For some reason the most mundane moments – like opening the kitchen cabinet, or driving down that familiar winding road lined by tall pines – awaken the lies. The name-calling, degradation, worthiness based on expectation, performance, and appearance.
Perhaps most the most haunting phrase of all in the years of deception and abuse: “You will never amount to anything.”
I wish I could say that my experiences with abuse were confined to the verbal manipulation that would burst and flare in my everyday routine. However, it managed to continue. This time, through various degrees of sexual abuse, committed by the hands of adolescent boys. Age eight… fifteen… seventeen… all were greeted with the awful occurrences that told me my body was not mine. Vivid scenes accompanied by the prevailing thoughts surrounding the question “Why is this happening to me?” consumed my mind. Perhaps worse than the acts of exploitation themselves, was the silence that accompanied those moments.
The perpetual cycle of abuse snowballed into this ache in my soul. It was like a stab to the heart that couldn’t ever scab up. It told me that I was not enough, and would never be enough…and that became my truth.
My anthem was self-hatred. I fully accepted that I wasn’t worth jack.
Finding and keeping genuine friendships proved to be difficult because that meant I had to be vulnerable. Things I used to enjoy doing, like making art, I avoided like the plague. I knew that meant I had to face my demons, to feel the depth of my emotions and the realities around me.
The purpose of my life turned into a game of simple existence. Better to endure than thrive.
To get by, my life motto grew into ‘keep the peace.’ This meant not taking risks. This meant denying and invalidating my feelings. This meant remaining silent.
Eventually all the guilt, shame, fear, hatred, and silence consumed me. Imagine wearing a giant, itchy wool sweater. Then imagine that you can’t take it off – you’re stuck with it. Everyday. Twenty-four hours a day. That is how I felt within my own body, within my identity. Anything that made me ‘myself,’ I secretly loathed.
Simply existing was painful, yet I had no desire to be who I was. I had an insatiable craving for a prettier story, something that could be wrapped in a tidy bow. A story that wasn’t marred by years of verbal, sexual, and physical maltreatment. I allowed the narratives of my past to control the narrative of my future.
While it would be beautiful to pinpoint a breaking point – a moment the wool sweater unraveled, and I reveled in the beauty that lay underneath – that would be lying. If anything, my life has changed through a series of small awakenings. Moments like when I contemplated suicide in 8th grade due to the deteriorating health of my body caused by undiagnosed celiac disease, coupled my hatred for having to survive the abuse. Or the moment when I finally realized that the nearly four-year relationship I’d invested my soul into was actually extremely manipulative and wasn’t going anywhere that I wanted to be. Or, most recently, when it dawned on me that I wanted to fully accept myself – and chose to learn how. How to love everything about me – from the way I walk around the house with socks halfway on, to my satisfaction having conversations that actually aren’t all sunshine and daisies.
So no, my story doesn’t come neatly wrapped in a nice red bow. Those mundane moments still sometimes cause flashbacks. Some mornings I wake up itching, because it feels like I’m still wearing that uncomfortable wool sweater of guilt. Occasionally, the awful memories that were seared in my mind do resurface. But a good friend recently asked me if I’d trade anything that happened to me away – I wouldn’t. I know depths of pain that not everybody does – that’s a fact. But I also know that by experiencing suffering in any capacity has allowed me to know my essence – who I am, where I have been, and who I am becoming – as worth. To me living ‘So Lovely and So Free,’ is realizing that I don’t exist on this earth with a carbon copy.
What I mean to say is this: the life I am living is an artwork. Gorgeous colors, crappy brushstrokes and all – it is empowering, it is thriving, and it is well.
– image credit: Luke Pamer, of Alli Musolino