When No One Believed In Me, I Learned To Believe In Myself
Before I was two, my mother kidnapped me and ran across the country to get away from my father. She was having a schizophrenic episode and truly believed he was molesting me. To this day, I don’t know if that was the case or not. With her mind full of voices and hallucinations, she did the best she could to protect her baby at all costs.
So, we ended up out west. Life was hard for a single mother with schizophrenia and no family or friends in a new city. It wasn’t long before I ended up in foster care. The stress of raising a toddler had a tendency to trigger psychosis in my mom. I was in and out of foster care between ages 4 and 7, until I finally became a permanent ward.
In foster care, life was hard. I had food on the table and a roof over my head, but I was never safe. Like so many kids, I endured emotional and sexual abuse. I was constantly toId and shown that I wasn’t good enough. When my foster father showered me with inappropriate “affection,” not only did his wife neglect to protect me, she treated me with disdain and jealousy.
I was almost adopted once, but I didn’t fit in and they sent me back to foster care. Truthfully, I never really felt like I fit in anywhere. I bounced from home to home. I wasn’t a bad kid, quite the contrary. I guess seeing so much injustice has given me an extremely vigilant moral code. I would never want someone to feel hurt as I have been, and it deeply impacts me if I ever cause someone pain.
I learned quite quickly that mean, angry people don’t like happy, vibrant people who sparkle and have love to give the world. So, even though I have always been me, I learned to mute my sparkle. I learned that life isn’t safe. I learned that if I wanted love, I had to do something for it. So, I turned to the arms of much older men when I was far too young. Living on my own at age 15, I was utterly alone. Where else would I get that love I so badly needed?
My first relationship, when I was 14, was with a 32 year old man. He would rescue me from what felt like the hell-on-Earth group home I was living in when I couldn’t take it anymore. The staff at the group home warned me he only wanted me “for one thing.” If they’d taken the time to talk to me about my day, tell me they were proud of me, or mentor me in some way, perhaps I wouldn’t have needed what little true affection he provided.
When I was 18, I fell in love with a deeply troubled, emotionally abusive man. It started out as most abusive relationships do: with lots of affection, adoration, and all that attention I was starving for. When I look back on my childhood now, it’s understandable that I didn’t see it as abusive until the damage had been done. When that relationship ended a couple years later, I gained 80 pounds and what little was left of my self esteem was shattered. I barely got out of bed for months. I cried in bed, praying to God or Whatever Is Out There to give me the strength to get up and end my life.
Sadly, I know my story is not unique. As different as I often feel, I know there are many more like me. So how do we rise above this? How do we believe in ourselves when nobody else ever has?
Somehow, we find a way.
Somehow, I’ve found a way.
I could list all the things I’ve done in my constant attempt to better myself. Six years ago, I started a radio show about spirituality. I’m fortunate to have access to some of the greatest self-help teachers in the world, but I have a habit of comparing myself to the top 1% of the world, rather than myself. I’m working on that. I say, “I know I’m good enough.” Intellectually, I know I’m an amazing, strong, dynamic woman with so much to offer the world. But inside, my heart is broken. I often feel like I don’t have enough, and fear I never will.
However, if there’s one thing the years have taught me, it’s that I do have enough. Through years of depression and symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, there has always been something inside me that picked me up and scraped me off the road when I could have laid there and died.
Every day, I get a little stronger. A little wiser. A little more comfortable in my skin. And then something hits me, and I fall and it hurts like hell. But, unlike before, I don’t let my life fall apart.
I keep moving forward, even when every waking moment hurts. I now know it will pass. It always does. Those bright moments, when I’m really me get longer and longer. And those periods of utter despair get shorter and shorter, no matter what life throws at me.
After years of personal growth and exploration, I feel like I have finally found something that is propelling me forward much more quickly. I have stopped searching and I’m doing the work. I finally realized that another book, seminar, webinar, or podcast isn’t going to give me the answer and “fix” me. I’m not broken and there’s nothing wrong with the woman I am today. I’ve read enough. I finally had to just pick something to focus on. All my scattered energy was getting me nowhere.
I wrote down my main goals. I prioritized them and chose the ones I most want to focus on at this time, including self-compassion and focusing on the present moment. I developed a daily practice. It’s a habit that gets me a little closer to my goals each day. Every night, I turn off my electronic devices at a pre-determined curfew! I read over my list of things I’m working on and I ask myself, “What worked well and what would have been better?” I journal about those two questions and then I mentally revise what I would have liked to handle better.
My relationships are getting better and better, each one better and healthier than the last. I’m still single and don’t have any family, as my mom passed away 11 years ago when I was in broadcasting school. I met two of my best friends shortly after that. They have stuck by me and supported me when I felt like I had nobody. They remind me whenever I need it that I’m not alone anymore. I am loved and I do have people in my corner, even if my instincts tell me I don’t.
For the past seven years, I’ve been volunteering with a suicide prevention hotline. My innate ability to connect with callers led me to become a trainer with the organization within the first six months. I guess all those years of pain have come in handy relating to others. It’s a continual reminder of how far I’ve come.
Each day, I get a little closer. Each day, I gain a little more control of my life. I’m proud of the amazing woman I continue to become. And I have always been enough.