Warning: F-bombs up ahead.
Love feels unsafe.
To the little girl within me, love is unsafe—she grew up with abuse.
To her, love means hurt.
Love means pain, trauma, inconsistency, insanity, and conditions.
Love was fucked up, twisted, and tied so deep into their self-hatred, that it came out wrapped in violence, rather than gentleness and warmth. Bitterness, rather than compassion and understanding. Jealousy and resentment, rather than supportive holding and cheerleading.
The love wasn’t hers, it was theirs—it had the potential to change any moment. And generally, it did. No matter how hard my inner girl or inner teen tried, things stayed the same.
Why—and how—would they be any different, now?
I remember the first time I got told about unconditional love, almost three years ago:
“You don’t have to do anything for someone to love you?”
I laughed, thinking it was a joke.
When I realised it wasn’t, I felt a sudden sorrow—a deep grief—for myself.
How did I not know this?
An innately wise part of myself always understood unconditional love existed—as a kid, I remember watching other parents and children, knowing somewhere deep inside that what I experienced at home wasn’t the only way. Somehow I knew, beneath my wounding and fear, that things wouldn’t always be this way.
What I was experiencing was only a chapter, or two, of my Love Story.
As I’ve begun healing my youth and early adulthood, my relationship with love—towards myself and others—is rapidly changing.
I’m learning what love actually is.
But I’m in the messy stage.
My defences, fears, past hurts, and insecurities, feel more tender and in-my-face, than ever—I can’t step round, look past, or dive through my wounding, anymore.
My need to feel safe, feels more important than any other need I have, so it governs almost everything I do.
I struggle to trust people. To believe or trust the love and time they give me, and that they—or it—won’t disappear, feels terrifying, and almost impossible, even though part of me knows it isn’t, and it won’t.
I worry that love I receive will also disappear when the person really sees me and witnesses my imperfections, so I make sure I only share the imperfections I feel safe sharing. Even though I love others for, and with, theirs, and that mine just make me human.
I notice there’s always a desire to rip apart any love or support given, by finding reasons or supposed ‘proof’ that the love wasn’t really genuine—“they were just saying that…they probably felt like they had to”—even though this habit only brings hurt, and I know it’s generally not true. And even if it is, or they were, it’s not my place to take it on.
I take risks, show myself, and share my needs or vulnerabilities—or my authentic rawness and openness—and then freak-out by reading into people’s every move or every word. I disappear for a few days/weeks, convinced I was ‘too much’. Sometimes I find myself laughing, because the theories my inner critic comes up with in these moments are so well thought out, convincing, and hilarious. Other times I find myself unable to laugh or find solid ground beneath the fear and self-judgment, worrying that what I’m believing, is definitely true.
My fear of abandonment feel so great, and so sensitive, that I avoid situations in which there is potential for abandonment—I end up avoiding and declining a lot. Sometimes the fear, or potential risk, of not feeling safe, is one I want—or feel able to—work with and compassionately notice. Other times it isn’t. This part of my relationship with love and trust and people, breaks my heart the most.
I feel like I stranger to myself and my previous life. I almost constantly feel slightly, or completely, disconnected or alone. Even though I’m not.
I let a friend in, become close, and then freak-out with fear of the close connection, and fear that I will be really seen. Sometimes I stay but keep a certain distance, to ensure I feel safe. Other times, I’ve fled out of fear they wouldn’t love me if they continued to get to know me.
If a friend fucks-up, the option of offering forgiveness or compassion feels way too terrifying, at the moment. That’s what I gave my mum for all those years, which—from the eyes of my inner girl—enabled her to keep coming back to hurt me more. I need this time to find my boundaries and learn a balance, and to learn to trust myself. But it does mean that I abandon people.
I don’t value my love enough—I don’t value that my love is a gift itself.
I still slip back into the belief that I can only be loveable when I do, and because I have stripped right back on how much I do for others, out of the need to give almost solely to myself, I struggle with the theory that I’m not as loveable as I used to be during the days that I was Miss Do.
I have a belief that friends love is a pot that only holds a certain amount—it has a time limit or an amount that can be given, and when it’s been used up, it’s gone…they’ll no longer be there. Like, I can’t still be in a pickle and needing advice, or they can’t still be there to support me with another painful experience. This belief used to be so strong and seemingly true, that when people tried to explain that it doesn’t work like that, I felt so fucking confused.
Now, I’m beginning to see that it’s really not true.
Every time a friend is still there, a little part of me heals.
Every time someone still shows up despite me not having ‘done’ anything, or regardless of whether I believed I was loveable the last time we hung out, or whether I’d shown my imperfections, or how many other times they’ve showed up before, a little piece of my unconditional love puzzle is put into place.
As I continue to discover just how twisted my Love Story has been until now, I continue to notice how deeply this impacts the way I love myself—the way I parent myself.I’m almost constantly noticing or realising something different, something new.
Last week it suddenly hit me that I was only loving myself when I was doing or achieving things. I hadn’t realised that that part of the relationship I have with being able to be loved by others, was also the relationship I have towards being able to love myself.
I wrote this note to myself and stuck it on the wall, with the desire to love myself regardless of whether I’m doing or not doing.
I can love myself just for being.
I’m trying to trust that as this new kind of love—unconditional love—, as well as the forgiveness and acceptance it brings, begins to ripple inside myself, it’ll begin to ripple through the beliefs I have about others love for me, too—that they can love me for just being, also.
And that the people around me have been loving me this way regardless of whether I’ve been able to see it and believe it, or not.
I often feel frustrated with my process—the way that my fear and wounding has such a strong hold, and it feels like it’s taking so fucking long to ease or shift—because I long to feel able to be connected and held, rather than scared and un-seen.
When I look closely, though, things are so far from where they once were. And in my heart, I know this messiness and my wounding being so vividly here, is the beginning of truly healing.
And that can’t help but excite me and leave my worry gently soothed.
Relephant to this:
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: elephant archives; Amani Omejer