Learning To Love Myself, Letting Go
It’s been many years since I have been happy. I would go so far as to say it has been a long time since I felt anything at all. I have been on autopilot for over ten years. I remember the first time that I felt truly happy. It was a frightening experience because I didn’t know what to make of this unusual feeling.
I was lying in bed and just reflecting on my day. It had been a good day. I spent time with my beloved pets and just enjoyed a quiet evening at home and crying because I hadn’t felt happy for so long.
Years of mental illness and untreated trauma turned me into a shell of a person. I’ve been able to change that with the help of a therapist. My biggest regret is not getting help sooner. I always felt like there was something wrong with me, and I didn’t deserve happiness. These feelings come from the unfortunate aspects of mental illness and being the target of a sexual predator. The grooming that I didn’t realize was taking place after I had been violated. Part of me is still a frightened girl, and over time, I’ve learned to give this little girl inside of me the love she deserves.
It’s been difficult to love myself because I’ve had to take stock of my flaws as well as taking stock of the people and things around me. Taking a hard look at the things around me, I have grown as a person and figured out what I wanted for myself.
I have struggled with loving myself and being happy with my accomplishments. I’m the type of person who never looked at my accomplishments as my own. I’ve always attributed my success to somebody else. For example, when I would finish my articles, I would often attribute my articles being well done to the editor. Of course, editors are essential to the writing process. And so are the writers.
Last month that changed for me. I got a B+ in my business class. I would have usually been critical of the fact that my mom helped me work out the math on a balance sheet or sent one of my papers to the writing center. Instead, I worked hard, I accepted help when I needed it, and I did well. Last month, it all hit me: I’m a successful person. I may not be rich, and I might not be living by another person’s definition of success, but I work hard, and I deserve to be happy.
My student life wasn’t the only part of my life in which I thought I was unworthy. The romantic aspect of my life has been a struggle for me for many years. As a kid, I struggled with my body image. I had scars and a lazy eye. I thought I was ugly. I hid behind a computer screen, thinking that I was some hideous creature.
As I grew up, those insecurities didn’t go away, and they got a lot worse. I am a survivor of sexual assault and sexual grooming. Predators are skilled at picking away at insecurities or vulnerabilities that their victims have and trying to manipulate the victim into needing their abuser by manipulating people around them. Unfortunately, the victim will either completely shut down or eventually go back to the person who hurt them because they’re in need of support.
Learning I was worthy of love changed my whole world. It changed everything for me. Finally, I understand that I’m worthy of love and support and worthy of a good solid foundation for a long-term relationship. My insecurities made me feel vulnerable, and I was in a miserable relationship for a long time. I didn’t know how to get out of the relationship.
Getting out of a toxic relationship isn’t easy to do. We have mutual friends, and more importantly, the two of us have been close for more than three years. In the beginning, things were good; we would talk every night, and I felt loved. But, I was still primed to accept less than I thought I deserved.
As time wore on, I began to see the cracks in a relationship, and I slowly saw the masks that this individual was wearing peeling away. One minute we would be talking about getting married, and the next minute it was like I didn’t exist. There were points in time when I wouldn’t hear from this person for long periods. To add insult to injury, I had bought him a birthday present, a Christmas present, and wanted him to take part in virtual events with me that he never did even though I made a point to do things that were important to him and give him gifts I never got any of that return.
In April of last year, things finally ended. I hadn’t heard from my supposed boyfriend for a little over a month. Like most people in this situation, I ventured off looking for attention elsewhere. Instead, my ex told me that he’d been playing video games with his friend all of that time. I was heartbroken, and I felt rejected, but part of me still felt like I cheated on him.
Fast forward to this year, and I began taking part in a support group for sexual assault survivors. I took part in a book about sexual assault, and I was so proud of myself, and I wanted to share this moment with the guy that I thought loved me. But, unfortunately, he didn’t take part in anything, and he didn’t seem to care about this event that I considered a significant accomplishment.
Mother’s Day weekend, I finally received my master’s degree in communication. The ceremony was virtual. Many people tuned in to support me: friends, family, coworkers, support group friends. And, to my surprise, my ex. It was too little too late; by the end, all I could think of was all the times that this man broke promises to me and broke my heart.
As of writing this piece, I have a crush on someone, and I’m eager to see where this goes. Over the last year, I made many strides in my life, and I am keen to see what comes next. I don’t want to be frozen in time.
Featured photo by Author, Keely Messino