You’re a Monster
As I grow older, I find myself reflecting on many of my past experiences. Many of them positive and in some way contributing to my future goals as I continue to push myself forward as a creative. Others, I face as a means of healing, along with writing about them on my blog. It’s part of my healing. I’ve been chained to the demons of my past, notably those of emotional abuse by peers. I don’t expect anyone to fully understand the scope of what I’ve had to live with and through. From the outside, my life is that of what some refer to as “white privilege.” My father worked his way from poverty in order to provide for my mother and I. He provided much for both of us, but it wasn’t without some form of sacrifice. I used to take that for granted. Now I do not, or at least I try not to. But there were darker things that very rarely come to light.
There is no doubt that I am anything but traditional. I do not hold traditional values in some areas. In others I do. But there are things that have molded me in my life, some good, some bad. As I’ve discussed before, my parents raised me to be my own advocate and to do what needs to be done of my own accord, not relying on anyone else. I wasn’t raised to be, as some say, a “team player.” It’s not that I don’t want to be a part of a team and it’s not like I wake up each morning with the attitude of making anyone’s day miserable. It’s that I don’t know how to be otherwise. Some of that thought pattern is in how I was raised. Some in how I was treated by my peers as a child and into my young adult years. I’m a firm believer in the golden rule and remind myself of that daily but we all slip up.
I’ve become more open, recently, about some of the demons that have held me back for so long, not for attention or pity, but to move past them. As I’ve stated before, men have generally been a source of negativity and angst in my life. That is not to say I hate men. I do not. But I have an incredibly hard time trusting them. I do not believe they often have my best interest at heart. Some probably think I hate people but that is the furthest thing from the truth. I love socializing, laughing, goofing off and conversing with others. But I find myself questioning the gender bias quite often. You may think it doesn’t exist but it does. Women are expected to smile and be over-the-top nice to everyone and never have a bad day, never be assertive, never be confident and to simply take whatever is dished out to us. Take a look at how some Hillary Clinton haters react to even so much as the mention of her name. There is a subconscious hatred for women of assertion, confidence, competence and ability. Some men, and even women, go to great lengths to bring those women down.
I don’t necessarily consider myself a woman of assertion. I can be very direct and at times, hard to work with, but I can also be very cautious and methodical in my approach. Indecisiveness, however, drives me bat-shit crazy. Make a decision, even if it’s a bad one, simply make one. I don’t like subtlety or dancing around the bush, so to speak. I like specifics and clarity when interacting with people or working on projects. Let’s get it done so we can work on more cool stuff. I don’t care for small talk, often preferring intellectual conversation over general chit chat. I crave substance. This part of my personality can oftentimes intimidate other people, often leading to misinterpretations, misunderstandings and miscommunication. At times I will state something directly to a person and without my knowing, they have perceived it as my being a bitch when that is the furthest thing from my intention but I digress as that is not the point of my musings today.
I have always been a tom-boy. I asked to have my hair cut short at the age of around eight because I was swimming so very often that the tangles were becoming unbearable. I’ve kept it short ever since. I’ve also never been one to play with dolls or anything pink. I hate the “color” pink.
Being that “different” in the south unsurprisingly lead to my being bullied. If you were female, you were, and still are, expected to have long hair, wear dresses and skirts, and be submissive, all things I generally am not. I remember being jumped on the playground multiple times, punched and beaten. I was slammed against a cinderblock wall in middle school, nearly concussed as a result. I was sexually assaulted, by definition, by a boy I hung out with when I was young. I heard, repeatedly from peers and even some extended family members, that I wasn’t good enough. I had people tell me that I would drop out of high school or that I wouldn’t make it through college. I had people tell me I wouldn’t be successful. I was emotionally abused and oppressed by my ex. I’ve been called a monster, hideous, ugly, unloveable, etc. This, repeatedly over time, becomes the belief in thought whether true or not and leaves one weak and beaten. And I had parents whom rarely ever said, “I’m proud of you.” I wasn’t allowed to cry because it was considered a weakness in my family. I didn’t have an outlet to talk about these things. There were no such things as “safe” places for me to release how I was feeling. Teachers did little to protect me. I learned to bottle it all inside with no way to let it go. This created anger issues. My parents had to take me to an anger management therapist as a child. There was little he could do to help us.
As I grew into a teenager, more and more people drove home that I was a monster, or made me believe it further, anyway. Again, with no outlet, it kept building. At 17, I was on the verge of suicide and thus began a decade long battle with severe depression and suicidal tendencies, again rarely ever talking about what was bothering me. At that point, I was conditioned to keep my mouth shut. I began cutting myself in an effort to find any form of relief. This is hard for me to open up about as you can imagine. It’s not something I’m proud of. I’m a statistic. I still have scars but as I grow older, they slowly get harder to see. I look at them now and, while I hate to see them, they remind me that I’ve had a million second chances and I’ve tried to overcome much of this in order to heal and become the person I know God has for me to be.
At twenty-eight, I went to therapy and found a sliver of hope. She told me that I was not bipolar. I was not chronic. My depression was simply acute, meaning situationally triggered. Her words of hope were that by the time I was thirty-five, the feelings and weeks or months of depression would slowly become less and less. She was, surprisingly, right. In nearly seven years, what used to be months of depressive battles have now come to last merely days and I’ve found better ways to manage them without medications. I’ve learned to recognize when those funks are coming and prepare myself to ride out those waves.
I’m approaching the age of thirty-five. If anyone had told me I would live to see my thirty-fifth, let alone twenty-fifth, birthday in my late teens and early twenties, I would have labeled them a liar. That’s the direction my life was going. I should have been buried a long time ago, but here I still stand. That should be a testament to the power of faith, even when it wains. That doesn’t mean I don’t slip up. I do. We all do. I have a guarded heart. I don’t allow people in because I’m terrified of trust because I’ve been so hurt and abused in the past.
As my birthday approaches, I want nothing more than to heal. I have done what I know to do but even now in my thirties, I’m constantly reprimanded in one or more areas of my life with little to no positive reinforcement that I matter. It’s hard to feel as if anyone cares when every direction one turns, there’s a constant reminder of that “monster” that was hammered into one as a teen. No one can even begin to imagine how hard that is to deal with and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I don’t say all this as a search for pity. I say this to acknowledge my own shortcomings and to facilitate the healing I so desire, not in need of sympathy.
I keep to myself and wish to keep my life drama-free but I still find people whom insist on bringing drama, often unwarranted, into my life. I am often dragged into the middle of someone else’s problem simply because I exist. Yes, this sort of shit happens even with adults. No one really “gets” me. No one really understands me. I live alone out of fear. I go to work, terrified to even exist. I go out in public, terrified to even speak because of misinterpretation; terrified to trust. I avoid eye contact for fear of discrimination and hatred. North Carolina’s HB2 has only deepened that fear. I have learned to hide it well or behind something else but it’s still there.
I’ve never been held in a genuinely loving embrace by a partner and heard “I love you” and really felt it meant something. I seldom hear anyone say, “you matter.” I know I can do lots of things, creatively. I don’t say that out of arrogance but awareness. I know what my talents are in creative environments and appreciate any acknowledgements to validate those talents and skills. I’ve worked hard to learn the things I know, almost all of which are entirely self-taught. What is often failed to be realized is I would give all that up, I’d give up all of my talents, all my experiences and successes to simply hear a real, “I love you” or “You’re not a monster,” and to be in a genuinely loving relationship. I can’t even begin to explain how painful and raw that can be to admit. I’m entirely willing to give everything up for something so many people take for granted. I have no shame in admitting that. I simply want to be happy and for that black hole in my life to disappear.
I was raised to be a worker, almost a robot. That’s how it was in the south. I was guided to my chosen career because it was a “real” job. I’ve allowed others to dictate my life and what I’ve come to realize is that none of it matters when I fall asleep for the very last time. I want value and meaning in my life.
When you have been told most of your developing life that you are too ugly to be loved or too mean to be loved or too weird, different, etc., it’s very difficult to let that go. I’m learning though. Slowly.
All of this may be saddening. To some this may be scary and there’s great potential that being open about these turmoils (read Should You Be Ashamed Of Your Mental Illness) could very well ruin future opportunities for me or potentially send me to the unemployment line but if I can change even just one person’s life, if I can help even one person through my transparency, then it is worth the risk. It’s time we all be real about this elephant in the room. We can’t have equality and understanding without acknowledgement.
There is a silver lining to all this and one I hang on to tightly. While I am a statistic, several actually, there’s something even more powerful that I am.
I’m a survivor.