When I was young I was scrappy and brave. I was a tomboy. My knees got bloody from performing dangerous feats on skateboards and bikes. I bit into a smelling salt capsule and survived. I’ve stepped on broken bottles. Cut my toe off. Kid stuff. All my injuries came from my own reckless behavior. I could take physical pain but I was always super sensitive emotionally.
I kept worms in my pocket because they were cold and I wanted to keep them warm. I even left them in the sun on my window sill once and I cried for days because it was my fault they died. Crispy dehydrated worms.
We had an anthill in our driveway full of red ants. One of my neighbors, a boy smaller than me, was playing at our house and he stood right in their nest. He ran all the way home screaming and his mom hosed him off in his front yard.
Another kid told me snails would eat the ants so I spent my time after school looking for snails and when I had three or four I carefully placed them in the ant hole. It wasn’t true. The ants killed the snails. I cried for days because I killed the snails.
I let friends convince me to use my coat on our asphalt playground to pull them around. We had a blast. All laughing and having the BEST time. I didn’t realize the coat my mom had been saving up to buy me was now covered in horrible holes on its back. I still feel guilty and sad. I didn’t think about what could have happened to my coat.
In 6th grade my best friend liked a boy. He had just broken up with someone else and asked her to date him. She was so happy. And I was happy for her.
When his other girlfriend said he only did it to make her jealous and a few hours later everyone laughed because it was true I felt terrible for her. I tried to comfort her but she said I should have told her not to fall for it. She didn’t talk to me for a week. Then one day on my way home she followed me. Screamed at me for not talking to her. She punched me a few times before I turned around and let her cry. I cried too. Because I was a terrible best friend.
In 7th grade the first guy I really liked met me at the skating rink. When the slow dance came he danced with other girls. I learned that day I wasn’t important and pretty enough for him. That’s when I started trying to be pretty enough for just anyone. We were still friends though because I couldn’t blame him for wanting more than me.
So… how to be pretty enough. Pretty in Pink. I decided to be a girl and wear mostly pink. I felt pretty. I wore dresses. Lipstick. And it wasn’t long before people noticed and laughed at me. So I stopped wearing pink and I wore black.
If I couldn’t be Molly Ringwald I would be my own version of Cyndi Lauper. Black with tons of colorful makeup, hair and my own homemade jewelry. I guess this is when my creativity started. I wouldn’t care what people said about me. I did. But nobody would know. It’s also when I started crying behind closed doors.
The next year I discovered poetry. I wrote so many. I wrote my heart out. My hurt and my anger. My anxiety and frustration. I had a huge notebook full and someone stole it. I know who stole it but they just said stop being a freak and get over it. So I did. I didn’t write again really until I was much older.
I had a car wreck in front of school. I was so embarrassed. I was the girl in the red Camaro who wrecked her car and had to drive her dad’s baby poop yellow pickup again. (I loved that truck though). It fit my personality better. And I felt safe in it. But it also made people laugh at me.
My best friend at the time stopped talking to me. I thought she was embarrassed too. She later stopped me and was angry I thought I was better than her now that people were paying attention to me after the wreck. What people? I was more alone than ever? But I felt bad for so long because she thought I left her when really I was saving her from being embarrassed along with me.
See a pattern forming?
There are dozens more stories. Just to get through high school. You’re a tease. You’re too stuck up. You’re too trashy. You’re a bitch. I can’t get it right. Is this every person’s story? Does everyone feel this way? Are we all just stumbling through a maze of painful blunders or am I socially inept?
I want so much to be a good person. To leave people happier than before they saw me. How hard can that be?
It never got better. I would get involved with someone and they’d take what they wanted and that was that. Then I was in a relationship for decades that was just a series of me messing up, apologizing, and trying harder.
And then I started messing up because nothing mattered. I didn’t matter. I started drinking. It hurt just to breathe.
Eventually I got sober. I stopped hurting myself mostly. And I decided the problem wasn’t just me. I found someone who helped me with that.
There are people that abuse others and their are people who turn their abuse inward. I am an abuser. I abuse myself. But I’m learning that by abusing myself I’m unintentionally abusing others. Isn’t that a kick in the pants.
There are a few things my therapist taught me when I was trying to come back to life. She said it doesn’t do any good to blame someone when in an argument. There are two people in the relationship. You carry equal weight in the responsibility. One person is wronged and one person apologizes and promises corrective action. It’s not often that simple.
Past experiences can get in the way. It’s good to hold each other accountable when it’s suspected past experience is in the way and to work away from that experience into the current experience.
Name calling isn’t helpful. Demands aren’t helpful. Level heads are necessary. And escalation is almost always detrimental.
Knowing these things doesn’t make doing them easy. Triggers. Old habits. Old perspectives get in the way of truth. Sometimes taking a break and giving yourself the space to remember the person you are with clearly is the healthiest way forward.
I don’t know if any of her advice was good advice. I still mess up. I’m still trying everyday to give everything I have to the universe to use. I’m giving everyday the best I have. That’s not a lot many times if I’m honest. Despite depression. Despite anxiety. Despite my self abuse. I’m trying.
And in the end… that’s better than giving up. I think.