They are only three words. Apart they can be used in so many ways, yet together they make an imprint on your heart and your mind. Together they can take you from smiles to tears; from bliss to blackness or from being yourself to doubting yourself. They can bond people or rip them apart. They can be said with passion and desire, or said with no meaning, in a habitual manner. They can be spoken among loved ones, families and friends. Words don’t discriminate and these three are worldwide, barring no culture, race or religion. They are needed to be heard and felt by all living beings.
Three simple words…I Love You.
People always say if you don’t love yourself you can’t love anyone else. Is that a truth or just one of those things “they” say? For me those words could not be more untrue.
When I was growing up my Mom told me she loved me all the time. I fully believed her and I repeated them back with truth and feeling. My father on the other hand hardly uttered the words. My extended family said them on all the appropriate occasions, and dutifully I replied. At that time in my life, with the exception of my Mom I held little truth to their words, or the words of any adults for that matter. I always felt “surface loved”; like they loved me because that is what “family” is supposed to do. I wondered if it was because I was adopted and not their blood, that they would never love me like they loved each other. It is an awful feeling for a child to feel so unloved; the only saving grace being my Mom.
This feeling not only continued in my pre-teen years, but actually got worse. With my Mom dealing with domestic abuse and depression, the belief that it was somehow my fault started to sink in and the feeling of being unlovable deepened. Maybe it was something I did, or didn’t do that made him so angry, or maybe I wasn’t a good kid and that is why she was so depressed. My self-blame turned into self-hatred, which directly correlates to the feeling that I cannot be loved. Was Let me clarify, it is more than me thinking I don’t deserve love, although that is a huge part of it, but that I actually can’t be loved. It is something I have felt as long as I have memories, and although it has wavered in degrees over the years, it never left and still hasn’t to this day.
My teenage years were mostly consumed with taking care of my Mom, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and although the bond between us was deep was also full of my teen angst. I could not get the love I needed from my mom, and because of the years of sexual abuse which had recently ended, I looked anywhere I could find for some love and attention. I went through a promiscuous stage, as do many survivors, where the only physical affection I was repeatedly shown aside from my Mom, was in a sexual manner. Even though you realize seeking love this way is wrong you do what you know, repeatedly and still never feel loved.
When my Mom died, I lost the only person who I felt loved me, and the only one I could love.
As an adult, I have learned to love other people, and not just on a surface level, but to the fullest extent that I know, however, I have not learned to love myself or accept true and lasting love. I have allowed two people to really love me, as they have stuck with me during the dark times, but those three words from anyone else, I question. After all, if I can’t be loved or love myself, how can anyone else possibly do so? I require a lot of trust before I can believe those words, and quite frankly, most people do not stick around long enough for me to accept them as truths.
Fast forward to now and the “Twitterverse”, where I have made some very good friends who have stuck with my through the hard times. I don’t have as much difficulty telling them I love them as I do accepting their words. Please don’t misunderstand; I certainly believe that they are truly meant by whoever spoke them; however the fear of accepting and believing them means I will have to learn to love myself, which I have no idea how to do. How do I change something ingrained in me since I was put up for adoption? I have been to therapists, read countless books and articles. I know exactly why I feel like this, yet I still can’t fix it, learn it or unlearn the ingrained thought.
So, if I tell you I love you, know that I mean it to the full extent that my being allows, which will likely be different than yours. If you tell me you love me, please know I do believe you as much as my heart will allow. As the saying goes, “I’m listening but I can’t hear you”. How I wish that was not true.