I vaguely remember a discussion in what must have been an English Literature or Comp class, about physically abused kids and their options growing up. Most of us assumed that when abused children grow up, they become the opposite of what they endured; that they would never treat someone the way they were treated. But the truth is, in many cases, this is all they know. Maybe they convinced themselves (as part of their survival) that it is normal, or they deserved it. If this is all they ever knew, and they never dealt with it/got help, how could they possibly behave differently?
I’m not an expert on the subject, but I realized something this week: I have become my own abuser. All the messages from my youth, actual and perceived, became part of my truth and I have been repeating them to myself, no, hurling them at myself ever since. You are not good enough. You are lazy. You are worthless. You are stupid. You are fat. You are unlovable. You are the problem. You are… you are… you are… I have accepted these messages as fact, and have refused to hear or believe anything else. More than just accept, I have defended these *truths* with a conviction that is almost comical. Instead of trusting or believing these smart, kind, intuitive people who have complimented me, I *insisted* that they wouldn’t have said these things if they really knew me (the way my parents knew me before I knew myself and the way I came to know myself from what they taught me). I became more proud of my ability to hide the truth; to hide the fact that the real me is utterly unlovable.
What’s interesting is that I continued to believe these lies and distortions long after suspecting that maybe their source could not be trusted. But instead of walking away from the lies and getting to the truth, I continued to hold on (for dear life) to the belief that, someone outside of myself could define me and I was somehow not worthy of better treatment. That I didn’t deserve to take up this space. That I didn’t deserve to be happy. To LIVE. And so, I succumbed to circular reasoning and continued the cycle of neglect.
The seeds my parents planted, as tiny or exaggerated in my mind as they may have been, grew into huge, blossoming trees, with deep, strong roots. You admire these big strong trees and use them for protection and shade, until you notice that the roots are breaking up the pavement and pushing into the foundation of your little house of cards, threatening to bring the whole thing crashing down. (It has created such a mess, that I am mixing metaphors. HAHA)
Knowing and accepting that the tree grew from a seed of lies is the first step. Learning what to do with the tree now that it is there, is next. I can’t just cut down the tree, because it serves a purpose, but I can plant a new tree from a seed of truth and kindness, self care and respect, faith and courage and as it grows, I can slowly start cutting away at the old branches of abuse and neglect, fear and uncertainty. It will take time and it will be hard, but it will be worth it.