My life rocks.
I’ve got a loving relationship, fulfilling career, good friends, accepting family and healthy self-love and respect flowing from every pore of my being.
But before you think I’ve been mainlining some of Pollyanna’s special stash, let me back up to the beginning of this fairy tale ending.
I’ve known since age four or five.
Growing up—raised in a strict fundamentalist Christian church in the Southern part of the United States in the 1960s—was a perfect recipe for a life of self-loathing, anger and victimhood.
From the first time I stepped into a church, I was taught to believe I was going to hell. What a lonely, depressing, and negative thing to ask someone to believe—especially a child. Although no one had a clue about me, I was surrounded by people who believed their God hated me for being gay. They felt justified in hating me, too.
At age 18 I was no longer able to suffer alone in silence. I told my parents, and my worst nightmare came true.
I was sent to a physician who sexually molested me. Then I was locked in a psychiatric hospital because they thought I was depressed. Of course I was miserable. I’d just been violated and the two people who were always supposed to love me said I was a business risk, I broke their hearts, I needed to become straight and I should go live at the YWCA.
I did move out, leaving behind the only security I’d ever known, which started a two-decade-long search for a rescuer—someone or something to wave a magic wand and make all the pain and feelings of unworthiness from being different simply disappear.
I looked to food as the cure. I looked to relationships, shopping therapy, snagging the most beautiful lover and amassing all the trappings of success as defined by the world around me.
Nothing and no one ever satisfied my loneliness and feelings of worthlessness.
One day I just couldn’t hold the pain any longer and I broke down. I remember sitting on the couch with my three dogs huddled around me, rapidly going through a box of tissues and about to open a second. The tears did not stop. I sobbed because life sucked.
I felt helpless and hopeless.
Without someone to rescue me and cheer me on, I did not imagine much chance for contentment. On that couch, rehashing all that was wrong with life, I felt destined to be miserable and lonely and thought of ending it all. I was fully caught up in the largest pity party I’d ever hosted when something extraordinary happened.
Originating from deep within my heart, the soul of who I am, a thought arose:
“Do you enjoy feeling this way?”
I screamed out loud to no one, “Of course not!” My soul responded:
“Who do you think is actually responsible for creating the joyful and fulfilling life you want?”
In the instant it took for “I am” to roll off my lips, the idea I’d held for so long that someone or something outside me had the power to fix my life or heal the holes within my heart vanished.
I became empowered by the truth. Creating the life I wanted was up to me. To stop being a victim of circumstances beyond my control I had to become the victor over the life I had been given.
No matter what had happened to me, I was the one choosing to relive it in the present. It was my choice to keep the hurt and resentment alive by dragging them into each new day.
Those who mistreated me had moved on or died or were oblivious to the pain they inflicted. Even if each of them were to emotionally wake up, assume liability for their actions and beg for my forgiveness, the past would still remain unchanged. What was done was done.
I was the one permitting the past to continue having power over me in the present.
That honest moment of surrender to tender self-reflection forced me to admit that I could no longer carry around the oppressive weight of this anger and blame.
No matter how much I wanted to remain outraged at the long list of people and beliefs that hurt me—to live as a justified victim—if I wanted any chance of contentment and peace, I would have to let it go. Yes, growing up had been hard, but that day when I hit an emotional bottom, I began the process of accepting.
I accepted that life remained chaotic and unsatisfying because I still saw myself, other people and the world around me through the eyes of a helpless child. I was now an adult, who had power over my actions and choices and healing.
I cannot tell you—life went from horrible to fantastic in what seemed like the blink of an eye.
Building my self-confidence and self-respect did take time though. Creating a life of joy and fulfillment remains my daily goal. I can say my healing began in earnest when I realized the child who had been hurt did not have the skills to heal the adult I had become.
It was the adult me who had to be stronger, kinder and more responsible than the people and circumstances that hurt me. It was the adult me who did the work necessary to free myself from self-loathing, anger and feeling like a victim.
To create the best life you can from the one you were given, you must stop looking for a rescuer, something or someone outside you to heal your heart.
Whether you are haunted by simply being different, sexual violations or infidelity—stop using or abusing yourself in a misguided attempt to get back at those who hurt you in the first place.
Regardless of what happened in your past or how you were treated by others, what matters most is how you treat yourself today.
As an adult of childhood abuse and mistreatment the most significant comfort to lean on is this: your soul is whole, no matter how wounded you may feel. You are a powerful adult who has control of your behavior and choices and healing.
You can take the actions necessary to free yourself from blame and the helplessness that comes from seeing yourself as a victim.
Choose to be the victor over your life’s circumstances.
Seek the assistance of a psychiatrist, a psychologist or counselor.
Attend a support group. Find like-hearted people who have successfully overcome what you struggle with. Focus on letting go of the past by concentrating on what you can make of your present and future.
Please consider this the testimonial of a good friend—one who is only an email away.
With self-love, no hurt or challenge is too big to overcome.
In fact, it is precisely when life sucks that you must choose to love yourself deeply, honestly and intimately because you absolutely don’t need a knight to create your fairy tale ending. You can come to your own rescue.
You just need to believe in you, like I do.
Author: Regina Cates
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren