagining being dangled out a bedroom window, held only by her ankles, as her father’s desperate attempt to get at her mother, who was hiding in her bedroom. I can’t conceive of anyone who would want to create that sense of fear for themselves. I can’t imagine a child wanting to walk on eggshells for perpetuity around a person who is supposed to provide unconditional love and support.

The sad thing is I much preferred any type of physical abuse compared to the emotional assaults I was dealt. The bruises fade, the cuts turn into scars and fade with time, but the words stick like crazy glue and seem like they are on a never ending loop, playing over and over again in my head until they become part of my belief system. Words alone can destroy an adult’s sense of self, so for a child in their formative years, they can cause extreme damage to the way we see not only ourselves, but the world as well. The words to this day still run rampant in my mind…

“You’re stupid”

“You are a failure”

“You will never be anything”

“You make it hard for anyone to love you”

I could go on and on, but I think the point has been made. I would rather a scar for every letter in all those words than to have to spend tremendous amounts of emotional energy unlearning the damage done by what was said. The spoken word can never be retrieved.

Why do we seek approval and validation from the people that don’t give it? Can we not brush them off and focus on the ones who approve of us and accept us for who we are; is it innate or a learned behavior? I know that I have spent the majority of my life seeking some sort of approval from him. I waited for years for the validation that I had been sexually abused; that it wasn’t something I had made up to get attention. I hung on to the hope that one day he would admit and own up to the damage he caused me. “One day” has yet to come.

I see my Dad every two weeks when we meet for a coffee that lasts no more than an hour. That is my quota. I skip most family functions aside from funerals as I know my Dad has expressed his disappointment in me to both family and friends. I have learned that my life is much easier when I expect nothing from him. What I need is never going to come and waiting with bated breath is only causing myself more pain, so I have made as much peace with it as I can. I no longer tolerate the verbal abuse and take charge of the direction of conversation which stays at a superficial level. It feels like it is too late to look at him as a father figure, so I could best describe it as an awkward surface friendship.

I am learning to accept only what he has to offer and to not hope for anything more. I have learned to understand that he is not going to change and all I can do is change my reaction to him. I realize perhaps he does love me in the best way he knows how, regardless of if it fulfills my needs or not and just letting go of that expectation has relieved a tremendous amount of my hurt and anger. For once in my life, he is no longer in control; I have finally taken that power back.

 

 

A Few Things to Remind “Little Me

 

 

  • writing girl

 

I started out wanting to write a letter to my inner child; a letter to the frightened and traumatized little girl I was. I planned to write it in a tone that I would speak to a young child, when it suddenly donned on me that my inner child is more like an inner mini-adult. My trauma started as an infant, and I truly feel I have never fully felt that sense of innocence that is the marvel of childhood. I have watched my best friend’s son grow from an infant to now, being seven, and the wonder, innocence and excitement in his very being as he discovered the world was not only a delight to see but an awakening of sorts for me. Through his eyes the sights, scents and sounds were all so innocent and full of awe and adventure. How refreshing it was to see the discovery of life with a fresh, unbiased view. For me, the sights were a bit darker, the scents not so fresh and the sounds a bit more frightening. Imagine it as if you were always wearing sunglasses; you can see the light but it can’t quite reach you.

I haven’t ever given great thought to speaking to this inner child of mine and I really don’t know what I would say. Would I take the practical view and point out the obvious things like tell someone this time or don’t even try to trust adults; would I point out that spending that much time with older kids could be dangerous? That spending that amount of time hanging out in the park or on the street could lead to violations?

Would I be angry? Would I yell at my inner child for not doing something to make things stop; from my dad hitting my Mom to the boys and young men who violated me? Would I be mad that I never told my Mom as not to burden her because of what she was dealing with, or that no one noticed the behavioral changes? Would I tell myself to not let that anger internalize and to try and get it out in any way possible, because keeping it in will lead to a destruction of sense of self which may never be recovered?

Perhaps I would blame my little self; believing somehow that my silence just attracted more predators; that it must have been something I wore or the way I acted that allowed the abuse. Blame myself for not being brave or bold, or for seeking attention in the wrong manner from the wrong people. Blame myself for not having a sense of confidence or a voice to speak up with. Would I tell l tell myself to direct the blame where it is deserved; not only the perpetrators but all the people who failed to see the signs, or would I blame myself for not giving the right signs, or  perhaps not enough signs.

I wonder if I would tell her it’s ok to have fun or that it’s ok not to be on guard every moment of every day; That it is ok to be a kid and laugh and play and not take on adult responsibilities or that it is safe to trust some people and that not everyone would hurt me; That it was ok to believe that Santa was real without a sense of skepticism, or that what was happening to me was not happening to all the other children and that it was not normal. Would I say how important it is to remember the details of the good times because the darkness will eventually take over, losing not only memories but chunks of time.

After all these maybes and “would-bes”, I think I finally know what I would say:

Dear Little Me

Your life is going to have more curves than straight lines. It is going to be a rollercoaster ride that you will want to, and will repeatedly attempt to jump off. Know that the failures when jumping were meant to work out as they did. You are going to see and experience things no living being should have to and you are going to be scared, but I need you to stay strong. I need you to do exactly what you did, because those actions were what got me… from you to me. I need you to be brave and valiant and not let them completely destroy your mind and remember your body is just a vessel for your soul. That no matter what happens or what anyone says, none of it, absolutely none of it is your fault, and it never will be. What you will go through will make you stronger than you thought possible and that will eventually lead to you having a voice…a voice for all the children like you that can’t speak. It is said that you are only given the life tests you can handle, so hang in there little one, because despite what may seem like insurmountable odds, above all, you are a survivor.

 

 

 

Why Did My Self-Esteem Fail To Thrive?

 

 

writing sad girl

 

If you could achieve the right chemical combination to somehow create and bottle self-esteem you would be a billionaire. It would fly off the shelves faster than the production rate, with hundreds of millions seeking its miracle cure, myself included. What has happened to us as a society? We all can’t come from tragic pasts, abuse, neglect or broken families. There must have been some who were raised with love and affection, yet regardless of age, culture, race or religion, so many are bonded by one commonality; a lack of inner confidence.

Self-esteem is essential to live a healthy life; it is more fundamental than the normal ups and downs associated with situational changes.  For people with good self-esteem, normal ups and downs may lead to temporary fluctuations in how they feel about themselves, but only to a limited extent. In contrast, for people with poor self-esteem, these ups and downs drastically impact the way they see themselves. People with poor self-esteem often rely on how they are doing in the present moment to determine how they feel about themselves. Possessing little self-regard can lead people to depression and other mental illnesses. It can cause people to fall short of their potential and to tolerate abusive situations and relationships.

Our self-esteem evolves throughout our lives as we develop an image of ourselves through our experiences with different people and activities. Experiences during childhood play a particularly large role in the shaping of self-esteem. Building self-confidence is something most parents try desperately to achieve. They praise us when we do well and encourage us when we are trying. They want to send us out into the world feeling confidant, strong, believing in ourselves and able to keep a sense of self through all life’s twists and turns. Then there are parents who have low self-esteem themselves and spend more time discouraging and berating, whilst convincing you it is for your own good…”tough love” as they call it. So how is it, that regardless of upbringing, the number of people who are completely confident is few and far between? Has life beaten that many people down? Are we more sensitive than previous generations? What has caused this influx of loss of confidence? It’s like an egg timer…our parents fill all the sand up at the top, yet somehow life turns us upside down and we are drained and empty before we know it.

For me, I feel like my sand never filled up the top, but instead, the timer was always leaning on a slant downwards. As my Mom tried to fill it up, my Dad and the predators took it away. I was never an outspoken kid, or the one who wanted to be the center of attention. I never wanted to be chosen to answer in class even though I knew what it was, and I skipped almost every oral presentation up until college. Too many eyes on me make me want to crawl out of my skin and that has never changed. I still have difficulty walking into a restaurant or bar alone to meet someone and I don’t do well doing things on my own. Insecurity feeds off of lack of self –esteem.

I have experienced confidence in two different areas of my life; soccer and skiing. Both I became quite accomplished at which seemed at one point to improve how I felt about myself. I knew in my heart that I was good, and for the first time there was something that no one could take from me. My Dad could say all the negative things he wanted and it didn’t hurt.  This self-esteem thing was like a shield, keeping me safe, with the words bouncing off it and never sinking in. The sad thing was, with the end of each match or race I found myself empty again, the sense of pride and confidence sunken back down to the depths of my normality.

Not a day goes by where I don’t wish that sense of self-esteem carried over to other areas of my life, spreading like wildflower seeds carried by the wind. I try to bring myself back to those memories in my mind and make a desperate grasp at not only remembering, but feeling  what it felt like to “feel good” about yourself, however, as with everything unused, it fades with time. I can picture myself holding the trophies, or being on the podium but for the life of me I can’t remember how it felt, which is not only frustrating, but painful. It is like when my Mom died and within five years I could no longer remember her voice, no matter how hard I struggled to do so. You want something so badly yet it always remains slightly out of your grasp.

I have dealt with and overcome a lot in my life, but no therapists, no self-help books, nothing I have tried has allowed me to gain a positive sense of self, and I am at the point where I wonder if it is even possible. Self-doubt and self-hatred continue to plague me from the moment I open my eyes to the moment I drift off to sleep and I wish to wake up one morning, feeling good about who I am and what I have done for others; to stop not doing things because I don’t have the confidence and I am afraid. Even as I write this, I don’t believe in my heart it is good enough or helpful enough to make a difference. I often question why I continue to write these words and the only reason I can come up with is I don’t want anyone to feel like I do.  It is an awful feeling to doubt your own truths.

 

 

Did I Know It Was Still Abuse Then?

 

 

 stop-child-abuse-1

 

Since I have suffered depression since my first memories, the accompanying frame of mind and sense of self, over the years, becomes the norm. So if I have technically never been “well”, how will I know what it feels like if I ever achieve it? Will it be like a light bulb going on in my head finally lighting up the path to happiness? Will it feel like a wave coming in to shore and gathering my pains before retreating back to the sea? Will my life just make sense one day and suddenly I will find my meaning and purpose in this life? Will the shame, guilt and blame finally be gone? Truthfully, I have no idea what it would feel like, as I have never attained it. I could create a hundred scenarios about what it would feel like, but the one I would wish for the most would be to simply feel lighter, both emotionally and spiritually. I imagine the sun shining a little brighter, the world not being so frightening and the glass actually being half full.

I have been to multiple therapists over the years to cover various aspects of the traumas I have been through. Every therapist has a different approach so some want you to relive the memories of the past; some wanting to focus on how the past affects the present and some still stuck in the archaic world of Freud’s.  There is every type of behavioral therapy you can think of, hypnotherapy, psychiatrists and psychologists all specializing in one area or another. Therapy is often like the medication roller coaster, you have to try a bunch until you find the one that works for you. My sexual abuse seemed to always be the prime area of concern so that is what we would discuss, over and over. We went over how it’s not my fault, and not to self-blame and to place the responsibility where it lies. We went over of some of the events in detail, others we just skimmed over. I’ve lay on a couch, sat in a fancy chair, and watched them scribble on notepads, question me and analyze my answers. I read the self- help books they recommended and did the corresponding workbooks. I must be better after all that…right?

I still have some triggers, but they are mostly scent related and I don’t have much of a reaction other than the cold chill that runs up my spine. I have stopped blaming myself or feeling ashamed and come to realize that predators will always find prey, and since I was just a child, it was and never will be my fault. However, at what age are you not considered a child? I know what it is in the eyes of the law, but in your own eyes does it differ? With a lot of work I was able to let go of some of the trauma from when I was young and helpless, but what about when I was 12 or 13? Was I not a pre-teen/teenager then? No longer a small helpless child yet I allowed these events to continue. I did not speak up even though I was not threatened. I did not have to fight back as there was no aggression. Did I just submit willingly? Was it consensual on my half even though he was over 40? Was it me going through a promiscuous stage, seeking attention the only way I had received it from men?

At that age, was it my fault?

I had to have known better. I must have known it was wrong, so why did I not stop it. Repeated sexual abuse can sometimes become like a routine in your life. It has happened so often, it just becomes what you know. Or does it? This is where my struggle lies; where I cannot yet forgive myself, or not blame myself because I am not sure I will ever be clear on whether I somehow encouraged it by not speaking. I can’t remember what I was thinking or what I was feeling at the time, I just know what my actions were and I know I struggle to accept them as abuse. Somehow in my mind I have put an age on my “child” abuse, and not included that period of time, perhaps because I my mind is screaming at me that I was no longer  a child, and should have had some responsibility over my actions. I mean I had already been through so much by 13 that I considered myself an old soul and had plenty of responsibility caring for others…just none for myself.

So, I guess I’m not yet “better, despite all the work and the thought that one chapter of my life was finally closed, however I am now starting to wonder if it ever completely will be. I wonder if the load I carry can only lighten, never leave. Seems like healing one thing often opens a new wound and the cycle of healing perpetuates itself with no end in sight, so on with the fight I go.

 

I Can Do This, It’s Just a Day

 

writing calendar

 

I need to remind myself often that it’s just a day; 17 hours or 1020 minutes of time awake. Good, bad, or indifferent, it’s just a day like all the ones before it. I made it through years of trauma and somehow made it this far, so whatever this day brings, I have every intention of making it through this one too. I have many bad days, where I can’t pinpoint why, I just know I feel heavy and sad. I wish for to awaken again in a different mindset so I can start again and it won’t be a bad day. I wish for the control over my mind that some people have, to influence their own thoughts in a positive manner but instead, I have mastered the ability to negatively self-talk, even at a subconscious level. I try to sort through the mess inside my head, filter through the past and trying to shove it aside so it isn’t affecting my present. It isn’t easy and even with practice and a desire to change my mind set, I fail far more often than I succeed.

It’s just a day.

Some days I feel like I can’t possibly take any more and even taking my next breath seems painful and exhausting. I become blanketed in a darkness so black no light could ever shine in. I often feel defeated, like I have fought so many battles yet despite my best efforts remain wounded from each fight. Although my fears are mostly inanimate, these fears are very real to me. I feel like I was robbed of my innocence, my ability to trust, my sense of value and self. The violations inflicted on me were out of my control which makes you angry, but I don’t have a proper outlet, so I just internalize. The voice of negativity comes through a loudspeaker and does not turn off.

It’s just a day.

Rationally I know I am not my thoughts and that my illness is lying to me. I know I have to dig in and draw from a reserve I rarely use, in order to fight the negative thoughts and get through the day. I know these thoughts should not define or control me, but on some days they do, and I have come to learn that the less I fight them, the shorter their visit is. I try to accept that it is simply a bad day and attempt to accept these negative thoughts and their emotional side effects. I want to allow myself to feel them, without allowing losing my control. I try to remember that I have been through thousands of days like this and still managed to survive, what makes today any different?

It’s just a day.

Days like these I spend too much time trying to decipher what thoughts and actions are illness related and what are just habitual. I find myself questioning if I have a purpose in this world, and if I do, will I ever find it, or at least get a clue. My illness reminds me I will never truly feel accepted or a safe sense of attachment. The negative voice drowns me with guilt and blame for driving my friends away, even though I now realize my conduct was BPD related. I fail to remember that I have an illness, I am not an illness.

It’s just a day

On these days I will learn to remember I don’t deserve to be judged, and that it is ok to have my own voice scream loud enough to drown out the negativity. I will convince myself that I own my thoughts and no longer have need for the adverse and disparaging ones that have I have been fed to me for years. I will become able to see that I am valuable and deserving of love simply because I exist. I will remind myself I am not alone, and that asking for help does not minimize my strength, but perhaps enhances it. I will remember there is an online community where people validate your pain, and hear, not just listen. I will train myself to reach out to without embarrassment or feeling weak, instead of internalizing to the point of thoughts and possibly actions of self-harm.

It’s just a day.

I will conquer these minutes, these hours, and these days. I have fought to survive this long, is there a point of giving up yet? I will feel better one day, and possibly do more than just survive the days, maybe one day I will thrive. Perhaps I could make a difference and use my negatives to help educate others. I would really like to learn to love myself and trust others enough to let them love me. I want to subdue that fear somehow as I think I might feel a bit less alone. You are worth giving yourself the same love, affection and respect as you do to everyone around you. I hope to realize one day that I am worth the same love, understanding and respect as I give to those around me.

I’ve got this.

It’s just a day.