Last year, I was considerably hurt, confused, and depressed when my ex-fiancé decided to dump me without warning. I couldn’t figure out what went wrong. In my eyes, our relationship was great. I was doing everything I could do have a solid and healthy relationship, but life did what it normally does. It threw a curve ball and had me on a plane 4 days later to Orlando, leaving the house I made into a home, most of my clothes and shoes, books, and everything important to me.
I couldn’t understand it. If I had done nothing wrong, why was I ushered out of a happy life that I had worked so hard to create? It felt like I was being punished for doing my best. Out of the blue, I was told that the happiest three years of my life were mostly a lie. My world collapsed all around me, and I was expected to forgive and put on a happy face when I heard promises of, “We’re going to have a great life together. I’m sorry, I didn’t want to hurt you”. When I couldn’t produce smiles and cried a lot instead because my trust had been shattered, I was dumped, while still being told that I hadn’t done anything wrong. I can’t begin to explain the confusion, anger, and grief that followed while I tried to put together any reason for this happening in my mind.
Today, I don’t expect to have a crystal-clear answer, but I do know that I’m on the right path. I couldn’t imagine the pure joy and peace that I have now on this exact date last year.
Am I glad that it happened? On a strange level, yes, I am. The woman I was a year ago and the woman that I am today are on different levels mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Do I approve that I was lied to and led on even after the relationship ended? No, but I forgive and accept that, because I grew. I now know exactly how to handle a breakup, exactly what I want in a partner, and exactly what my boundaries and values are.
This weekend, I had several small breakthroughs that led to one big one. I understood why all of my relationships were the way they were, including the one that I thought was healthy and happy.
Why nothing worked
Not once in my life did I believe that I deserved love or that I was good enough for anyone. Not once. I didn’t believe that I deserved to be with the abusive guys, the absent and avoidant guys, the liars, the cheaters, and the manipulative ones. I didn’t think that I was good enough to be with someone that treated me worse than dirt. Even in the relationship I perceived to be healthy and great, I believed that I didn’t deserve him and that he would leave me no matter what I did. That belief came true.
How could a beautiful, intelligent, funny, and feisty woman have no sense of self-anything? I did not believe I was beautiful or funny. I didn’t think I had strength of any sort. I believed, on every level, that I was subhuman and worthless. How could someone who has a smile that lights up a room with such a kind heart think so little of herself?
The answers rest squarely on the shoulders of my parents.
*trigger warning: physical, emotional, and sexual abuse*
Here’s a brief summary of my life:
Day after day of being criticized, being told that I was ugly, worthless, and hearing, “At least she’s smart.” Being told that an A- was not good enough when I was happy that I got it. Getting constantly compared to others while being told that I was not good enough and never would be. Having my accomplishments and achievements downplayed like it was some kind of participation trophy (for example: “Well, anyone can do that,” when I got the Principal’s Award in high school). No kinds of boundaries or privacy at all while I was a child or teenager. Not being believed then punished when I told one of my parents that I was being touched inappropriately by a neighbor. Being yelled at and beaten for not understanding pre-algebra homework 7th grade. Not being allowed to go to sleepovers or have a cell phone to actually learn how to grow and maintain platonic friendships. Watching one parent in particular be a completely different person outside the house, someone that was fun and engaging, someone that I actually liked to be around, switch gears and turn into a tyrannical dictator at home. One parent being consistently gone for months at a time because of their job, leaving us alone with the dictator. Listening to tirade after tirade telling me that life was not fair, and that it would not be kind to me. Not being believed when I let down my mask and told others what my life was really like. Having to project this image that we were a happy family at all times around other people, knowing that I would be torn apart and critiqued as soon as I got home regardless of if I toed that line or not. Learning to be “on” and perfect at all times, so that no one would suspect the amount of fear and pain that I experienced every single day. Being punched in the face when I dared to announce that I was moving out when I was twenty-one, after being reassured by my younger brother that everything would be fine. Everything was not fine.
My parent went on some kind of tirade about something on a Saturday night while I was in 11th grade. I had inevitably done something wrong, like existing or letting my guard slip, or something along those lines that ended in me getting beaten. The following day, I was bought an iPod as an apology gift. I brought it to school the following Monday. My best girl friend at the time sighed and said, “You’re so spoiled.”
The look I gave her and the venom in my voice when I said, “Don’t you ever say that to me again,” almost ruined our friendship. She didn’t speak to me for a week. She couldn’t have known what I went through for that damn iPod. I ended up apologizing to her for being abused. Just call me Simone Biles for the amount of mental gymnastics I had to do to survive.
I remember the one true thing that I wanted when I was a little girl:
I only wanted to be loved.
Changing my beliefs
When I was in treatment, I knocked a snowflake off the iceberg that was the abuse I received in my formative years. I thought the abuse was so called “tough love”. I understood and forgave eventually, but the amount of deprogramming I had to and continue to do is endless. The beliefs that I have held firm since I was around 3 or 4 are:
I am not worthy of life.
I am worthless.
I am only worthy of conditional love. I must perform to receive love.
I will never be good enough.
I don’t deserve kindness.
Imagine taking those beliefs into a job interview, a relationship, or literally anywhere. When anyone showed me the least bit of positive attention, I glommed onto them, couldn’t let go, and was terrified that they’d leave. That has happened cyclically and consistently for my entire life. Going into a relationship with the attitude that I was not worthy, and that they would leave me became a self-fulfilling prophecy every time. You should’ve seen all of the things I did in the beginning of a relationship to try and prove that I was worthy of love. The constant cooking, cleaning, porn star levels of sex immediately, the mothering, the support…. I did it all instantly and consistently to prove that I was worthy of their love. At the time, I thought it was just me “being amazing”. No. It was me not knowing that I was amazing without having to sweeten the deal to prove my worth. I feel for my younger self for thinking I had to. I didn’t value myself, which in turn led to my partners not valuing me. There were self-fulfilling prophecies everywhere I turned.
I understand now that it wasn’t my fault. I am working and succeeding at disproving my beliefs with:
I am worthy of a happy, healthy life.
I have worth and value.
I am worthy of unconditional love without having to perform.
I am more than good enough.
I deserve kindness, respect, and honesty.
It takes constant reminders and affirmations, replacing negative thoughts, and telling Karen (my inner critic) to hush. I have to stay on top of myself every second of every day. But it’s worth it. My head is a much safer place now than it has ever been.
Last year’s insane pain and grief was a blessing in disguise. I couldn’t see it at the time, but I can now. I would not be where I am had I not gotten my heart broken that badly. My next relationship is going to be so much better than anything I had accepted before, and I’m so excited for it. My relationship with myself is so healthy and feeling excitement to be with myself is the weirdest but best feeling in the world.
What’s amazing is that these revelations have changed my energy so much in just a few days. I’m pulling in new and positive people that can relate to my story. A new and really exciting life change is coming up soon. And I’m really investing everything I have into myself and my happiness for the first time.
If something life-changing has happened to you recently, and you’re reeling from it and can’t understand why or what’s going on, take a deep breath. Something equally as good is on its way. Believe in that. Write it down, safety pin it to a stuffed animal, and hold that close to you while you work through your pain and grief. My giant teddy bear, Mr. Buddy, has a pink bandana tied around his neck to remind me every day that something wonderful is coming soon. It’s the first thing I see when I wake up, and the last thing I see before I sleep. Give yourself a little reminder like that, and I hope it helps you make it through each day until your pain becomes a blessing.