It only took me 35 years to feel like I belong in this world.
The first 16 years I didn’t even know I was a person, with individual rights to my own feelings, needs, dreams. I only dreamt of being invisible or getting away, far away. No other plans. No dreams of being president or an astronaut. Certainly no dreams of getting married, and even further was the thought of having my own kids.
Getting to college, I had my first glimpse that I could hope for a future, but had no idea what I wanted in that future. I thought success was about working hard, as hard as you can. Perfectionism was at its peak in high school through college through my first years as a teacher and mum.
I was married, but felt alone. I still felt disgusting. I hated who I was inside and did not understand why my husband wanted to be with me. I worked harder. Full time teaching job, part time evening tutoring job, part time freelance artist, part time grad student. I kept myself at the perfect weight, through controlled starving and flip flopping through excessive eating and then excessive exercise. I kept perfect grades in every class I ever took. Ever. School never seemed that hard to me, just regurgitate the information in the proper format and voila, another A. I kept my home sporadically perfect, flip flopping between procrastination and excessive cleaning to get it perfect again. I was the perfect wife by never complaining, never sharing my dark thoughts, never sharing my doubts or lack of trust, never letting him know I didn’t feel any love in myself. If I just worked hard enough, those terrible feelings would go away, right? No one will know I was damaged by a terrible man, abused by my own father.
When depression hit again, (first time was first year of college) and I could no longer be perfect, I quit my job and dropped out of grad school, so there would be no permanent record of my imperfection. I thought I wanted a divorce, to just be alone, but I thought that would be admitting failure too, so changed my mind. But all that nothing, not being perfect, was too much with all of the pain of processing abusive memories, and I wanted out. I thought I did not belong in this world, all it has to offer is pain. I had no hope. I tried to end my life.
Somehow I got up out of that pit of despair, with the help of counseling, a constantly supportive husband, and a truckload of meds. (effexor, zoloft, paxil, depakote, xanax, even lithium when they thought I might be bipolar). After the depression was years of anxiety and panic attacks that sent me to the ER a few times, and running out of rooms plenty of times. I found a job I could do from home and withdrew from the world.
Then I started thinking about having an imperfect resume. What? Why would that matter? Yes, well it did then. I could not stop thinking that I did not want to ever explain that I lost my mind and my job, who would ever hire me again? So I had to get pregnant. I knew raising kids was the only acceptable reason for quitting my first classroom job. Thing is, we were broke. We had just bought a house based on my teaching salary. I not only lost the income, but the insurance, and the COBRA payments were so much, and all those meds, were like $1000 a month. But we paid it, to get me healthy. And I felt sooooo guilty. I found a state sponsored program to help low-income parents have babies. We got pregnant and signed up. I had my first baby through the free clinic. It was humiliating and not the special experience I had with a “real” OB in my later pregnancies. I also got WIC and drug tested often. I said I am poor, not a drug addict, but it didn’t matter. I couldn’t wait to meet my daughter and see if she would fill the hole in my heart, so it was all worth it.
My daughter was born, and I did finally feel love. It was spectacular. But then I felt guilty. Post partum depression hit me and I felt like a failure again. But I worked so hard to regain perfection. I only took 2 weeks off from week, and worked so many long hours while holding babies and toddlers. I never spoke to adults, including husband most days, we were both too tired. We lost each other. We were hurtful to each other. He felt like an outsider coming home to kids and wife he didn’t really know. But he never lost his love, or his desire to support us. So he worked harder too.
So here we are, 9 yearsafter my first baby, 18 years of feeling lonely, hurt, and like a failure in a relationship. 35 years of feeling like a failure in life. Here I am now – I have a network of friends that accept me as I am and show they love me, and I love them too. I am busy sharing joy to the world and helping others gain confidence with these friends. I have re-connected with my husband in a more glorious way than I ever knew possible and finally feel true love. I have such beautiful children that I still don’t always think I deserve them, but mostly I know I do. I know I don’t have to just keeping working so hard, that its ok to not be perfect, and that love is forever.
I finally know what love feels like. Actually feel it. I love myself enough to actually feel it. I feel it so strong from my friends, family, and now my husband that I am moved to tears. I finally feel like I belong in this world. I am accepted. I am ok.
And I am ever so grateful.
- Imperfection (bipolarlearningcurve.com)
- Confessions of a Major Depressive – Hope Through Depression Part 2 (michelewhitney.wordpress.com)
- Handling Perfectionism (psychologytoday.com)