Growing up, I was always talked about and openly discussed while I was present. I have strong, vivid memories of people discussing my behavior or something that I did to upset something or another. I was the source of someone else’s stress or hand-wringing of some sort. I never truly felt loved in the deepest sense of the word, what so many crave and desire to have.
I wanted hugs and to be told I was a loved child, not given the latest jeans or the trip that we took. Sure, they were at the time the only things I associated with being cared for, not cared ABOUT. I enjoyed the things and the trips at the time, but I was too young to truly understand. It wasn’t until many, many years later when I finally started seeking a way to unearth all the confusing feelings that haunted me that I found out that love did not equate with things.
It wasn’t until I was much older that I learned that what I experienced was emotional abuse at the hands of my mother. She is no longer with us, but I have spent these past several years trying to understand a lot of what I go through now and how I never healed from the damage I experienced. When my mother adopted me, I believe that the intent was to love me and give me a wonderful life. If a wonderful life and love were defined as the receiving of things (clothing, trips, money, trinkets etc), then I did in fact have a full childhood. Full of what I have no idea to this day.
Several years ago, when my childhood bully reached out to apologize to me, they specifically mentioned that the main reason they bullied me was because of all the things I had. I had the best jeans, the nicest pool, I went to private school. My contact with her was one of the first things that opened my eyes about my childhood. I was never told I was loved. I was never hugged. I was given things. So, when I rebelled and wasn’t the perfect child they thought they purchased from the orphanage, then I became the bad child, the child who wasn’t worthy of their attention anymore. I sought it elsewhere and had teenage years that were seriously rebellious and I missed out on many opportunities that I believe could have shaped my life differently. Instead of finding out what they may have been doing wrong or ways they could help the family, they instead sent me to counseling and programs to figure out what was wrong with me. They never changed how they did things, so I never changed either.
I wish that someone had read the above to me many years ago. To the outside world, my mother was the “perfect mom”, especially having to “put up with me”. I always felt like I had no self-worth, no direction, no real sense of purpose. I lashed out, hanging out with the wrong crowd, getting involved in unsavory activities and seeking out love and attention any way a lost and lonely teenager could. I missed out on a lot of fun things that could have truly enhanced my life and brought a brighter future. However, dwelling on what could have been really isn’t my purpose here. So…what is?
What needs to be my mantra, the very thing that I tell myself every day until I truly no longer need to formulate the words is…I AM ENOUGH. It doesn’t matter how I walk, what I weigh, what I listen to or watch, or anything in particular. What I do for me, right now, every day, is ENOUGH. I don’t owe the world anything, no explanation, nothing. I do not need to do anything other than learn, grow and heal from what I endured all those years ago. It did not end the day I left high school or the day I moved out. In fact, to this day, I still consider myself a victim of emotional abuse. I believe that abuse led me to seek out and eventually find people who were no good for me and who treated me the way that I expected to be treated…poorly and with undertones of many types of abuse. I allowed it because it was attention. I didn’t know what love was.
As each year goes by, I believe I am getting closer to figuring out what love is. I know so far that you cannot buy it or fake it. You can give and receive it, but you cannot take it. It is often used as a weapon, but that does not work in the end. I truly sense that it is something that you feel with every part of you, yet it is not fleeting. It takes many forms. One day, it is the laughter of your child, the next, the touch of a lover. It can be the joy you feel when you watch the sunset, or what you see when you watch an old married couple help one another. All I know is that it has nothing to do with a price tag.
One day, I hope that I will heal and truly know love and all that it has in store for me. Perhaps it is something I have but don’t yet recognize in its true form. Maybe it arrives in wisps around me and I’ve yet to fully feel the impact. Until then, I will recite my mantra every day that I am enough.