“My mother’s dead.” The words just didn’t come out of my mouth. I was paralyzed, not able to speak. I was looking straight ahead, searching for a way out, for a way not to utter the words, but I didn’t find one. Instead hundreds of memories of similar situations flooded my mind. “It’s OK a voice was telling me, it’s OK, you’re older now. It’s alright, they won’t freak out.” The silence grew louder. I knew someone would have to speak, but I just didn’t find the words.
I was at a “flatmate interview.” I was back for a second one in fact – I had met two of the flatmates the day before and now I was being introduced to the third. We were talking about food, somehow I always end up talking about food.
The guy joked and said he was the master chef of the household. I laughed and said that’s what my dad always says. They asked me if my dad really is good at cooking and I said yes. Then they jokingly asked if he is better than my mom and everything froze.
I didn’t want to kill the light atmosphere by saying that actually, yeah my mom has been dead for so long I have forgotten what her cooking tasted like, but I believe she was quite good as I have memories of cooking and baking with her and my dad doing the same. On the other hand, I couldn’t lie as if I ended up living with those people, sooner or later they would realize she’s dead. Besides, I told myself: at this age, surely more people must have lost their parents. It’s quite normal, right?
Yet, flashbacks from my childhood clouded my mind – back then the whole room would go silent and mumble some apologies and you’d have to smile and say “no, really, it’s fine” and all you wanted was to avoid their embarrassment for thinking they had caused you pain by having asked a completely normal question, only to find out they had said something “wrong.” You wanted to avoid the staring eyes, the pity. You desperately tried to ease the situation by smiling and hoping everyone could just keep talking and joking. All you wanted, all you longed for, was to be normal. Just like everyone else.
So the voice inside my head told me I was older, it should be fine to say it (after all I had said it a hundred times before and in recent years, not thinking much about saying it at all), and there must be a way of keeping the conversation light – breeze it over and keep talking – but as I had gone paralyzed I couldn’t think. Me. I can talk my way out of anything and I had absolutely no clue of what to say. I just stared straight ahead, panic slowly creeping into every corner of my mind. I was twelve again – judging my every word before I uttered it, finding each word unsuitable and ending up saying nothing.
The guy broke the silence by cracking a joke about me not wanting to put my dad ahead of my mom. I finally croaked out that my mom’s dead, but haha, step-moms, yes hahaha. And suddenly I was hit by another flash from my past: fear of being judged for the abnormal family. In the instance I uttered “step-mom” I seriously thought that my chance of getting the room was gone. Bye-bye confident young lady, hello Cinderella. Hello someone whom no one wants to be associated with. I think it took me a whole minute to recover from this idea; realizing it was nonsense. I was no longer the geek, with two popular step-sisters and a step-mom whom everyone detested. I wasn’t the girl with the fucked-up family relations, I was just me.
As I walked out of that house the other night it was the most bizarre sensation – it was as I had just experienced my twelve year old self again. All her fears, insecurities, everything had just come over me with a power I wasn’t prepared for. I simply relived what it was like to feel “abnormal” and I guess that’s the root of most my fears – of being disliked for some part of me I can’t really control. A shame so deep I hid in a corner for years and once I came out of the corner I would cover it up trying to be perfect, at least on the outside.
A few weeks ago I had a conversation with my dad – I was telling him about how my somewhat chaotic past has made me who I am today and how grateful I am for that. I haven’t had an easy ride. I have suffered more mental anguish than I hope to see anyone ever do. I have been depressed twice….it just hasn’t been easy. Normally I don’t speak of it like that. I don’t tell people of the paranoias I have been through because…well, I see it as madness and, quite frankly, I’ve been ashamed of it. My own self-image growing up was twisted and it took me years to overcome it; years of anguish and pain.
When I was twelve I thought anyone who hugged me or patted my shoulder did so in sympathy – no one really liked me, it was just some sort of big cover up to be nice and truly, there was something wrong with me. I wasn’t normal. My mom had died, my step-mom detested me, the boys rejected me and the bullies…well, they bullied me. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I was sure it was something, I just couldn’t see it myself. For a while I thought maybe I was mentally retarded somehow, I just couldn’t figure out how. And love, wasn’t love, it was pity. It was a conspiracy to make me feel good. That, my dears, is how messed up I was. I couldn’t see love so if you shoved it in my face. What’s more: I had no idea of how to behave, I just did anything to please, hoping somehow I’d be liked. Of course I was petrified of people though as I thought they didn’t like me, so I can only begin to imagine how I behaved. I never had anything to say because I went through in my mind all the possible objections, ridicule and what have you before I opened my mouth and if I, after that, deemed it safe to speak it usually came out the wrong way anyhow.
I guess I spent one Friday night too many alone in my room when I was fourteen, with no other excuse than the one friend I really had didn’t enjoy partying. And when my dad asked because he wanted me to be happy, I felt judged. When the cool kids talked about their amazing weekends, I felt judged. I wasn’t sitting in my room on a Friday night out of choice – I was there because I didn’t have friends. I didn’t feel too hot about that. Who wants to state out loud that no one likes you enough to spend their free time with you? To make matters worse my step-sisters were two of the coolest girls in school.
When I turned fourteen, fueled by stories I found in books, about the idea that life had to change as I became a grown-up, I made a promise to change; to stand up for myself and the fire I’ve always had inside started burning brighter. My dad raised me to believe in my own strength and to fight, but it’s still taken me two depressions and a lot of work on my spine to stand up for myself, not just for the professional me, but for the personal me. The professional me was never a problem – even when I was hiding behind glasses the size of UFOs I argued to get people to listen to my ideas.
It’s taken me endless Friday nights of partying, endless friendships, endless amounts of love for me to now say: you know what: it’s Friday night, it’s my birthday in fact, I’m not out partying and that’s OK. There’s simply nothing going on tonight that I know of (that’s what the former me would have judged as social failure) and I am celebrating with my friends tomorrow and even if I had no friends I would know I am OK. I am good. I love me. I wouldn’t hate myself if no one else liked me. I would like love, in fact I would really love love and that’s something I have never confessed to either, but I wouldn’t turn against myself if I didn’t get it. Because that was the end result in the past: self-hatred, or self-loathing. I didn’t dislike anything much about me, I just thought the core must be wrong somehow – I deserved punishment as no one loved me.
So the point…well the point my dears is this: when I spoke to my dad I said I was thankful. Why? Because the demons I had as a child could not be ignored. I had to fight to feel like a normal, happy person. I went on a journey most people don’t have to undertake and therefore never do. I have a huge amount of sympathy for everyone who has fucked up in life, because I know what it feels like. I know what it feels like when you try to fight back – when you suddenly go from the one being abused to the one saying to everyone you don’t care about anyone’s bloody opinion, still hiding behind an attitude, scared senseless of ever becoming vulnerable again. Of ever becoming that kid sitting in a corner of the classroom crying your eyes out hysterically because your mom just died. But that’s just it – you have to face that inner child. You have to let it be. You have to say it’s OK. The fears, the shame, the humiliation, the anger…it’s all OK. It’s OK that you were fucked up by what happened. It’s OK because you came through. It’s OK to be who you are. Only then can you open up and love others. And, as I was telling my dad, I have been blessed by the love of more friends than I could ever have dreamed of. I’m also blessed to know that people come to me for love and support – because of what happened to me and because I came through, I can now help others and that’s a gift worth more than a million sparkling diamonds. More than anything though, I have finally been blessed by the love of me; the lack of that was the root of all my problems. To love myself is the greatest gift I have ever known.
If anything ever happened to you that you are ashamed of – if you were beaten, molested, bullied…if you had anorexia, depression…if you ever did something “bad”…forgive yourself. You can be loved even if your mother left you and your father beat you, even if everyone detested you, including yourself. You can be loved. Love yourself. And allow the world to see the gift that is you. You are amazing. Your light will light the way for others. You are simply beautiful.
Love, even the parts of you that are broken, love, even the parts of you that are hurting, love, even the parts of you that are lonely, love, even the parts of you that are ugly, love, love all of you until all of you is love. Love. Love is beautiful. You are love. You are beautiful. Love.