I like to keep my heart in a jar; one of those big glass ones with a lid on the top that is punctured with a few holes. Perhaps similar to one you may have used to hold a captured grasshopper or firefly as a child. You were careful to make sure there was enough air going in the jar to sustain this living creature, but made sure the holes were not big enough to allow for an escape. Keeping my heart in that metaphorical jar provides the same type of sustenance, only emotionally instead of physically.
Childhood sexual abuse instantly taints your view of love. Chances are you were not grabbed off the street and assaulted by a stranger. In fact, most of our abusers are family, friends or someone we looked up to and respected. They were people who conditioned you over time to believe you were loved, or claimed to love and care about you. They are the people we are told we can trust and those who are supposed to keep us safe, and as children, we wouldn’t even question that there could be an ulterior motive. We did not realize that this love and affection comes with immeasurable consequences that will weave their way into every aspect of our future life. What we did learn however, is that with love and affection, comes trauma, broken trust and pain.
Survivors are riddled with a profusion of emotions that run the gamut from A to Z. Some are so deeply ingrained in our minds they have gone from emotions to behaviors. The guilt, the shame, the sense of worthlessness, just to name a few, changes your views on both yourself and others. We often feel that we cannot understand ourselves, and find it hard to express and cope with the overwhelming feelings we are experiencing. I am not sure there is a survivor out there that didn’t wish they did not feel the way they do, or wish to wake up one day having forgotten everything and being able to start anew. You would do anything to be that imaginary person without a painful past, or to be able to turn time back and prevent the abuse in the first place.
For me, this is when my jar also got a lock and key. My heart had grown misshapen with every trauma, and since they continued to happen, extra security was required. It was a constant test, an ongoing battle to let just enough of my heart out to be able to function and not enough to be hurt. I am one of those people who needs to be loved, but really does not know how. Accepting love does not come naturally, as it innately comes with a sense of fear and pain. For me, it is a process of testing; putting a bit out there and just as quickly reeling it back in; being able to give a little while still remaining self-protective.
Self-blame casts a dark shadow. Consciously or subconsciously there is a piece of you that blames yourself for what happened and even though you understand rationally that is not the case, it carries with it the burden of not feeling deserving of being loved. Personally, I have found it an extremely rare occasion where I have found someone I feel could actually love me for who I am and would accept me with all my emotional baggage and painful past.
With all the people in the world, why would someone choose me? Why would someone actually volunteer to walk the difficult path with me, when there are millions of paved roads to choose from.
That being said, having a guarded heart not only prevents some of the pain, but it also inhibits the opportunity for something good. You may find that there are those rare, precious people who come into your life and seem to pick the lock without you even knowing. They encourage you to loosen the lid a bit at a time, until it is off, and captivity or freedom now becomes the option. It is now up to you to decide if the benefits outweigh the risk. Is being hurt worth the possibility of being loved? As with everything in life you will never know until you try. So I say, take the risk. Allow yourself to truly enjoy the feeling of being loved and loving someone, because whether you believe it or not, you are worthy and deserving.