I used to panic really easily. Usually if there was conflict, or if someone I know was upset with me. For the longest time, I thought it was just anxiety getting the best of me. But then I realized that wasn’t quite right. I realized that these responses were conditioned because people in my life had made me feel such unease that even the thought of breathing too loudly caused my chest to tighten. A lot of this was in relation to the abusive relationship my mom was in for several years. I was afraid to say or do the wrong thing. I was afraid to mention certain things on the phone. Afraid to disagree with anything he-who-must-not-be-named said, because it wasn’t me he would take out his frustrations upon. It was her. In this way, he controlled everything for years.
I had a lot of guilt tied to him. He once bounced my mother’s head off of the marble coffee table right in front of me because my boyfriend at the time was picking me up for the weekend – he knew what was going on and wanted to get me out of the house even for a minute, because the police would say things like, “Well, I didn’t see him do anything,” when my mother would call for help. This particular instance, he was upset because he had broken my mother’s cell phone the week before, and had taken to calling mine two and three dozen times a day to check in and make sure we were still at the house. Not that we could go anywhere because he took the car, but the idea that he wouldn’t be able to keep tabs on her while I was gone threw him into a rage.
When I finally got away, I left her behind. I had a lot of guilt tied to that, tied to the fact that I was going back to college, that I’d left her there and I was repairing relationships with my friends. I had even more guilt tied to the fact that I was an active member of the local munch group in my area. I’m a masochist, and I thought, “well damn I must look like a piece of shit. My mom is a domestic violence victim and there’s a stigma attached to this community anyway, blah blah blah…”
I ended up in therapy for a long time, but I realized something there that I hadn’t realized before, and one of the biggest things I realized is that it wasn’t just him that made me feel like my world was constantly one wrong breath from crumbling down around me. It was everything. When I look back now, I can see that a lot of the people I thought I was closest to – a lot of the people I thought had my back – turned theirs away when I needed them most, and then expected me to jump through hoops and smile and nod while they ripped me apart, regardless of whether or not I’d actually done anything. Every time I couldn’t make a social engagement, every time I disagreed, every time I tried to do anything for myself without making sure they approved of it first, I added another piece of ammunition to the gun. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t drive, that I was starting my life over with literally no money and nothing to my name but a bag of clothes. The “friend” that picked me up from North Carolina and stole me away back to Indiana was great. At first. I stayed at his house with several other friends – six bedrooms, three bathrooms – typical college pad. But I soon realized after I found a job and my own place that he thought I owed him. But it wasn’t about money, and to this day, I don’t know what it was. I offered to pay while I stayed there, I took part in the house chores and errands, I walked everywhere I went, but after I found my own place, he stopped talking to me, and told other “friends” that I was a piece of shit.
So I lived by myself for a while, during which several of these other friends came to couch surf at my house while they were in between apartments, or otherwise didn’t have a place to stay. And hell, I mean, it was a small place, but they stayed for free, usually during which time I got to hear over and over again how so-and-so thought I was a piece of shit and how I should do this or that because they thought that was what was best for me.
Twice a week, I’d walk a mile to my therapist’s office – once to see her, and once to attend a group for women who were survivors of all manner of trauma. The group was led by my therapist, and she thought it would be a swell idea, so I went the first time, and there was all these women gathered around the table, and one of them, a little older than my mother, pulled out a bag. She’d bought sandwiches and drinks for everyone. Even me. We laughed and we told a little bit about ourselves and at the end of it all everyone hugged me like they’d known me for years. The next week, when I went to my normal appointment, I confessed to my therapist two things:
- That I had never known the level of acceptance shown to me by the women in that group, even from my closest friends, and
- That I was carrying around an immense amount of guilt trying to repair these friendships, feeling bad about my mom still being stuck in NC, and that I was certain there was something wrong with me, because she was an abuse victim, and I was a kinkster.
She said, “Honey, first of all, those people aren’t friends. You can’t only be someone’s friend when they’re having a good day. Love isn’t just about the good stuff. Real friends would be supporting you in your hardest times, not judging you for having gone through them. Also, let that freak flag fly. Be yourself. You’ve spent far too long trying to be this thing that other people want you to be, and it will kill you if you keep it up. You have nothing to feel guilty about.”
I have never needed to hear words more than I needed to hear those, and it helped me so much that I can hardly put it into words, but over the years, I have let myself forget from time to time. I’ve let myself fall back into that role where I feel like all day every day I am walking on eggshells trying not to piss someone off, trying to keep my hilariously out-of-balance life from teetering off the deep end because I said the wrong thing or did the wrong thing or talked to the wrong person and I just don’t know if I’m strong enough to pick up all the pieces again, so I smile and nod. Smile and nod until I feel like there’s nothing left of me but this shell that looks like me because I have let so many other people steal little bits and pieces away.
But recently, I had a revelation. A moment where things just clicked and I remembered those words, and I remembered how much better I felt even just hearing them. So I’ve been rebuilding. I’ve made new friends in both worlds. I’ve stopped apologizing because no one will ever tell me how I should feel or what I should think ever again. And it hasn’t been easy, but at the end of the day, I’ve learned that there are people who will accept that, who will accept me at face-value and love me for who I am and not who they think I should be, and that is priceless.
You ever just step outside your front door and take a deep breath and realize how wonderful it is just to be able to breathe? To feel the wind on your cheeks and smell the rain on the air and just…be? It’s like that. And it’s fucking wonderful.
[Shape][Divine Transformations]Nova Shape **custom**
[Head][LeLUTKA]Simone v. 3.4
[Hair][Doux @ Dubai Event]Ubert
[Skin][The Skinnery]Paris (Toffee)
[Lips][Izzie’s]Matte Love Lipstick
[Dress][Ricielli @ FaMESHed]Summer Dress
[Tune][Rachel Platten – Fight Song]