You Have Been Loved

img_5758“You have been loved.” Those are the words my grandmother repeated to me as she and grandpa drove me further and further away from my family. Leaving the box. Moving away on my own for the first time.

“Your dad, he has a good heart, he just doesn’t always show it,” she continued. She spent the next half hour giving examples from his childhood to prove it. Later, she shared stories of my early childhood. When I was born (at home), I had Jaundice. At the time, it was believed to be quite dangerous to newborns and the doctor recommended that they take me to the hospital. But my parents chose to keep me at home and use natural remedies (such as sunlight). I was fine, and eventually it went away. Grandma said, “Your parents were brave to go against the recommendation of the pediatrician. That took a lot of guts. They really care about you.”

I remember.

I remember the time my dad found out I was buying a lamp for my dorm room. He gave me a small screwdriver because he thought I might need one and wanted me to have one for future use as well.

I remember the Christmas when the new Les Miserables came out for the first time. My grandparents took us to see it and I loved it so much that I begged my parents to let me go again. My dad took me to see it again the next week.

But I also remember when my dad told me he was taking me out for a surprise. And we drove up to the shot place and I got a shot. That was the day I stopped trusting him. I was eight. He went and bought me colorful cardstock paper afterwards, as a reward.

I remember the time I was sitting in the back of our mini-van as we pulled into the garage. Mom and Dad were in the front seats. Dad made a comment about me being old enough to need deodorant and that I smelled bad. I was embarrassed as I slid open the car door and walked into the house.

I remember the first time I told mom I liked a boy. I was eleven. She told me, on that night standing on the bottom of the stairway by the coat closet, that I was too young to like boys. I never talked to her about boys again.

I remember sitting in the hard wooden pew next to our visiting friend who was an unbeliever. He innocently passed me the communion plate and I, unthinkingly, took a piece of bread. I distinctly remember the intense guilt, shame, and embarrassment that was heaped upon me when dad realized what had happened. And hanging my head as I climbed into our van after church. I was probably six or seven at the time.

I remember hearing my little sister crying after I had been put in bed. I must’ve been two or three at the time. I got out of bed and went to go see why she was crying and to comfort her. Dad found me out of bed and spanked me without asking me why I had gotten out of bed. I broke the rule about getting out of bed at night, and it didn’t matter that I had gotten out to take care of my sister.

I remember being expected to never forget to do things. Forgetting was a sign of rebellion or disobedience (or both). I forgot things a lot, like cleaning out my pet crab’s cage or filling his water dish. But I wasn’t ignoring those things because of laziness; I honestly did not remember to do them.

I remember being held in the middle of the swimming pool by the swimming instructor as they slowly lowered the floor of the pool to a great depth.  I could not touch the floor.  I was terrified of going underwater.  And I was forced to.  The lady counted down from three and then let go of me in the middle of the pool.  Over and over again.

I remember you trying to protect me.  But from the wrong person.  You found out I was emailing a guy online every day and had been doing so for months.  You did not believe me when I said it was a friendship only – not a relationship.  So you insisted I cut it back to once a week and write a terribly awkward note about how I was not interested in a relationship.  You protected me from someone who never harmed me, but you were never there to protect me from the real bad guys who came later.

I remember and it hurts.  I remember and I cry.  Tears of sadness.  Tears of lost innocence.  Tears of hurt.  Tears of a child.  Tears of broken relationships.

I have been loved.  But I have never felt that love.  I am still a child inside; curled up,  crying, and yearning for love, acceptance, and protection.  Wanting to be valued.  Wanting to feel love.

I know you love me, or at least, my brain tells me that you do.  But my heart can’t feel it.  And it has been wounded so many times that I’m not sure it will ever open for you again.  I’m not sure I will ever trust you again.  Even if you tell me ‘I love you’ a million times over.  Even if you say you are ready to listen.  Please give me time.  And hear me when I say, from a very sad and broken place, that I want to trust you.  But I can’t right now.  And if I never do, will you try to love me anyway?

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Porcelain Doll

SilkDress
Source: TheDollStudio.com. Image links to source.

I feel like a doll.  A doll with glass eyes.  A doll made of a porcelain head, arms, and legs.  Fragile, hollow, empty, lifeless.  I look out on the world and see nothing. My eyes have lost their sparkle.  I feel nothing.  I see nothing.  I am a porcelain doll.

I am depressed.  I didn’t realize it at first because it snuck in without knocking.  But now I see it.  This is *one of the ways I feel when I’m depressed.

There are some good friends here at school who would (and do) support me.  But most of the time I do not even know how to ask for the help I need, or even what to ask for.  I grew up in a narcissistic family, and as a result, I struggle to care for myself or recognize my own healthy needs and wants.  I am very good at helping those around me and caring for others, but self-care is a whole other world.

I want to get help.  I want to heal my wounds and be able to care for myself when I’m depressed.  I’m grieving the loss of my childhood.  I’m crying for my younger self who should have been nurtured and taught how to care for herself, but wasn’t.  But mostly, I am just laying on my bed feeling emotionless – staring at a computer screen covered in mindless games and TV shows.  Because I don’t feel anything on days like this.  Some days, getting out of bed and eating meals is all I can manage.

Giving myself (and others) grace is another gift I wish I had been given earlier in life.  And love.  Accepting love is really really hard for me.  My family fucked me over (excuse the language).  And they did it without even realizing it, and with the best intentions and all the love they knew how to give.  But it still messed me up.  Even with good intentions, they still hurt me deeply.

This is a tiny piece of the iceberg of issues I am trying to work through in my personal life right now.  It’s been rough.  It’s even harder while being depressed.  But it’s worth it.  Someday I will no longer be a porcelain doll.  I will be a warrior queen who is able to care not only herself, but also able to care for, stands up for and protect others.

After thought: There was a moment today when I was able to feel something.  As I stepped out of the elevator onto my dorm floor, I was immediately hit by the strong smell of chai.  It smelled wonderful and made me feel happy and energized for a few minutes.  It was marvelous.

* Depression looks and acts differently on different days, with different medications, and for different people.  This description is not meant to in any way envelope the entire spectrum of depression.  My own depression doesn’t always manifest itself this way either.

Some of the Subtleties of Racism

Portrait_of_G._A._Henty
Source: Wikipedia.org. Image links to source.

I write to you with a burdened heart.  I learned today that one of my favorite childhood authors, G.A. Henty, was racist.  I grew up reading, loving, and re-reading his many tales of historical adventure.  I was not even remotely aware that I was being fed handpicked racist beliefs through these stories.

I did not recognize these undertones when I was growing up.  How could I have seen them when I was taught almost nothing of racism?  I remember reading stories of the Underground Railroad and hearing famous quotes such as, “I have a dream” by Martin Luther King.  But I never knew that racism still existed into today’s society and everyday life.  That racism is normal and acceptable.

I do not believe that my family believes itself to be racist.  Contrary to that fact, they would, I am sure, argue vehemently against it.  But the history I was taught (and the history they were taught in the generations before me), and the comments made, were many times racist in nature.

The comments about how our neighborhood and school district was becoming much worse due to the people moving in (predominantly African-American).  The negative connotation that the policemen/policewomen hired at the library during school day afternoons were there because of the influx of ‘rowdy’ students (always African-American).  The feelings of fear whenever walking by a man of color.  The assumption that if a POC (person of color) was hanging around outside, he or she was out to get your money or ask you for a handout.  The comments assuming that POC are more likely to be criminals, drug dealers, or homeless.  The comments that said that the root issue was broken families, never considering that it might only be a symptom of a racialized society.  I could go on, but I’ll stop.  You get the idea.

This is what I grew up with.  It was very subtle; it was hidden under the surface.  And that is why it was so dangerous.  The people saying these things, the ones who pass these beliefs on, are unaware of their ignorance.  The majority are not trying to be racist or perpetrate false ideas.  But they are nonetheless.

And this -needs- to stop.  We need to wake up and see what is going on around us.  To see the injustices in our communities – abuse, racism, slavery, homelessness, and so much more.

Finding the Words

 

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Photo taken in Ukraine in 2013

Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion.
– Rachel Platten, Fight Song

I have been searching for the right word, or words, to share for over two years now.  But the words have been bottled inside of me, spinning frantically around and crashing into each other.  Thumping and bumping.  Clanging and clattering. Chasing and challenging.  They refused to come out, to be seen.

And all those things I didn’t say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?

But now the words are finally starting to pour out.  And it’s too late to plug up the hole.  They must break free.  They must be heard.

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong

I’m not alright, but this is my fight song.  I grew up in a fundamentalist, narcissistic, and spiritually-, emotionally-, and physically-abusive home and church environment.  I’m twenty one years old, and I am fighting each day to re-learn who I am outside of the box I was raised in and discover healing and growth.

I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

I’m writing because I need to share for my own sake.  I’m writing because I hope to reach out and help others who are on a similar journey.  I’m writing because every person’s story is valuable, and I am a person.  My story needs to be heard.  All of it.  The joyful parts.  The sad parts.  The angry parts.  The embarrassing parts.  The hopeful parts.  Every part is piece of who I am and I hope to share some of the pieces with you.  There’s a scariness to sharing my story, to opening up about what I remember, to what I’ve experienced.  But there’s also a sense of exhilaration and freedom!  Will you come join me on my journey?

Losing friends and I’m chasing sleep
Everybody’s worried about me
In too deep
Say I’m in too deep
And it’s been two years I miss my home
But there’s a fire burning in my bones
Still believe
Yeah, I still believe