I didn’t realize how many things I needed to unlearn until my boyfriend pointed out to me how deeply rooted my identity was to my past. Practically, my whole life I had lived with insecurities and fear. I didn’t see my worth. I didn’t perceive any value in myself or what I was doing. I lived in constant fear that I would lose everything I cherished. He said it clearly in a text he sent me:
It’s like the fundamental part of our relationship doesn’t exist. It’s not just entirely your fault though. On your end, you’re still attached to your past and it doesn’t let you build new emotions of a deep basis. It’s superficial. You’re always living with your fears, with your doubts. And as long as these things cloud your judgment, you can never really say you love something. You’re just afraid to keep losing things. Whether it’s losing control or losing the idea of what you think it means to love and be loved.
The night before I had asked him if I could vent to him through a phone call. He agreed. For an hour I touched on multiple things, but the bulk of our conversation landed on the doubts I had on myself and fears I carried. I mentioned how I couldn’t get the voices of all those people who bullied me growing up out of my head. Their thoughts and perceptions of me flooded my consciousness. It was horrible to admit this because I started to remember when it all started…
I was maybe four or five. My parents were very overprotective of me. I wasn’t allowed to go to the front yard, to sleepover anyone’s house, go out with any friends or anything really for that matter. They were always fearful that something would happen to me. They taught me to not trust anyone. That real friends did not exist. To always be wary of everyone and everything around me.
I remember thinking that they were wrong. That they didn’t understand what life was really about. I didn’t want to float around in utter fear, I wanted to live. I didn’t understand why they were so anxious all the time. They seemed to always have something new to worry about. They claimed that they didn’t live in fear, that they lived out of ‘love.’
I had multiple babysitters growing up. There was one specifically that I eventually started to avoid at all costs; kicking, screaming, crying, but nothing worked. My parents had to go to work, and that was that. Her nieces would bully me every day. They’d take my books, eat my food, and tell me that I wasn’t worth anything. That I would amount to nothing. That I was ugly, weird, and dumb. They would call me all sorts of names and always had something new to say to me.
Their cousin however, had other plans. He would tell me what he ‘loved’ me. He would forcefully kiss me and abuse me sexually. “This is what people do when they love each other,” he’d tell me.
At home, my “friends” would bully me too. They’d tell me that I acted too much like a boy. That no one would ever love me. And again, that I was ugly and boring to be around with. At school, the same thing would happen. Constant name-calling. Pushing. Shoving. People would pull my hair while I stood in line to get lunch or throw spitballs at me on the playground. I guess this is where the bit of foundation I had of my self-worth broke. It shattered my identity.
I remember trying to hide everything, keeping it all inside, and repressing it the best I could so that I wouldn’t be bullied for seeming weak. Problem was, I repressed everything so much that I don’t even know where the pain was coming from. It all feels like a tangled bundle of yarn with no beginning or end.
At some point, I stopped telling my parents that I loved them. I began to worry a lot more about what others thought of me. I’d work hard in school to be seen and appreciated. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was too young to understand any of it. I just knew that something didn’t feel right. At the time I started to gain weight and next thing I knew I was overweight. (This only made the bullying worse). I’d starve myself for hours and binge at night. I wouldn’t sleep at all. It’d be 1AM, 2AM, and I’d still be up staring at the dark walls of my room.
Even though I loved learning, I started to have a lot of anxiety going to school. I remember my teachers getting upset with me because I couldn’t sit still in my chair from how nervous I’d get. As time progressed, I would even vomit sometimes before leaving home from how scared I’d get to go to the babysitter’s or to school. I was sick all the time; my colds would last for weeks and I would have an upset stomach all the time.
By the time I was 10 I thought that I was destined to be different…. but in a bad way. To be anxious…and fearful. I mean, I didn’t know anything else. I doubted myself. I didn’t think I would ever go to college the way my parents wanted me to. I wasn’t even certain if I’d live to make it through high school. I felt horrible inside and out. I had already been experiencing suicidal thoughts. But what sucked the most was that even from this age I wanted to feel free from all the confusion and noise. Yet, I continued to repress on.
Now I’m here. I still feel stuck, like if I’m 5 years old again. What struck me the most from what my boyfriend told me was that a lot of it was right. And even though I know that I have the power, strength, and resources to turn it all around, I don’t know where to start. Everything I’ve ever known has been wrong. It feels like my whole life has been this whole distorted reality. A lie that I never realized. And it hurts. This whole time I thought that I was finally building a concrete solid floor to stand on, but turns out that it’s just cheap wet sand that is now drying out and falling apart…
I know that I have to work on things. And there will always be something to work on. The process never ends. Growing up, I always thought that I would have worth or value if I did something around the house, got good grades, or made a pretty picture. But now, I face the raw reality that my worth is not defined by events or circumstances. It’s not constructed from what others think of me or how many things I do on a given day. I know this, but yet…. I don’t live like it, yet.
The truth is, I’m encaged by the pitiful distortion of what I think my life is. I wouldn’t have come this far and fought for my life so much if I didn’t think that I was worth it. I need to learn how to cultivate that attitude into my ultimate being before it’s too late for me to fully experience life for what it is.