Lies My Narcissist Told

Narcissists use lies and manipulation to control.  They are master wordsmiths, twisting words to shift blame.  They never accept responsibility for their transgressions or consider anyone beyond themselves and their desires.  Narcissists invade the lives and the hearts of the vulnerable much like gangrene infects an injured limb, systematically spreading it’s disease until all they have attached themselves to has become useless and unable to function.

I spent eleven years with my narcissist, being fed a steady diet of lies.  Big and small, there was not a single day of those eleven years that was not tainted by twisted words, manipulations or outright falsehoods.  Looking back, trying to find kernels of truth is harder than finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

My narcissist lied when he promised me a future, promised me the world.  He lied when he told me he wanted to marry me and grow old together.  He lied about that happily ever after dream he systematically built up and dangled like a carrot to get me to hold on and keep going.  The truth is, narcissists never make long term plans.  They only stick around as long as they feel it benefits them or until they can line up their next mark.

My narcissist thrived off control.  In order to maintain his control, he needed to isolate me.  He lied again and again, convincing me that each and every one of my friends all either wanted me for themselves or were jealous of our relationship and hoped to destroy it.  He insisted I should remove everyone that was toxic to our relationship.  He needed to eliminate my support system so I would have no one to rely on except him.  He lied when he claimed it was my friends who were unhealthy in my life.  The truth is that he was the toxic one.

My narcissist needed the attention of others to validate his self-worth.  He lied and minimized his infidelities as minor transgressions.  He twisted situations, blaming everything from his poor self-image caused by the abuses and neglect of his past, or even me, for his cheating.  He deflected anger and hurt that was justified, informing me I was the one hurting our relationship because I could not let go of his repeated infidelities.  He lied when he placed blame on anyone else.  He lied every time he swore he was sorry and it would not happen again.  The truth is that he chose to continue to cheat and he alone was to blame for his choices.

My narcissist lied when he told me I was being too pushy or controlling.  He could not properly play his games if he had to account for his whereabouts or where his money has gone.  He twisted every situation so that I was at fault.  It is not unreasonable to want to understand why a flat tire made him 6 hours late coming home or where a steady stream of money kept going.  It was not controlling to ask for a call if he was going to be more than thirty minutes late coming from work so that dinner could be adjusted accordingly.  It was not unreasonable to want to know where hundreds of dollars disappeared to each month when bills became due.  The truth is that a narcissist never wants to answer questions or account for anything because it unravels the lies they have told.

My narcissist lied to his friends and his lovers about me.  I wasn’t a pathetic emotional  mess he was saddled with, nor did I do nothing but make his life harder.  I revolved my life around him in every way he asked and more, from waking up early everyday to make his coffee to always having dinner on the table when he got home.  He was graced with massages and foot baths daily, homemade baked goods whenever he wanted a snack and head rubs when he couldn’t sleep.  Never once was he denied intimacy, though he often pushed me away.  He was doted on and loved more than he ever deserved or reciprocated.  He lied to them because he needed me to be the scapegoat to cast blame for all that was wrong in his life.  The truth is that he never appreciated all that he had.

My narcissist lied when he convinced me I was broken and flawed.  Again and again, he would point out all that was wrong with me, shattering my self esteem and convincing me I was lucky to have him.  I am not all the disgusting and horrible names he had called me out of anger or to break my spirit; I am still the same beautiful soul I have always been.  The truth is that I’ve had strangers treat me with more respect and compassion than he ever showed me; I’ve had people who disliked me treat me with more courtesy than he ever did.  He was the one broken and flawed, so much so that he needed to systematically destroy someone else in order to raise himself up higher.

My narcissist lied when he told me I would never find anyone better than him.  He lied when he told me I would never find anyone who would treat me better than he did.  He was not God’s gift to women nor God’s gift to me.  The truth is that I was the best thing to ever happen to him.  I, and others like me, are a beautiful blessing because, though we’ve been injured and devastated before, we continue to love and trust with all of our hearts.  The truth is that he had a chance to have something very real and lasting and foolishly threw it away because he preferred to play games.

My narcissist lied to my family and friends.  He pretended to be this amazing man who loved me with all his heart.  He wooed my children and told them he considered them like his own.  He manipulated what friends he couldn’t convince me to discard into believing he always had my best interest at heart and considered them all family, too.  The truth is that none of them mattered to him any more than I did.  We were all easily discarded and forgotten because the only one a narcissist cares about is themselves.

Perhaps the biggest lie my narcissist told me was that he loved me and wanted to spend his life with me.  A narcissist only knows how to love themselves because they do not consider anyone beyond themselves.  The only commitment a narcissist can honor is the one they make to themselves because they are incapable of giving any part of their heart to anyone else.  The truth is that he only ever loved himself.  I was never even a consideration.

The biggest truth of it all is that, though he found me wounded by life and easily manipulated, I am stronger than he ever could have imagined.  I have lived through worse than him.  I will survive the shattering he caused in my life and I will learn from my experiences with him.  I will continue on in life and I will be happy again.  He may have broken my heart, but he could never break my soul.  In time, I shall heal.  The truth is that he is the one who is broken so badly that no amount of love could fix it.

The biggest truth that he will never see is that he will never truly find happiness because he cannot acknowledge his sickness, own his behavior or accept the fact that he needs help.

The biggest truth I need to remember is that I am strong enough to get past him and I will be okay.

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Hopeful

When I talk about my depression, I always describe it as drowning – being pulled down into those endless dark depths.  I want to scream but I know nobody would hear me.  I want to reach out and grab something to pull myself to the surface but there is nothing and no one there except the darkness that surrounds me.  Everything feels cold and alone.  It’s like I’m anchored to the bottom and no matter how much I struggle to swim, the shore is always out of reach.

I’ve spent so much of my life alternating between treading water, fighting  to stay afloat and being yanked underwater, drowning in depression.  I never manage to make it ashore, never get a moment to rest.  There’s days I barely catch my breath before being dragged under again.  Even when I’m treading water, the demons of my depression tear at me, like sharks in a feeding frenzy, forever starving and wanting to devour me whole.  I’ve spent my life lost at sea.

I am so tired of crying, of feeling unwanted and unloved.  I am so tired of hurting, of having the demons of my past tormenting me daily.  I am so tired of being afraid of the future, terrified that I might not be strong enough to keep going.  I am so tired of feeling alone, unheard, forgotten and discarded.  Every day, every moment is a struggle.  I am so very tired.

However, I refuse to give up hope.  I refuse to believe that this is all there is to life.  I refuse to let my depression beat me.  I refuse to let those people who used, abused and callously hurt me win.  I have fought my whole life to keep going.  I am a survivor.  I cannot surrender.  I have come too far to give up now.  I don’t want to drown.

More than anything, I just want to be okay.  I want to learn to smile, not the fake ones I paint on for the peace of mind of others but a GENUINE smile.  I want to be happy.  To learn to like myself – I’m not entirely sure that loving myself is possible but I’d be satisfied just waking up not hating myself and the mess that I am everyday.  I want to laugh and enjoy life.  I want to actually live.  I want to flourish.  I want to leave my mark and make a difference in this world.

I know it sounds asinine to be so hopeful when I’ve had no reason to ever believe in happily ever afters.  I hold tightly to my hopes and dreams, though, because I need to believe there’s something more, something better, something worth fighting for in life.  The moment I stop believing, stop hoping, is the moment I surrender and sink under and lose my battle.  I have to be hopeful in order to survive.

How Sexual Abuse Changed Me

I was eleven when I lost my virginity.  It happened under an old pine tree in an overgrown backyard of an old lady’s house a block away from my childhood home.  The boys were older.  They were rough and cruel.  They laughed the whole time like it was some hysterical joke I didn’t understand.  Perhaps they thought I was the punchline.  It killed my innocence and woke a nightmare that has been chasing me ever since.

When I was thirteen, it began happening regularly.  This time it was my brother’s friends.  The first time my brother told me that one of his friends wanted to be with me, I said no.  I didn’t want to do it.  My brother, almost 5 years older than me and over twice my weight, changed my mind with his fists.  It was easier to let it happen whenever they wanted than to get beaten.  It was always easier to close my eyes and let it happen than to say no, get hit and have it happen anyway.

Sex was something I was forced to have when I was a child not even old enough to consent.  Sex was something others pushed me into because I was wearing something revealing or acted flirtatiously and someone else felt owed.  Sex was something I let happen because I didn’t know how to say no and was afraid to say no.  Sex had to do with being an object for others to use.

I had no say over my own body.  I had no say over sex.  Sex was a physical act that boys and men would do that had very little to do with me as a person.  The physical act of sex took away my voice and my identity.  I could have been any person.  Any hole.  Sex, to me, was something ugly and rough.  Sex was scary.  Sex hurt.  Just the thought of sex made me want to cry.

I often wonder if predators can single out victims the way a wolf can spot that lone, weak sheep at the edge of the flock.  The easy target.  That one who has been hurt and abused so often that they have very little fight left in them.  As much as I’ve wished I could walk through life invisible, I’ve often felt like I’ve had a glaringly bright neon sign floating above my head that reads, “Easy Target Here”.  Even in relationships, I’ve been pressured into things I did not want to do, things I begged and pleaded not to do.  My ex used to push to do things or include others under the guise of stepping out of comfort zones or sexual exploration.  Looking back, he felt like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, just another predator looking to have his way regardless of what I wanted, under the guise of love.

The first couple times I was raped, I tried reaching out to my mother for help.  When I was eleven and came home crying, covered in dirt and pine needles, their semen and my blood, my mother asked what I had expected based on the clothes I was wearing.  When I was thirteen and she was bringing me to the hospital for the doctors to kill the baby one of my brother’s friends had left to grow inside me, I was told not to tell my father.  Told that “daddies did not love little whores”.  I was never asked whether I had consented to have sex because I was too young to even consent.  I was never even asked if I wanted an abortion.  I had no voice.  I was irrelevant.  I learned not to speak up because if my own mother could not be understanding or compassionate, what could I expect from the rest of the world?

Even worse than having no one to turn to is not being able to count on myself.  I have lived a coward’s life.  I have been afraid to say no because my voice meant nothing when I did speak up.  I have been afraid to fight back because it was easier to let it happen than to take a beating.  I have not spoken out about all I’ve been through because I feel dirty, damaged, ashamed, irrelevant and inconsequential.   I feel like I’ve failed myself for not yelling no, not fighting harder, not crying out that things like this go on.  I feel like a failure.  I feel tainted and used.  All the damage others have done to me cannot compare to how much I beat myself up because I let it happen again and again.

When I talk about previous partners, it is a very gray area for me.  Where most people can blurt out a specific number, I’m never sure how to respond.  I refuse to count those that touched me when I was a child.  Likewise, I cannot stomach to acknowledge those that forced themselves upon me as an adult.  I’m forever weighing whether or not to count those that I had never wanted to be with but who pushed anyway.  If I did not say no because I was too afraid to say anything, what do I consider them?  I am very hesitant to ever use the word rape unless I have been verbally or physically adamant in my objections – but what does a woman call it when she has become too afraid and defeated to say no?  Instead, I usually find myself only counting those who I have willingly, completely of my own choice and actions, chosen to be intimate with on my own terms.  It is a very short list.

In my head, in order to try to have any type of semi-normal physical relationship with anyone, I had to separate sex from intimacy.  For me, intimacy was about sharing love and tenderness.  Intimacy didn’t have to involve any particular physical act.  Intimacy revolved around feelings.  It is always those feelings that I have to focus on.  Emotions not physical acts.  I have a lot of trouble dating.  Men seem to want to jump right away into a physical relationship.  I do not move fast enough so most lose interest quickly and move on.  For me, intimacy must involve feelings and trust.  Feelings build over time.  Trust must be earned.  I’m not comfortable rushing into intimacy.

As much as I would love to have a “healthy” physical relationship one day, I’m honestly not sure it is possible.  Whenever people show interest in me, I’m afraid I’ll be put in that position again where I won’t be able to say no, or worse, that it won’t matter if I say anything at all.  Even compliments are met with mistrust because I am always looking for ulterior motives.   I find myself recoiling from the touch of others unless the feelings are there and I have expressly initiated intimacy myself.  I have to mentally prepare myself, convincing myself that this specific time is different, that there are feelings and that I do matter to them, just to follow through.  If there are any doubts about sincerity, I pull away and hide.  It should not be this hard.  Yet, for me, it always is.  I fear it always will be.

I am tired of being a victim.  I am tired of always being afraid.  I am trying to speak up, to find ways to work through my past and to heal.  Though the physical act of sex only lasts a short while, the trauma of sexual abuse lasts a lifetime.

Some Day My Prince Will Come?

The Quest for Love When Mentally Ill

When I was a young girl, I was bombarded with fairy tales filled with handsome princes from far off lands.  They rode in on gallant steeds, battling evil villains and fierce beasts, to rescue damsels in distress.   At the end, everyone always lives happily ever after.

I dream of this happily ever after where I wake up every day wrapped in the arms of a man who cannot imagine his life without me in it.  We’re as happy laying under the stars philosophizing about life as we are snuggling together watching a movie at home.  We’ll take long drives to just talk about our day and hug each other as tightly ten or twenty years later as we did when we first fell in love.  Holding his hand makes my stomach flutter and laying my head on his chest makes everything in the world seem somehow better.  We can talk about anything and make each other smile no matter how bad our day might feel. He knows everything about me and that makes him love me even more.  We do little things for each other every day just to show each other how much the other means.  When apart, we will call each other for no other reason than just to say “I love you”.  We only have eyes for each other and could never imagine anyone else fitting more perfectly at our side.  That’s at least how I dream that love should be.

Unfortunately fairy tales are not real.  Though I consider myself forever the hopeless romantic and carry this beautiful, idealistic view of love, that practical, realistic inner voice is quick to remind me that what I dream about is a pipe dream.  That wonderful happily ever after is hard for anyone to find.  It is even harder, however, when you are mentally ill.

I suffer from depression, anxiety disorder, and ptsd.  I’m not “crazy”, “violent”, “mental”, “unhinged”, “damaged” or any of the other lovely words attached to the stigma of mental illness.  Yet the stigma that follows anyone suffering from mental illness is always the first hurdle I face when even considering dating anyone.  When do I tell them?  How do I even bring it up?  How much do I put out there?  I want to be honest because I’ve worked hard to overcome my own feelings about my diagnosis.  I’m no longer ashamed of my mental illness – I have accepted that it is a large part of who I am.  I’m honestly proud of myself for surviving and fighting as long as I have, yet I know the war is far from over and I’ll be fighting these battles for years to come.  I don’t want to make anyone feel blindsided later on but I’m afraid if I say something too soon, I’ll scare them off.

My emotions are my own worst enemy.  There are days I am agonizingly depressed and cannot verbalize why because I don’t always understand it myself.  There are times when a perfectly good day can be ruined by a trigger that pulls me back into the traumas of my past.  I cry a lot, sometimes over things as seemingly trivial as a movie or a song.  I am anxious about many things that I have no control over.  As much as I try to shield others from my meltdowns, they do happen, especially during stressful periods in my life.  The longer others are around me and the closer I let them in, the less I am able to hide the cracks in my facade.  My emotions are going to spill out.

I am terribly insecure.  Most of the time, my depression only allows me to see the worst parts of myself so I have trouble understanding what others could possibly see in me.  I need regular reassurance that people truly are interested and that they do care.  People and events in my past have shown me time and time again that I did not matter and that I was disposable so often that I need to hear that this time is different and my heart won’t be broken again. Cancelled dates reaffirm my fears that others weren’t serious or sincere.  Infidelities confirm that I really never meant anything at all.

I have so many issues with trust and abandonment.  It’s terrifying for anyone to put themselves out there to someone new in the best of circumstances.  When you add a history of abuse, broken trust and abandonment to the mix, it can be near impossible to let new people in.  Where others can happily leap into a new beau’s arms, ready to fall in love, my mind is always preparing myself for that other shoe to drop, comparing current events to my past traumas and weighing words and actions, looking for ulterior motives.  It isn’t that they’ve done anything yet to earn my mistrust.  I’ve just trusted blindly so many times before, only to get hurt in the end, that I’m terrified of having it happen again.  I want to trust, but it takes time.

Intimacy is also very hard for me.  I’m not a prude.  I love being held and snuggled.  Sharing myself, though, leaves me extremely vulnerable.  It’s not something I can easily share with just anyone.  As much as I long to be touched and caressed, I’ll sometimes recoil if I’m not ready.  It isn’t that the thought of someone touching me is in any way repulsive.  In my head, I have to separate intimacy from sex because sex is just the physical act and has no love or emotion involved.  Separating making love from having sex has been the only way I could differentiate from past abuses and current consensual acts.  Intimacy involves trust and consent.  It takes time for that level of trust to be there.

Where other women set their dating criteria to include wealth, looks, education and other very specific superficial traits, my desires are broader and more generalized.  I need someone with compassion and empathy, who will try to understand where I am coming from and listen to how I feel.  I want someone with a good sense of humor, who can roll with the punches and laugh with me when things get rough.  I need someone intelligent and open-minded enough to accept that my mental illness is just that – an illness – and won’t judge me or define me by the stigma others place on it.    I need someone who is just as happy staying in as going out because I will have my bad days where I just can’t do anything, no matter how badly I want to do more.  My ideal man needs the patience of a saint, because I am slow to trust and have a lifetime of walls up.  What I need more than anything is acceptance and love.

I spend a lot of time wondering if there even is anyone out there for me – someone who can accept all my flaws and still truly love me for the person I am underneath.  I know I’m a mess.  There’s not a day I don’t wake up feeling broken because I have no control over my mind and emotions so much of the time.  I’m forever walking that tightrope of functionality, hoping to keep my balance and not fall into the dark abyss of depression below.  From afar, I might put on a good show and appear to have everything together, but up close, anyone can see how much I’m shaking and sweating – It takes every bit of concentration to take each step forward.  I am afraid to let anyone in close enough to see just how wobbly I really am.  I’m even more terrified that once they truly see me, they’ll walk away, too.  I desperately want to one day find my forever prince who’ll love me despite the circus of my life, but I fear I’ll forever be that sad clown with a smile painted on, struggling all alone, hoping not to stumble and fall.

 

mightylogoRepublished on The Mighty on 8/18/16.

Happy Nightmares

The Horror of Dreaming about Those who Hurt Me

I find myself sitting here typing, half fuzzy from sleep, because I know that the longer I let my consciousness seep in, the more my dreams will fade away.  My first feelings upon waking were contentment and peace, followed immediately by blinding hot rage at myself as reality hit me squarely in the face.  I began to cry.  Still in bed, wrapped in my comforter, I logged into facebook and messaged an old friend I’ve known for almost two decades and asked “What the HELL is wrong with me?”

To say that this dream threw me for a bit of a loop is like saying the Titanic had a minor sailing malfunction.  To make matters worse, I woke up feeling a sense of happiness, like my subconscious had amnesia and forgot everything I’ve been through.  I don’t think I can fully express my disgust until I explain the snippets of my dream that are still fresh in my mind:

In my dream, I ran into my ex.  I remember him having faded hickeys on his neck.  He smiled a playful smile and winked upon seeing me, but there was a sadness in his eyes.  For some reason, we began to talk.  He admitted to not being as happy as he thought he’d be with her and threw out there that he missed me.  Without a second thought, I told him to come home.

In my dream, I let him touch me again.  I let him make love to me and I kissed him back.  He wanted to come home.  He wanted me again.  I felt happy.

There were more details to the dream, other people around, other things going on, some completely obscure and nonsensical.  I began to discard those tidbits piece by piece as irrelevant, letting them fade into the wasteland random dreams go to to die.  Yet the fragments involving my ex sat freshly in my mind, leaving a horrible taste in my mouth and an ache in my heart.

That any part of me still held onto fond thoughts of him blew my mind.  While we did share some good times, this was the man I let in closer than anyone else only to have him shatter me so badly that I fear I will never completely recover.  He not only cheated again and again, crumbling what little self-esteem I had managed to muster over the years, but he also took advantage of my vulnerability, manipulating me into believing his actions were always my fault.  He made me an ongoing joke for his friends and his lovers, ultimately abandoning me for his newest conquest on the very day I came home from the hospital diagnosed with a myriad of serious health problems needing to be addressed, some serious enough that surgery was needed.  This was the man I spent eleven years with and gave all of myself to, only to be discarded like I was garbage.

Was I that lonely that a small part of myself wanted him back?  I truly miss having someone there, someone to snuggle and share my life with, the good times and the bad.  I had tried dipping my toe in the dating pool after he left.  I joined a dating site only to discover that the majority of men on there were only looking for casual hook ups.  I had found what I thought were a few diamonds in the rough, each either ultimately fizzling and fading away or misrepresenting themselves completely.  I had a couple long-term friends express an interest in me, as well, one even stealing a couple kisses – the first romantic kisses I had from anyone other than my ex in many years.  Nothing became of any of it.  I am still glaringly single.  However, I have trouble believing that any part of me would sincerely want to return to my ex no matter how lonely I feel. While admittedly I find dating right now intimidating,  I’m better off alone than I would be with him.

Was I that starved for intimacy that part of me desired him?  I’d be lying if I claimed my hormones weren’t all over the place these days.  There’s days I feel like an animal in heat.  Other than those two fateful kisses, though, I’ve not had anyone touch me since my ex.  It’s not that I haven’t thought about it because my hormones have been raging. They remained thoughts, though, never actions.  It isn’t that I’m a prude that doesn’t enjoy intimacy – I just want it to be something that is shared with someone that matters to me, rather than just anyone for the sake of having someone there.  Perhaps my mind is holding tightly to my intimate past with my ex because it is all I knew for so long – his touch was familiar and he knew my body well.  I refuse to believe, though, that any part of myself truly still desired his touch.  He has treated me again and again like I was worthless garbage.  Sharing myself with him at this point would be like agreeing he’s right.  As much as I crave intimacy, I deserve to have it be with someone who truly values me and adores me.

Was I that dysfunctional at heart that part of me desired to return to a relationship that toxic and unhealthy?  Was I that much of a masochist?  I grew up exposed to one dysfunctional relationship after another until I sincerely had no idea what normal was.  Even as a child, I believed people got married to argue.  At six, I had a play wedding in my backyard with a boy from down the street who I could not stand.  We fought the entire way down the aisle.  Could I be subconsciously clinging to the dysfunctional, codependent relationship I shared with my ex because unhealthy was all I knew?  This is not a case of the devil I know being better than the devil I don’t.  I’ve had enough hell for a lifetime.  No more devils for me, thank you.

My friend reminded me of psych 101 – that “…faces are meaningless in a dream, the subconscious mind will pull in familiar elements to fill in the gaps in a dream.. …it will take some time to cleanse your subconscious…”, suggesting that my mind chose to fill those gaps with my ex because he was what I knew and that I missed the safety of the relationship, not my ex himself.  My rational side wants to embrace that explanation yet it felt as if every supposed gap was filled completely by my ex: His mannerisms, his words, his touch, I knew them all well.  It’s largely why this dream made me so irate – that any part of me might think back tenderly and want him to come home feels completely ludicrous and absurd in the harsh light of day.

As my dream continues to fade farther and farther into that foggy, forgotten wasteland, that horrible taste remains heavy in my mouth.  My rage has begun to subside as I continue to reassure myself that, regardless of what my subconscious might consider, my fully conscious self would never welcome him, let alone allow him a place back in my heart or my life.  I know so many people put a lot of stock in dreams, whether believing them outright as omens to come true or looking for hidden meanings within.  Despite that momentary feeling of happiness as I first woke, this dream truly haunted me, leaving me feeling confused, fearful, angry and distraught.   I refuse to believe that this dream was anything beyond a nightmare meant to shake me to my core.

Broken but NOT Done

I recently came across someone who was talking about feeling broken and trapped in her past – I’m not sure if her words resonated with me because we’re of the same age or maybe it’s that I should never wander on facebook at 3am, half awake, after getting up to pee. Either way, this was my response to her:

“I think part of us gets stunted and left behind whenever we suffer abuse or trauma – like someone has chipped a part of us off and it’s left sitting there, marking that place and time, that fragment of ourselves that we lost because of that trauma. The more that we’re hurt at any given time, the larger the chunk that is left behind. Little by little, as we go through more and more, pieces of us sliver and break off, until we can legitimately feel the absence of all those missing pieces – we no longer feel whole. All the missing chunks in our heart and soul feel glaringly obvious – we’re missing so much of ourselves that we feel broken beyond repair.

We find ourselves going back to those moments because we want to pick up our missing pieces and be whole again – somehow we believe that if we are able to understand why things happened, to forgive or to move past it, we’ll get that piece of ourselves back. I honestly think that there really is no way to reclaim those missing pieces – our abuses and traumas mark and change us in a very real way – as they should. No one survives something that horrible and comes out unscathed. We need to leave those pieces where they lie, like bookmarks to those moments that have changed us in life, reminders to learn from the traumas of our past and hopefully not to set ourselves up to repeat them. We then have to learn to be creative and take what pieces of ourselves we have left and build something new. We’ll never be the same person we once were, but we can find a way to become something new – to rebuild our lives and forge something stronger out of our rubble.”

After responding, I sent myself a copy and crawled back into bed.  The next couple days were hectic with doctor appointments, pre-op lab work and other errands, yet this response sat in the back of my head like an unpopped kernel of popcorn bouncing around in my mind, waiting to grow and be fully realized.

During the lull of a morning free of schedules, I found myself reading over my response from the other night, the words that flowed so easily in my half-asleep state.  Tears began to flow as I thought about all those pieces of myself left in my past and of all the people who have tried to break me over the years.  Again and again, I’ve been shattered until I no longer even resembled a person.  I had become a jumbled mess of jagged fragments, raw and aching, afraid of letting anyone close enough to get hurt on my brokenness and even more terrified that they might break me further.  I sobbed as I realized I didn’t even recognize myself anymore.  I’ve lost so much of myself over the years that I’m not the same person I once was.

A strange thing happened as I sat there crying and mourning the loss of myself – I got angry.  Not that red hot fiery rage that leads to revenge and retaliation but rather the steady white hot anger of a person who is so tired of other people feeling they have the right to break me.  Even more so, I was irate with myself for not being strong enough and letting it happen again and again over the years.

I thought of all the people in my past who own a piece that has been lost to me forever.  Family who were supposed to love and nurture but instead greeted me with abuse and dysfunction.  Men and boys who touched me in ways a young girl should never be touched because they were so obsessed with their own desires that they saw me as an object to be taken and not a person.  Exes I had given myself to, heart, mind, body and soul, only to be mistreated, cheated on and discarded.  I thought of my most recent ex, who I had spent over a decade with and had entrusted with everything that made me who I am.  I had expected to grow old with him, only to have him shatter me in ways I know I will never recover from.

As I sat here sobbing, feeling both devastatingly broken and immensely furious, I knew I could not continue to live this way.  When I looked at all I’ve lost over the years and the jagged, jumbled pile of shards and rubble I had left, I realized I’ve lost more of myself than I even have left.  My mind shot back to the tail end of the sleepy response I gave the other night:

“….We’ll never be the same person we once were, but we can find a way to become something new – to rebuild our lives and forge something stronger out of our rubble.”

What only a few days ago was a half-asleep, half-jumbled passing thought sent out to someone else called to me.  The truth is that those were never just words – It’s a hard truth I needed to face.  For years, I’ve mourned the loss of myself, wishing I could just be okay again, regain even a semblance of the person I used to be.  I needed to listen to my own words and accept the truth within.  I won’t EVER be that same person again and I need more than anything to rebuild.

Perhaps it is the red hot rage of revenge and retribution, after all, because I absolutely REFUSE to let any of those people who had broken me without remorse WIN.  I REFUSE to let anyone ever break me like that again, either.  I am not quite sure how to rebuild with the little that I have left, but I WILL find a way.  I will rebuild and I will continue to grow until I am no longer a small broken pile of rubble but rather a whole person again.  I may have been broken and shattered again and again but I am NOT done.

mightylogoRepublished on The Mighty on 9/6/16.

The Loneliness of Depression

Anyone who has suffered from depression has endured the agonizing loneliness that goes along with it.  There are no easy solutions to these feelings because having someone there doesn’t wash away the emptiness we feel inside.  It isn’t simply a case of saying “I am lonely” because we desire having someone there at our side.  We feel utterly and despairingly alone in the world.

Much like body dysmorphia makes people feel like their physical flaws are glaringly worse than they really are, depression magnifies all of our negative feelings, exaggerating all of our faults.  Depression makes us feel like we’re broken and damaged beyond repair.  We know all our flaws because they stand out to us like beacons, reminding us of all that is inherently wrong about ourselves.  We are our own worst critics and are skilled at tearing ourselves apart.  We feel like a mistake, like there is no place in the world we belong.  We feel like nobody understands how we feel inside.  We feel completely alone.

Even when we’re with other people, we still feel alone.  No matter where we go or who we are with, we are forever wishing to disappear because we feel completely out of place.  We laugh uncomfortably and force ourselves to smile to reassure others that we are having fun, yet it always feels transparent and fake.  More often, we sit silently because we don’t want to bother anyone or make their life harder.  We’re so afraid of being judged or rejected that we can never truly be ourselves.  The entire time we’re out, we usually are second guessing our decision to go and wishing we were back home because we know we do not belong.

Though we feel alone even when you’re there, a minute after you leave, the loneliness is even worse.  Having someone there, whether for a few hours or a few days, magnifies our loneliness after you leave.  The silence and emptiness is glaring.  We use that time to beat ourselves up for not trying harder when you were there.  We wonder if you’ll come by again, though we understand if you did not.  We wouldn’t want ourselves as company so why would anyone else?

Friends and loved ones may say they’ll always be there but we have trouble believing it.  We have huge abandonment issues.  We’ve been hurt, abandoned, cheated on and lied to by virtually everyone we have ever let into our hearts and our lives so we have a hard time believing that you’re any different.   We’re forever waiting for the other shoe to drop because we know it’s only a matter of time before you’re gone, too.  Regardless of all the promises we’ve been given throughout the years, we always end up alone.

We often put up walls and isolate.  When people hurt us, we isolate because the pain overwhelms us.  When our lives are at their lowest, we isolate because we don’t want anyone to see us as that horrible mess we know that we are.  We isolate when others are having a good time, not out of jealousy but because we don’t know how to be happy ourselves and don’t want to ruin anyone else’s day.  We isolate to beat ourselves up for making mistakes, and because we feel people would be better off without us in their lives.  We pull away from everyone and hide by ourselves because we not only don’t feel we belong in this world, but that we honestly don’t deserve to be in it.

We do not want to be alone.  We do not enjoy feeling this way.  This loneliness eats at us minute after minute, day after day.  We reach out to friends and family, looking for things to do, wishing and praying someone will find the time for us.  We make excuses for people to come by and to stay extra when it’s time to leave.  Each rejection we get is an affirmation to us that we are unwanted, each cancellation reassures us that no one wants to be there.  When we don’t hear back from you, we feel forgotten.

We want so badly for someone not only to say they understand but to sincerely mean it.  We want someone who will show us patience, compassion and acceptance.  We want someone who will see us for the person we are underneath and not for the broken, damaged shell of a person we feel we are.  We want someone to wrap their arms around us and reassure us that we’re loved, we’re wanted and that we’ll be okay.  We want someone who will truly always be there and not just offer us lip service then go away.   We want to feel like there’s a place for us among our family, our friends and our loved ones.  We want to feel we belong in life.

When I talk about this deeply despairing loneliness, I speak in terms of “we” because these feelings are common for anyone suffering from depression.  We feel broken, insignificant, irrelevant, and out of place.  We feel unwanted, unloved, misunderstood and forgotten.  We walk around every day in a cloud of numbness and emptiness, feeling like we do not belong anywhere.  We want more than anything to not feel alone anymore.  Unfortunately, we’ve felt this way for so long that we don’t know how to feel anything else.

empowher
Republished on EmpowHER on 8/23/16.

mightylogoRepublished on The Mighty on 8/23/16.

 yourtango

Republished on Your Tango on 11/21/16.

I am NOT Disposable!

A Rant from the Easily Discarded

There was a time when people invested more into relationships with others, whether it was family, friends or romantic partners.  People took the time to get to know one another and have actual real conversations.  People valued bonds with others and would put effort into building and maintaining relationships.  These days, however, we live in a generation of instant gratification, where everyone is so quick to discard everything and anyone for the next thing that they’re sure is right around the corner.

In my family, it was always clear that I never mattered.  I was told from an early age that I was never good enough, never smart enough, never pretty enough, never well-behaved enough – just simply not enough.  My worthlessness was further validated by years of abuse.  I was only sixteen, still a kid, when my mother decided to shoot my father and implode my existence.  No thought was ever given about what would happen to me or where I might end up because of her actions.  It didn’t matter that I would be bounced around for a year then end up on the street at seventeen.  I was easily disposable.

In romantic relationships, I have always been easily discarded and replaced.  It didn’t matter if I had given them children or years of my life, I was only temporary until someone better came along.  Even when it came to dating, everyone seemed to be looking for the instant gratification of sex but nobody wanted to put in the effort to build a relationship.  I was forever the low man on the totem pole, the most easily discarded.  It never mattered how long I had been with someone or how much I had put into the relationship, the end result was always the same.  Again and again, I was left crying and asking what was wrong with me? Why was I never enough?  My cries fell on deaf ears because I was disposable.

Even many of my friendships seem to follow this pattern.  I try to reach out and be there for friends whenever I see they’re struggling through life and am always assured that if I need anything at all, they’ll always be there.  Yet, when times are their roughest, despite my pleas to many of them that I truly need someone there right now, I find myself crying and alone.  I don’t know if they avoid me because they don’t have the words to comfort me or because my anguish is overwhelming and uncomfortable.  I just know friends offer to be there to talk and then there’s radio silence; Friends offer to come by and visit or take me out to distract me from all I’m going through, then cancel last minute, sometimes just not showing at all without a word.  I’d like to believe that those I consider to be friends are just caught up in their own lives and do not realize the impact of their actions but the more often it occurs, the harder it is to make excuses to myself and rationalize their actions.  Regardless of their intentions, it leaves me feeling like I’m inconsequential and disposable.

Things weren’t always this way.  I am not sure when exactly the world changed so drastically and we became such a throw away society.  People used to save milk bottles to be refilled and save containers to store leftovers for other days.  There used to be an inherent value in everything and everyone.  These days, everything is mass-produced.  You don’t have to go out and make an effort to make friends or find loved ones.  Log onto your computer or phone and there is a world of people to scroll through; A new friend or relationship is only one click or swipe away.  With so many options so easily accessible, why bother putting in any effort or building any attachment to anyone else when you can just as easily replace them with a newer model next week, next month, next year?

Not having emotional attachments makes it easier for people to excuse their actions.  It doesn’t matter if you mistreat someone if you are not emotionally invested in their well-being.  People attack, abuse and belittle others every single day online with words they once would never say to another person’s face.  People have gotten so caught up in their own lives and their quest to find their next moment of happiness that they no longer consider those they step on or hurt along the way.  This behavior has slowly leaked into the way people live their everyday lives and interact with others.  We’ve become a society of strangers who only think about themselves.  There was a time that this behavior was abhorrent; Today it is the norm.  Those who reach out to others with compassion are looked upon with skepticism.  Those who are looking for relationships and commitment beyond the instant gratification of sex are looked upon as clingy and needy.  Those who expect friendship to be lasting through good times and bad are seen as unrealistic.

Perhaps I’m too old fashioned and nostalgic for the way things used to be.   Perhaps I’m too idealistic, expecting people to still appreciate and value one another.  Perhaps I’m too sentimental, assuming that because I have let someone into my heart, I should matter to them, as well.  I honestly do not know.  One thing I do know, though, is that I am tired of feeling like I am never good enough.  Discard your leftovers, your old clothes or electronics that you feel are no longer desirable or useful if you must.  But please remember that I am not some useless inanimate object.  I am a person with feelings that can be hurt and a heart that can be broken.  I deserve to matter and to feel like I have a place in this world.  I am not something trivial that can be used up and discarded, or only given acknowledgement or attention during the good times.  I am not disposable.