There has to come a time I allow myself to be vulnerable. To reject the conditioning which causes me to hide myself and truths about me from the world. This is one of those times.
I am currently living in a room at an extended stay hotel with my husband and three dogs. It’s crowded but workable. It’s clean, I can cook meals, and I’m safe & secure. I am also lonely, isolated, emotional, and deeply sad.
Life has not been kind, and I am an expert at being unkind to myself. Growing up, I was always treated like something was wrong with me. Turns out, it’s true. I am broken and I probably always have been. If not always then the trauma visited upon me in my formative years scattered the pieces of my soul to the winds and I’ve never recovered.
On the subject of my brokenness, I remember my father repeatedly lamenting the “money [he] wasted on therapy” when I was a kid; the same man – a month before his own death – looked at me with disappointment in his eyes when I told him I was mentally ill and asked, “do you really believe that?”, like somehow I’d failed him, again. How could he not have known? Then again, to acknowledge what was truly wrong would have meant admitting he abused his kids and that was out of the question.
It wasn’t until I was ‘grown’ and into my 40s that it was revealed to me my paternal grandmother (father’s mother) was hospitalized every winter threatening to kill herself. Classic mental illness. Yet, it was treated like a family secret instead of a fact of family history. It carried a stigma because it was given one and then hidden away.
I know that many family members on my maternal side have died on or around Chistmas. It’s like a morbid, ugly tradition. And that’s before I get into the number of holidays ruined by my parents’ anger. My mother especially liked to pick fights before we’d even left the house, yell at us in the car for an hour, and then tell all the relatives upon our arrival what horrible children we were. As if she wasn’t the adult in the room shattering her children with a sneer on her face and words like knives. A thousand little cuts every time. Bloody children empty of anything but the contempt they were constantly shown.
And so I sit today, eating cheese & crackers and watching YouTube videos, crying frequently, and unable to escape the black hole in my chest. I dread Christmas every year and it never gets better. So much death, so much instability, so much anger all poured into a vulnerable vessel. No matter how much work I might do I can’t honestly say I’ll ever get any better. The science says it gets harder as I get even older.
I am conditioned to assume no one wants to hear about my life because I was always told & treated like 1) it didn’t matter, or 2) I was making it up. I don’t know how to “get over it” but if I’ve learned anything it’s that people who use that phrase the most are the ones who abuse the most and they just want their victims to be easier to abuse in the future.
If you’ve read this, thank you for for your time and your energy. Traumatized people do traumatizing things, and they have stories full of hurt and horror which are hard for others to digest. This is just a bit of my annual story.
I attempt gratitude sometimes. It can be hard to find when my head & my heart tell my soul to give up – that trying again is a lost cause, that I am a lost cause. Still, today I am grateful for a roof over my head, a clean room, a regular shower, food in the fridge, a vehicle that runs, three healthy dogs, and a partner who shows love and kindness when I’m in pain.
It hurts to know that in many ways I’m lucky, and it hurts even more to know there are others out in the world in much deeper anguish and pain. I do my best to cultivate loving kindness for them – especially, and for all – generally. May 2020 be a better year for everyone.