So I saw this picture circulating on my Facebook feed. And I’ve been having a tough time writing lately, even though I’ve been craving it. Like, haven’t even been able to sit down and write something simple. So I’m trying this. Day one – a short autobiography.
I was physically, mentally, and emotionally abused by my father until I was 15 years old. I continue to be mentally and emotionally abused by him and I am turn 30 in August of this year. But that isn’t what I want my life story to be about, so in the last year, I began rewriting that story. I started by being honest about the abuse I suffered, speaking plainly about it for the first time in my life. I have shared my story and will share my story, again and again, so long as helps someone else recognize the abuse in their own lives, so long as it is in support to show people who it isn’t their fault and they can move away from it.
But my story today really started nearly a decade ago when I met and fell in love with my husband. Because for the first time, I believed I was actually worthy of love. I have always been headstrong and independent and most people who knew me then would have said that I knew myself – which was mostly true – and that I loved myself. But that wasn’t true. I believed the only people who could love me were my family, because they had to or were just amazing people, or pitiful guys who had so little that they threw their love at me. Because I was broken and flawed and disgusting.
But my husband has worked every day to show me that I am beautiful and wonderful and the only broken-ness in me was that I couldn’t see myself. And it has been a long hard road for both of us. It isn’t every couple that gets the chance to show that they actually will love one another despite their worst. We were both broken in ways when we met one another, ways that we didn’t let the outside world see. I won’t talk about the way that my husband was broken, because that is his story to tell, not mine. But I can tell you that every crack and break has been faced and more than a few have been mended.
The most important one in me was the fact that when I looked in the mirror, I saw a fat, lazy, ugly woman. When I looked at pictures, it was in spite of the fact that I was in them. These were not things I said in an attempt to get compliments, especially since I rarely said out loud how I felt. No, these were voices in my head (the healthy kind that we all have, not the schizophrenic kind) that whispered insidiously to me. Fat. Ugly. Unworthy.
And, strangely enough, the moment that finally tipped the scales, that finally pushed me to a place to really examine those voices so that I could put them aside, was a moment cause by my primary abuser. You see, he’d gotten sober and had gotten better. My father is the type of alcoholic that doesn’t have to have a single drink to be an asshole – his entire personality was different for the brief few years that he had completely quit drinking. At least, I assume that was what happened. Or he briefly thought he was actually going to die. I don’t know what went on in his mind in those years when I actually thought that we’d be able to move away from the way he’d treated me and into a healthy relationship.
He shot those dreams out of the sky when I asked him a health question that was completely unrelated to weight or diabetes. And he informed me, oh so casually, that I was fat and lazy and needed to be put on insulin before I lost a limb because I couldn’t handle it as well as he did. You know, by abusing his daughter.
I was enraged for months. I still have to fight a small bubble of it that rises within me when I remember that night. But it was a night of healing for me. Because for the first time, I recognized without a quibble that those hateful voices in my head weren’t my own. They were his voice. I started really looking at myself, really examining the way I think of myself in my own mind. And I started silencing those hateful voices.
I am beautiful. I have fabulous legs – no really, they are fantastic. And I have gorgeous hair that is naturally healthy and the color of old gold. I have a smile that makes other people smile. You know how I know, other than watching the smiles bloom on other people’s faces? Because they tell me so. Even random strangers, walking through the grocery story approach me to tell me how beautiful my smile is. Isn’t that amazing?
I’m not lazy. I’m a hard worker and if you put a task before me, I get it done. When my best friend needed someone she could trust to work in her store, she asked me. Because she knew that not only would I get the job done, I’d go above and beyond, because I can’t just sit still when I’m at work. The owner of our store wanted me to move up into management almost from the beginning for the same reason. Because I’m a reliable hard worker.
And I am worthy of love. It has always been easy for me to give love. Not romantic love, as my husband is the first man I’ve really, truly loved. Oh, don’t get me wrong, there were a couple of guys in school that I loved as friends and convinced myself briefly were more than that – but it was always a kind of “star-crossed” love, as both moved away during that time. Kind of convenient, isn’t it? But friends, family, random people, children, and animals, I have always had an excess of love to give to them. More importantly, I give it, not in hopes of what I can get in return, but because I am happy to give it – because I know the power that being love brings into your life. Being loved gives you the courage to face things you didn’t think you could face. To do things you didn’t think you could do. I am happy to give that to someone, even if they have nothing to give me in return.
And how can I think that they are all so worthy of love, but not recognize that those same things apply to myself? I’ve labored under the mistaken impression that my mom and my aunt and my grandparents loving me was doing me a favor, that I had to strive and achieve in order to earn that love. Which was always so hard, because I have ever been the kind to go my own way. I couldn’t achieve in the ways that maybe they had hoped for me, but I still struggled to achieve in my own ways to make up for that. I thought for the first few years of our relationship that my husband was a saint for giving me his love. And I can’t imagine how hard that must have been for him sometimes.
But I am worthy of love. And I hope that I can teach those around me, those who are brought into my path and those I stumble across, that they, too are worthy of love. That they are beautiful, exactly how they are. Our bodies are vessels for eternal spirits seeking a human existence, composed of the heart of stars, and capable of amazing things. Our hearts are mighty and awesome tools and love is their most powerful ability. And every single one of us – every single one of you – has that power within them. You are beautiful. You are wonderful. And You are worthy.