Compliment my mind not my boobs – I am so much more than what’s on the outside.
Would you have the strength to walk away if someone was physically hurting you?
Would you have the strength to walk away if someone was emotionally hurting you?
Would you have the strength to walk away if someone was mentally hurting you?
And by hurting you, I mean abusing you?
Abuse is never a subject to be taken likely. I’ve tip-toed around it for my entire life. Hitting, kicking, punching…hurting…those are the words that are substituted for abuse. But that’s what it was. It’s hard to admit it to myself, yet alone anyone else. No one likes to think of themselves in that manner, but to be clear, when you lay a hand on a child with the intention of causing pain and you continue to hurt them, it’s not punishing them for what they did. Punishing them with a smack on the bottom is different from a child huddled up in a corner while continuously being kicked. I know. I was that child in the corner.
I was also that child who learned how to fight back. And while I was never proud of it, I did what I had to do. I learned how to survive. I learned how to separate who I was a home from who I was everywhere else. As an adult, I learned to put what happened in the past behind me and try to make amends. I also learned how to set boundaries in order to keep myself safe.
Those boundaries have taken the form of concrete walls that work 24/7 to keep people out and protect me from anything and everything that could potentially harm me. A few friends have been able to break past them and I’ve opened up to them. It took a lot of trust building and be realizing that maybe, just maybe, these people were not going to run for the hills. Maybe they would stick by me through all the ups and downs and tears. And there have been a lot of tears.
I’ve worked my entire adult life to get away from the things I grew up around. It was all part of my childhood promise to myself – this is not how families behave, this is not how people behave, this is not how the children I want to have will behave, this is not how my future spouse will behave, this is not how I will behave.
Yet, I sometimes feel as though I’m sliding back down that spider web in my head of what if this and what if that. If everyone else I grew up with has been unable to escape it, why do I think I will be any different? Why do I think I can change it? Why do I think I won’t fall back into that hole?
Because I know myself. I know myself better than anyone else. I’ve spent years learning about myself and understanding myself. I know when something is bothering me and why. I know when a situation doesn’t feel right and why. I know I would be able to pinpoint a bad situation to me in and I know I would leave it. I know because I’ve lived through it all before and I will not put myself through it again.
Just like I know what I will fight to never have a relationship like my parents had – I will not spent the rest of my life fighting with someone and yelling at him all the time.
I will not treat my children the way my mother treated me – I can’t imagine ever laying a single hand on any child’s head and would protect them from anyone who tried to hurt them.
And perhaps one day, maybe someday soon, maybe someday not so soon, someone will walk into my life. Someone who I will feel comfortable opening up to and perhaps I could even love. Someone who will understand the past but not hold it against me and help me while I fight to have a healthy relationship. The concrete walls I have built so high and strong might just start to crumble overtime. I know they have to come down at some point. It’s a matter of if I trust the other person to not hurt me.
And do I trust myself to have the strength to walk away if I need to?
Yes. Yes I do. Because I am not my mom. I am not my dad. I am not one of my brothers.
I am strong even when that word brings tears to my eyes. I am independent and can take care of myself. I trust myself and my instincts to take care of me. I trust my concrete wall to protect me until the time comes that I start to chip away at it – maybe will a little help. I believe that God will take care of me even when I drift from Him because I am His Child. I know that certain people will always be there for me and will never look at me differently. I am certain that I will have the strength because I am made of it.
I am Chelsea.
Not it…it sounds wrong…like it never had any meaning to me at all.
I stopped wearing my bracelet. This may not seem like a huge deal to everyone, but I wore this bracelet almost every single day from the day I received it in the mail. I even bought a second one when the first wasn’t exactly what I wanted. It was my lifeline some days…my reminder.
It said “Love Always Dad” in my dad’s handwriting. It was the only thing I could find that had his handwriting on it that was a message to me. I found it on this autograph dog from high school graduation that I’m pretty sure I probably found silly at the time. I spent the first few years after my dad’s death longing to find something that he wrote to me and was beyond excited when I finally stumbled across it. I wore it all the time. I needed it as a reminder.
I stopped wearing it when I got sick a few weeks back. I didn’t feel well and didn’t want any jewelry on me. It took me a couple weeks to even start wearing a necklace again. I replaced the bracelet with a fitbit – an aid to get to a healthier me. Perhaps the replacement of the bracelet with the fitbit is a little symbolic – my dad never lived the healthiest life and I’m trying to make decisions in my life that will lead to a healthier me. Perhaps I just finally feel like I’m okay after almost six and a half years. I’ve been at peace with my dad’s death for a while. Maybe I’m finally ready to start living the life I’ve always imagined.
Maybe the things aren’t connected at all and I’m trying to make connections where there aren’t any. I change the jewelry I wear every so often. I’ll wear the same necklace for weeks on end and one day change it to something else. I’ll go through phases where I wear a different necklace every single day. I wear the same earrings for months on end and then will change them every single day for a month before sliding back to wearing the same ones all the time. But I rarely change the bracelets I wear. I have a variety and if I’m going out or visiting someone, I’ll add a few more, but even then, I always left my bracelet on. I still have it. It’s currently chilling in my purse. Yet, off all the thoughts that have been running around my head recently, this is the most significant. This is the one that needed to be written about first. I stopped wearing my bracelet and I think I’m okay with it.
It’s perhaps one of my most commonly used phrases.
I’m trying to be a good person…
To clarify, I don’t think I’m a bad person. I normally find myself using that phrase to remind myself of why I’m doing something – even if it’s not necessarily what I want to do. Sometimes I do things simply because they are the right thing to do. You hurt me and I still find it in my heart to help – why? Because I want to set an example. I want to be the bigger person. I want to make it clear – you know, you hurt me, so you’re going to sweat for a few days and maybe I’ll help and maybe I won’t, but if I decide to, it’s not because I forgot what you did – I did because it’s the right thing to do. It’s what good people do. Good people help out even if they don’t want to – because it’s right. It’s never okay to punish another person for the actions of someone else, so sometimes it’s about setting aside the hurt feelings and doing what is right – despite your feelings on the situation.
I feel I’ve been placed in this situation a lot lately – and I’ve reacted differently each time. One time I stuck to my intuition and continued to say no. Another, my intuition told me to help – so I did. The important thing is that I never ignore my intuition – and I’m still learning that. It’s taken me years to admit when I need time to get away from everything and I’m slowly learning to find that balance between what I need and want and helping others. I’ll probably struggle to find the balance for the right of time – and that’s okay. I’m a good person who wants to help and sometimes has a hard time taking time for herself – I’ll learning.
At times I also think it’s a way to remind myself of why I’m doing something. I spent years feeling like a bad person based solely on my upbringing and the hidden secret of what home life was really like. I never truly felt like a good person during those years. I felt like I was always hiding and was secretly a bad person who was only good when I was around the public. Of course – I now know that this is silly – I was never a bad person – I was a person in a difficult situation.
We learn. We grow. We aim to be good person who also don’t neglect ourselves. It’s a learning process. In my case – a slow learning process. But I’m getting better. And I’ll continue to get better.
“Do you know how many people I’ve told about you? About your story? You came from nothing and here you are…”
It’s the way I grew up. The fights. The yelling. The hitting. The name-calling. The hurting. I thought it was the way everybody lived. I never doubted even for a second that my dad loved me – I knew he did. I doubted if anyone else did.
As a child, all my extended family either died or disappeared from my life. By the time I was 11, everyone seemed to have left. Our family was dysfunctional at best. My dad tried – he tried to be the peacemaker, tried to take us to church, tried to turn us into a functional family – but the damage was already done. Everyone had left and I didn’t understand why. I hated being home – it didn’t feel like home. Yeah, I survived and I’ve even learned how to deal with my family as an adult, but some scars don’t heal quickly.
I didn’t really have friends in elementary school. I was smart and I knew I was smart and I held onto that. There was a group of girls I would play with outside at recess – until the day they told me they didn’t want to play with me anymore. I remember walking away feeling heartbroken – these people I thought were my friends really weren’t my friends. I didn’t understand what I had done wrong. I cried and tried to have fun at recess, but my feelings were too hurt. I didn’t really make friends after that. I stumbled across one around the fourth grade – we had known each other in preschool and I feel like God brought us together when we both needed it. We both needed a friend at school and so He gave us each other. My mom would spend the rest of my school years comparing me to her. Everything was a competition and I had to win over my best friend. It made me feel like she wasn’t my friend at times – she was someone I had to win against. But she was my friend. Was being the key word – I lost her in October 2012. She’s fine – don’t worry – but I made some bad choices and we grew apart. Part of me wishes I would have reached out to her and told her what I was going though. Part of me felt an overwhelming need to protect her from my life. In the end – I lost.
I remember wanting to try out for volleyball. I remember my mother’s words. “You’ll never make the team – only the rich kids will make the team.” Way to crush my hopes and dreams. Everything was always about money – my family didn’t have enough, we were poor compared to other people, we were in debt. However, we never went hungry. There was always food in the house. We stopped going to the doctor and the eye doctor and even the dentist annually, but at least we never went hungry.
All the relationships around me were rocky. My dad’s relationship with my mom was rocky – to the point that I remember the day he asked me if I thought we would be better off if he divorced her. I remember the tears in his eyes – he was scared that if he divorced her that he would never find someone who would love him. I question sometimes if my parents ever truly loved each other. Don’t get me wrong – I’m grateful they met and married or I wouldn’t be here and my little brothers wouldn’t be here – but I question what their marriage was built on. My mom’s relationship with everyone was rocky – there were more arguments than I could count. I remember the hitting and kicking and yelling. I remember the day I realized I was big enough to fight back. Most of the time I just wanted everyone to stop. The relationship with my brothers changed as often as the time on the clock. The relationship with extended family didn’t exist. I grew jealous of my classmates who talked about spending the weekend with their grandparents or aunts and uncles or cousins. I may not have had friends in school, but I hung onto every word my classmates spoke.
I remember my first crushes. Some of them went on to become really amazing guys. Others not so much. In sixth grade this boy asked me to the dance – I was crushing on someone else (hoping he would ask me) and so I said no. The whole class thought I was mean and that other boy never asked me. In seventh grade I asked an eighth grader to the school dance after art class one day. It had taken me days to get up the courage to ask him. He said yes and I was so excited. A day or two later he came back and said that he couldn’t take me because he had to take his girlfriend to the dance instead. Then I moved onto someone else who I would spent the majority of middle school and high school crushing on. He liked just about every other girl in school – except me. We became friends and we studied together. He started to attend church with my family. I admitted how I felt to him. He didn’t feel the same. We stayed friends for a while and then slowly drifted apart. I gave up on boys after that. Three strikes and I’m out. About halfway through college someone new entered my life. I wasn’t sure if I liked him or not – but he gave me attention and at that point in my life, I was craving some attention from a boy. We were good friends and I knew he liked me. I wasn’t sure how I felt about him. He would give me my first kiss. He would become my biggest regret. I guard my heart to this day because of what transpired.
Sometimes I drive people away before they can hurt me. It’s what life has taught me – that people will leave you and people will die and then I will be left heartbroken. The people who haven’t been driven away are the special ones – they’re the ones I realized were worth fighting for and will continue to fight to have in my life. The guys I’ve dated here and there though – those are the ones I tend to drive away before they can hurt me by leaving. My heart can only take so much heartache.
Losing my dad ripped my heart apart. I didn’t know it was possible to be in so much emotional pain until he died. It all still haunts me. I would give anything to wrap my arms around his neck once more. To tell him I love him. Sometimes I feel guilty when I laugh because he’s not here to share it with me. Other times I’m relieved that life is working out okay. It’s a struggle.
I remember the day Allison invited me to stay at her house. I didn’t know what to say or do. I had moved out of my mom’s house a couple months beforehand. Allison cared and was offering me what I needed most – stability. I remember watching how her family interacted and being amazed. They functioned like a “normal” family should. There wasn’t the fighting and kicking and hitting going on. I saw what it looked like when two people who love each other work together to raise a family. I was amazed every single day.
Later I found out that she was worried I wasn’t going to graduate college. I had shared with her everything that was going on and she spent a while worrying about me. She would also introduce me to the college therapist and I would spend the next thirteen months trying to figure out life in that office.
I cried a lot in therapy. I tried to work through everything that had happened. I tried to figure out how to move forward. I tried to make good decisions. It was a struggle. There were so many things to talk about, so many things to work through, so many things that I needed to say.
I was a very independent person – even back then. My therapist saw it, but he also saw how guarded my heart was. I was trying to protect it from being broken again and I was willing to protect it at any cost – even if it meant being a loner. I still hear his words to this day. “You don’t need anyone to save you, you can save yourself, but someday, it might be nice.” He’s right. I don’t need anyone to save me. I can save myself. One day maybe it’ll be nice. One day maybe I’ll be willing to take a chance with my heart. One day maybe I’ll find someone who’s worth the risk.
My guilty pleasure from high school onward was Walker, Texas Ranger. Gosh – I still love that show to this day. But it was never the action that pulled me in. In was the way that the good guys always won. The way you knew everything was going to turn out. It was the way Walker protected Alex and how you could always tell how much they loved each other. I was never drawn to the fighting scenes – I was drawn to the way Walker loved Alex and I often wondered if anyone would ever look at me the way he looks at her. I understood it was a fictional television series, but in my childhood world of wondering what it was like when two people loved each other, Walker and Alex were the example I found and hung onto.
I’ve loved animals since the beginning of time. Have you ever looked into an animal’s eyes? You can see straight into their souls. Each one has a story and each one has their own moods and emotions and attitudes. I wanted to go away and study pandas as a child. Then I wanted to ride free on the back of a horse. I thought about becoming a vet but science and I were never friends, I decided against it. Now I have dogs with dreams of recusing and fostering more one day.
I love writing. Inspiration doesn’t always strike, but when it does, I can spend hours upon hours writing. Sometimes it’s a story that’s popped into my head. Sometimes it’s something that someone says to me. Sometimes it’s just how I’m feeling. I drift away from writing from time to time, but I tend to always find my way back to it. It’s the hobby I won’t let disappear, no matter how much time lapses.
I want to get healthier. I want to finally run a mile without stopping. I want to look in the mirror and love what I see. I want to see what other people see in me. Sometimes I’m just not sure how.
God and I have drifted apart many times throughout my life. I aim to be a good Christian, but in fall short daily. I will go periods of time without going to church or reading my Bible. I haven’t prayed daily in years. Yet, I know that despite all my struggles, God doesn’t leave my side. He walks with me and talks with me. He’s my comfort when I lay awake at night crying. He protects me when I can’t figure it out. Most of all, He loves me – despite everything that has happened in my life.
And after everything that happened I only had one option left – I had to become an independent woman and then I realized that I always had been. There’s nothing wrong with gaining independence as a person ages, but I was forced into it and forced into it at a young age. I had to become a person who could separate who I was at home from who I was a school and work and church. And when the church started gossiping about what was going, I had to separate myself again. I didn’t like asking for help. I still have a hard time asking anyone for help. It makes me emotional when people offer to go the extra mile for me – what have I ever done to deserve such kindness? It’s the kindness that makes me cry. After years of feeling almost worthless at points, it’s the kindness or the mere thought of someone’s kindness to me that is enough to bring tears to my eyes. Allison’s kindness continues to make me cry and I can never thank her opening her arms and allowing me into her family. Jan’s kindness gave me the mother figure I longed to love. Jody’s kindness has brought me to tears more than once and gave me the sister I needed. Numerous co-workers have accidentally made me cry just by being kind – and not on a work level – on a personal level. They call when I’m sick to make sure I’m still alive, while asking if I need anything at all. They’ve run to stores to get things when asked out of the blue. They’ve taken care of my puggies without a second thought or question. They’ve been there to listen to me cry because I’m sad or just overwhelmed by the love they show me. And my heart starts to ache as it struggles to understand the kindness of those around me with its desire to stay the independent woman that is has grown so protective of – what did I do to deserve such kindness from everyone around me when most of my own family hasn’t treated me that same way?
We’re brought up with the notion that families are supposed to be there for each other. Even I understood that and I didn’t have the greatest family. Aside from my dad, no one was ever really there for me and when I lost him, I wasn’t sure if anyone ever would be again. I spent childhood building walls around me that only me dad could unlock through a single door. I spent the year after his death reinforcing that wall and pouring concrete over the door. I was determined to never be hurt again. Never let anyone get even remotely close to me. Never feel that pain again. Then something started to changed. People were suddenly there for me in a way I’d never let anyone be there before. It took every ounce in me not to run away when I started to consider these co-workers my family. When I realized that maybe, just maybe, some of them will always be there for me even years after we no longer work together anymore. And yet, every time someone shows me the kindness that no one else really ever showed, I fight the urge to run while my emotions start to get the best of me. I’m scared to let anyone in. I’m scared of having even close friendships. I’m scared that everyone will leave.
Which leads me to here – what is the point in me writing all of this now? My friend said she wanted to understand why I’m so scared – she wanted to help. I don’t understand myself sometimes and I didn’t know where to start so I figure I’d start at the beginning. Sometimes it’s hard for me to sort through all the feelings running around my head, but it’s easier to sort through them when I write.
I’m scared of falling into financial trouble like my dad. I’m scared I’ll marry the wrong person and have a marriage like my parents. I’m scared I’ll never have kids and if I do, they’ll lay awake at night questioning if I love them. I’m scared I’ll raise them the way I was raised, despite my promises to myself that I would never do that. I’m scared that I’ll never find a group of friends who I can rely on and will always be there whenever I need them. I’m scared of leaving my comfort zone and I’m scared of falling. I’m scared that I’ll always hear the words ringing in my head that I’ve heard all my life. I’m scared of having my heart broken again – I’ve barely survived it every time before when it’s broken. I’m scared of being in a loveless relationship. But most of all – I’m scared of missing out on wonderful things because I’m scared.
There are people around me who I know will always be there for me. I’ve discovered which family members will be there through thick and thin; and which ones I need to set boundaries with. I’ve discovered co-workers who have become family. I’ve discovered a family I never knew I needed but always wanted.
Sometimes I feel guilty for this – for loving the people in my life. I’m on this path because my dad died. I’ve met most of these people as a result of this death. I wish I could say I would give all of them up to have him back – but honestly, I don’t want to go back to my childhood life. I just wish he could be here and I could keep them. It makes me feel guilty most days. But I can’t feel guilty for living.
It’s often easier for other people to realize how strong you are as a person. When I look at my life, I don’t see myself as someone who is strong. I see myself as someone who has learned how to survive but at the expense of being fearful. Other people see a strong person who has overcome so much to get to where she is.
Perhaps it’s easier for others to see our strength. We don’t see it within ourselves because we are too busy trying to figure out how to survive. Maybe it’s about taking a step back and realizing everything that you’ve overcome. Maybe it’s about realizing that there’s still a fight left within you. Maybe it’s about fighting for the life you’ve always dreamed of.
It’s not always easy to keep fighting for what I want, sometimes I need a nap from all of it. It feels like an endless battle. I’m not sure if I can see the light at the end of the tunnel anymore.
But maybe if I fight long enough and hard enough I’ll finally have the family I’ve always dreamed of.
“A warrior is the woman who gets up despite the enemy trying to destroy her. A woman who declares her victory before seeing it. A woman who believes she will receive her miracle because she knows the Lord she serves is alive and by her side.”
When was the last time you had an open and honest conversation with someone? How did they react? Did you have a difference in opinion? Do you felt like they heard you when you spoke? Were they upset when you felt differently than them? Did they accuse you of judging them or tell you to never speak to them again? Halfway through the conversation, did they tell you that all you’re doing is arguing when you weren’t even aware that you were having an argument? Did you feel anything was accomplished or were you left feeling defeated and emotionally drained?
I’ve always felt that the best way to solve differences is to leave the line of communication opened but also be honest with your feelings without taking offense to how the other person is feeling. If I have a disagreement with someone, I want to be able to talk it out and I want to feel comfortable expressing to the other person exactly how I’m feeling without fear that they will think I’m judging them or being difficult – simply because I have a different opinion. Likeless, I won’t take offense to what the other person’s opinion is. Do you have a different opinion than me? Cool! That’s part of life and we are free to have as many opinions as we want.
The problem comes when the other person doesn’t understand how to communicate and takes offense to everything that is said. You’re often left feeling like you’re walking on eggshells. You try to understand the other person, you ask what you can do to help, you try to understand the situation. If you give an opinion that is different, obviously you are judging the other person and that is a reason to be cut out of their life.
I don’t do well with threats of any kind. I’ve cut people out of my life before and I couldn’t care less if someone cuts me out of theirs. I very firmly believes that God is in control and He lets people enter and exit our lives as needed. If someone feels the need to cut me out of their life, I see it as God’s Way of removing that person from my life. Why? I’m not always sure, but since I have faith in God, I trust Him. Perhaps that’s why that threat has always bothered me – either talk to me or don’t – I believe that God is ultimately in control.
But what about if I have a different opinion than you? Is that judgment? Should I lie to you when I feel differently simply to avoid hurting your feelings? You should never hurt someone’s feelings on purpose – that’s mean. But having a difference in opinion is normal, healthy even. It allows people to grow and understand. The problem arises when someone views a difference in opinion as a judgment and takes offense to it. Perhaps that is a battle we will always be fighting – figuring out how to communicate with people who view words spoke as an attack against them when you’re only stating your opinion.
However, there’s another part of communication. Sometimes, you need to be blunt. If I believe someone is being a brat, and then they are complaining to me, I will tell them how I feel – they are being a brat and need to knock it off because adults don’t act like that. It’s the same way my friends and family call me out when I’m acting like a brat – they give me their honest opinion of my actions and how I’m being perceived. What I do with that information is up to me. But the point is that someone cares enough to be blunt with me about the way I’m acting, the same way I care enough about other people to be blunt with them.
Perhaps communication is difficult for all people. Most arguments and disagreements could be solved if people were open to honest communication. The problem is, a lot of the time, people don’t want to communicate. They want people to be on their side and if they aren’t, they take offense. What happened to being able to communicate without fear that someone would take it the wrong way? What happened to have a healthy conversation and working out problems? What happened to communication?
Five years ago I had just survived the worse year ever (no, 2017, that is not a challenge). In addition to losing my dad, I had broken my promise to God, failed classes, moved, and tried to figure out how to make it in my new world. I had started therapy. I felt lost.
There was this website I used to be involved in – moreloveletters.com – the normal objective was to write letters to strangers and send those letters to them. However, at the end of 2011, the creator of the site issued a new letter writing mission for January 2012 – write a letter to yourself, mail it to them, and they would mail it back in January 2013. Craft the perfect love letter to yourself. It was exactly what I needed to do at that time.
I spent a good part of January working on my letter. For me, it wasn’t just a letter, it was everything that I wanted for 2012. I mailed it off at the end of the month and wouldn’t see it again for a year.
I don’t remember the exact contents of the letter, and I know I have it somewhere. It wasn’t really a letter – more like an art project – I made a book, filled with hope for the new year. One part that I held onto, even after I mailed it, and I still hold onto to til this day. “This year – I didn’t wish to get a boyfriend or to save money or to lose weight – I just want to be happy.” Although the order I listed those three things in might be off, those were the ideas I most often associated with happiness when I was younger. However, as 2011 became 2012, I found myself not wanting any of those things, I only wanted to be happy.
Happiness seems like such a simple idea from the outside. Of course anyone can be happy, but when you feel like you’ve lost all your happiness, when you can’t even figure out how to be happy anymore, that’s when you find yourself starting from square one. That’s where I was – I spent the year focusing on taking care of myself and doing things that would make me happy. I began to learn to love myself and the new life I was thrown into. And when things started to drag me down, I reflected on my only goal for the year – be happy.
I made some big decisions in 2012. I prayed about them a lot. I talked to my friends about them a lot. I thought about what was best for everyone else. Then I asked myself what was best for me (and my dogs). I chose the things I thought would get me to where I wanted to go, while refusing to let my dogs go – somehow, someway, all three of us were going to make it through 2012 and I would determined to always give them, and myself, the best life possible.
I stopped making resolutions after that year. Instead, every New Years, I think about the resolution I made so many years ago – be happy. When something in my life has me down, I reflect and decide if it’s truly making me happy, and if the answer is no, I make a change. When my only resolution is to be happy, all the other changes take place when they need to, not just on New Years. This year, while I stopped making resolutions years ago, I continue to reflect on the last one I made – be happy.