In my last post I discussed some of my greatest insecurities. The first question of my deepest fears: Do I look/ speak/ act like someone who’s family didn’t love them unconditionally? After deciding that wearing expensive clothing, avoiding ‘Aussie twang’ and not using profanity was hiding the reality my troubled childhood, I understood that positive body language and confident communication was an important final stage of my ‘act’. So I read articles like ‘how to appear confident’ or ‘body language tips’ and adapted my behaviour accordingly.
But what was all of this act about? Why couldn’t I just accept the hand I was dealt and move on with my life? I deeply resented myself for having these problems and until recently I chose not to look into my insecurities too deeply because that would mean I was feeling sorry for myself.
After leaving home at 15, couch surfing a little, and eventually settling in a youth shelter to complete my final years of high school I found myself thrown into the adult world. This was absolutely terrifying. Believing that my days of dreaming about love and support were officially behind me, I saw a long road ahead. I excused my extended family for ignoring my parents abuse, deciding that I wasn’t their problem. That excuse inspired me to withdraw from anything other than my immediate responsibilities when life was difficult.
Why did I exclude the closest people in my life at times when most people are sharing their struggles? Because I had no idea that was a thing. I was raised to never discuss any problems. In hindsight, my parents trained me to do this because they were guilty of treating me horribly. What worried me most was how can we know what to question about the values conditioned in us from birth? We trust what our parents tell us as facts, and many of these facts are unconscious parts of our daily lives. I couldn’t even imagine where to begin.
So how does one act like they have experienced unconditional love? They are confident, open, sometimes a little obnoxious (in the eyes of a girl who had zero self esteem). I was none of those things. I was insecure, reserved and overly kind to absolutely everyone, no matter how rude they were towards me. I treated people this way for a few reasons: First and foremost I believed that bullies need to be loved more than anyone, after all this is what they tell you in school. What isn’t mentioned there is that some bullies are seriously lacking in empathy. I also believed that as an abused child it was my duty to be respectful and considerate of everyone but myself. And lastly, I was terrified of how people might react if I ever stood up for myself. I couldn’t afford to lose any amount of kindness offered to me, so taking an emotional or even physical beating was a small price to pay for the relationships I was told ‘I didn’t even deserve’.
Once I left my family I had enough self respect to not allow anyone to be physically violent towards me ever again. But to this day, no amount of physical abuse I have endured compares to emotional or psychological abuse. I would beg my father to hit me rather than spit out all of the hateful things he thought of me. When given the responsibility of taking care of his 10 year old daughter, my father was able to beat me and emotionally abuse me repeatedly over several years. He did this as a stranger to me, a man I had met several times, and the only adult who knew I suffered from PTSD.
My mother on the other hand is someone I felt very sad for. She suffers from anxiety, depression, and what I believe to be untreated drug induced psychosis. Always worrying about the government, or chemicals in the air, or the neighbours watching her. She is also shut off and resentful towards her astonishingly devoted parents, telling my brother and I that we were never accepted or loved by them. So my closed off world consisted of my parents, and my fathers family who often told me I was a terrible child. These were people who I decided at a young age were not relatable, yet I had unconsciously adopted the repercussions of their abuse- people are dangerous and NEVER ASK FOR HELP.
I no longer believe all people are dangerous. Unfortunately, I still have the fear that at no matter how much anyone tells me they love me, they could turn on me. Leaving me feeling alone and ashamed of myself for considering that love is something I deserve. This is no longer an ‘alternative fact’, but it is a present concern at times when I feel like standing up for myself.
So how did I act? I would act like I didn’t matter, I would be ok if people leave or exclude me. I would act like I didn’t need love or support and that I understood why people would treat me poorly. I thought I acted as though I was strong, but what I realise now is that there is nothing stronger than being vulnerable. To be able to say “hey, things aren’t going so great right now, I would really appreciate your support” and to trust in the fact that the other person might be just as appreciative of being able to offer their support.
What is becoming apparent is that it has nothing to do with whether I act like a victim of child abuse. That value is a shallow and lonely existence, and personally impossible to avoid. I acted so strong and independent that I isolated others from being supportive towards me, or for them to feel comfortable around me when they were vulnerable. Like, the building blocks of loving, supportive relationships. Those moments where you struggle together to grow stronger as a team… They are what scared me. These beautifully scary experiences of vulnerability are slowly breaking down my act and building strength within my facade, and as each day passes I become more and more ready to embrace it.
Warm regards, xxx