I’ve been in the process of healing myself and finding my true authentic voice and identity for 13 years. I’ve been looking back at critical periods in my life that changed me and examining how they changed me,and asking myself the big questions: why did I change ? How did I change? How did it impact me ?And how did this make me lose myself? I uncovered a lifetime pattern of co-dependency that started in my childhood which led to a lifetime of limiting beliefs about myself ( low self esteem & self hatred) which led to self destructive behaviors of lying to others about who I really was, and having non existent boundaries which led to allowing others to control and define me. Relationships; but romantic relationships in particular have always been my achilles heel, and the “vehicle” I allowed (without really knowing the consequences ) to radically change me and simultaneously screw my head up! I was desperate and needy for love (and I was ashamed of that) but I was willing to sell huge chunks of my soul to get that love. I conformed and changed so slowly and gradually over time in these relationships that towards the end I didn’t even know who I was anymore ! I have made a ton of progress and clearly see my mistakes now. I share to pay it forward with hopes that it can help anyone else struggling with co-dependence, identity, and recovery. You can get better. There is hope. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes.
It all started with my first love 20 years ago; I was 18 it was a magical relationship and it felt like I had died and woke up as a brand new person. I pretended to be “whole” and hid all my flaws and issues as much as I could. I was not lying, but I hid major parts of myself because of who I assumed he was and who I thought he wanted. In all honestly I didn’t have the self esteem or the confidence to really attract this kind of guy so I faked it! He was my dream guy and I desperately wanted this dream. I was 18 when this whole charade began. To date, it was also the happiest most fun time in my life. I made the assumption that he would not love me if I told him certain things about my past and showed him parts of who I really was. I showed him the best parts of me and hid the broken and hurts parts of myself because I was also ashamed of who I was. I was afraid to be labeled and judged with the lifelong stigma that comes along with coming from my background. I also had heard to fake it till you make it! Many people in the spiritual community also tell you to get over your story. They tell you stop telling and defining yourself by what happened to you-pretend it never happened and live life today, write a new story! So that is exactly what I did and I also want to share how that can also get you into a huge heap of trouble.
I’m 38 now, It’s taken so much unraveling to find the real me. The drug of love” for a girl that never got any, the girl that was not wanted was too irresistible. I sold out majorly and I think I would do it all over again in a heart beat, the love was so great! I became whatever he wanted and you would have to if you were me. Besides, losing myself and everything I hated about me seemed like a good idea anyways, especially for a guy like him! I mean he was perfect! Dream guy, and he was interested in me! Tall,good looking,dressed well, sweet, loved God, had lots of friends, a great close loving family, he owned his home already and he was into me ?!!!! Like what ? What the hell was going on ? Was I dreaming? This guy was a ” popular” guy in high school, I was a nerd; a loner, an outcast. A jock and a nerdy loud mouthed goth fuck up it seemed so unlikely in my head, but he had no idea who the hell I was, he just liked what he saw because I was looking cute, skinny, and for a change sexy. He was drawn to my confidence and how outspoken I was.
We met one night at an 18 and over dance club, I was with my two close girlfriends M & J. These ladies were a blast and at that time I did everything with them. The Edge in Palo Alto, CA it was our usual spot and it was packed that night, it was the year you could hear Nine inch Nails repeatedly scream, “I want to fuck you like an animal……..” which could be followed up with the Macarena …and yes I knew all the moves lol! It was the 90’s and my friends and I were 18 and 19 and we were having a blast. We usually danced all night for hours but I remember this night still 20 years later clearly. I remember dancing and all of a sudden seeing my friend M say, “hey there’s my friend P!!!!!” as she left me and ran over to him to go and say hi. I decided to go sit down and watch the interaction, I was a bit taken back when I saw him because I had just seen this guy the other day! I watched the two of them for a minute I was mesmerized the moment I saw his face. I thought it was weird because my aunt and I had just seen this guy like a few days before! He worked at a grocery store and my aunt made a big deal about him for some reason. I remember thinking the day with my aunt,” wow this guy is so put together I bet he’s married with kids ..” I even remember what he was wearing.
When I saw him again I was taken back, I mean he looked older and way too mature why was he there ? He was wearing a neon bracelet which meant he could drink so I knew he was at least 21. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him and suddenly he looked at me.I was feeling really great about myself that night, I had lost 15 pounds over another crazy codepenedent breakup. I was weighing 115 lbs, I was wearing very flattering jeans and a cropped light purple t-shirt so I was feeling very unusually very confident and outspoken. When he looked at me I remember silently gasping it was so surreal, it was like all time and space stopped the music faded into the background and it was just us. Love at first sight is real it is just kind of like the movies. Our eyes met I stared for a few seconds and then looked away. A few moments later he made his way towards me. My heart was pounding, I was so excited, I knew he was coming to talk to me. He made his way up the stairs to the seating area where I sat, and he smiled at me and asked if I wanted to dance, I acted cool ( tried not smiling too hard) and of course said, ” yeah sure……”and it was on!
Without belaboring over every detail we fell in love, we spent all of our free time with each other and became a real couple we were together four years and then spent another few years it seemed breaking up. The first few years were really amazing. The chemistry between us was off the charts, I went from being this deeply depressed sad person who secretly wanted to die everyday to a woman that looked forward to every single moment as long as he was in it. His love for me was amazing, he was so sweet and loving. He was the only person that ever asked about my past and my feelings. He listened, he was super affectionate, we laughed a lot, we talked a lot. We got dressed up and went dancing, road trips you name it. He took me out to dinner almost every week for four years. He spoiled me at birthdays, Valentine’s, Christmas. I can go on and on about how happy he made me.I had never had anyone love me let alone spoil me this way. He brought out the best in me. I worked out 6 days a week. Tanned, shopped all the time, went above and beyond as often as I could to look good for him every single time I saw him. I started going to college, praying. It was great for awhile. I thought he brought out the best in me and it was so awesome to wipe the old slate clean and finally be the person I wanted to be. Slowly we started showing other sides of ourselves to each other but I hid and held back a lot and did not share with him out of sheer terror of losing him. I see now how we slowly unraveled.
Overtime not being able to be my real self started taking a toll, the person I hid from him started nagging at me. I missed that person but I hid her I was ashamed of her. I just focused on him. The more I catered to his needs the more I neglected my own. The more I neglected myself the more this inner angst and disconnect grew. He could feel it there was distance he started respecting me less. He started looking down on me and the more he got to know me the more he started seeing my problems; my insecurity my low self esteem it was embarrassing. I had deep problems with my family who I hated he never understood totally why, although I did tell him some major secrets. I had deep nightmares, PTSD, and emotional problems I refused to talk about, my emotional problems made me distant shut down and mute, he sometimes misread that and thought other things were happening at one point he thought I didn’t really love him. He encouraged me to love my family as God would and I started listening to his suggestions and advice (this was a huge mistake because they would continue to cause me more emotional and psychological harm).
More and more as time went on he started giving me his opinions about every aspect of my life. He was protective and deeply controlling and judgmental about a lot of things. The way I dressed, the way I talked and acted in public, how I spent my time. He was very dogmatic and rigid and “his way was the right way” my opinions about basically everything were always reduced to shit. Meaningless jibber jabber he ignored, laughed at, and dismissed. I didn’t have any boundaries! I didn’t know how to communicate, ( my whole life my voice was suppressed and now it was happening again) I would just throw tantrums and pout and cry slowly overtimes I became more and more like a child. Which was ridiculous because I was working at a great impressive job and fully supporting myself at a very young age with no help when I met him. I was totally self sufficient and independent, but he made me slowly feel as if I was incapable of fully taking care of myself so I went to him for advice about everything! We started fighting a lot and I started spending more time with my best friend, I was more myself around her and she didn’t try to control it me. It was the only relationship I felt more free and accepted for who I really was. So here’s what I was hiding; I hated myself deep down I hated where I came from I wanted to forget all the pain, suffering, torture, abandonment, and abuse I was tortured by it all and had major mental and emotional problems. I was bulimic. He didn’t know about all the group homes, the shelter, so many temporary living situations. I never told anyone about being burned, hit humiliated, punched, raped repeatedly forced to eat vomit. My father didn’t want me , my mother was schizophrenic,I lost them both at age 3. My family was “alternative” filled with weirdo’s; hippies, artist, gay’s, ( I happen to think that part is cool). I think I had my first nervous breakdown when I was 11 or 13 at a family camping trip. My whole family looked at me like I was crazy. I am sure if he read this now he might understand why it was so tense everytime we went over there. I hated these people and I felt forced to interact with them but did I say any of this to him at the time? No, of course not. Shame and fear prevented it.
I wanted everyone to think I came from a loving family where I was cherished and valued and respected, that I had made the best out of losing my parents. That I had many friends, was smart, capable and confident and responsible. I mean I did work a full time job and 100% supported myself financially at a young age so I was not lying but I wanted to project an image of wholesomeness,happiness, and perfection. I wanted to project healthy self esteem, confidence, and an positive outlook. I even hid that I was goth and that I was into film and I hid all the punk and alternative music that I loved I mean looking back now it’s crazy. When you tell a kid to fake it till you make it be careful they could fake it all! Many people in the spiritual community tell you to ” get over your story ” and that’s what I did for many years I denied, lied, and pretended to everyone that I was something else. I wanted everyone to think I was like everyone else and had a good childhood and had lots of people that loved me but overtime it became really clear to anyone that really know me that my family couldn’t care less about me and treated me like a piece of trash. I still can’t believe I let him influence me into trying repeatedly to have a relationship with them. You can’t have a relationship with emotionally unavailable, abusive people that don’t respect you.
So here I am, 20 years later and I just barely now in the last couple years really understand why that relationship harmed me for years. It seems pretty self explanatory that if you are lying or hiding about who you really are it will inevitably backfire and come out, I mean how could that relationship last or sustain itself when it was built on a lie ? What you give is what you get. I think the worst part is that my first love never knew how badly abused and mistreated I had been and made assumptions about my character and character flaws that were not based on the truth. It was not fair to him or me that I lied and withheld so much of who I really was. The most damaging long term consequences were that it confused me! I was inauthentic fake and I slowly stopped remembering who I really was or what mattered to me and then it just snowballed. It led to a long term identity crisis that has taken me years to unravel from. I now see that it’s important to retain your identity and sense of who you are for so many reasons. How can you ever develop any real self esteem or confidence in yourself if your not being your real self? In order to ever really heal you have to be honest about who and what you are and be able to look yourself in the eyes and surrender to the truth. I keep learning you don’t have to fake anything to find real love all you have to do is really love and accept yourself warts and all and others will too. I know that today and I hope I can pass my lessons and story on. Honesty is a much better foundation to build a relationship and life on than a foundation of lies or in my case half truths. You may not get everyone to like you but I promise you eventually the right people will.
If I could go back in time I would have been more honest and real and raw about all of me not just the parts that I wanted to gloss over. I wish I could have looked him in his eyes and gotten to know him slowly and not have placed him on such a high pedestal. I wish I had not been so deeply controlled by shame. I was not the person that should have felt shame in fact I wish I would have focused on all the things that were great about me but at that time I couldn’t see anything. I only saw myself through the eyes of my abusers and the labels they gave me. I know now that he isn’t any better because he came from a loving family and I wasn’t worth any less because I didn’t. I am proud of myself that I am coming to this place of deep love self worth and acceptance even if it has taken a really long time at least I got here! And I def don’t feel I need to start off any relationship off on a false pretense. I hope if there is anyone in their early 20’s that reads this that they will be wise enough to learn from my mistakes and get into healing at a younger age and not run from your past and who they really are. I wish someone could have told me years ago that just because you are victimized it doesn’t mean that you are permanent victim it doesn’t mean that you are less than anyone else. If anything you should be proud of yourself for being so strong and surviving and overcoming so many obstacles. I know that I am and I am finding more and more lately that I will once and for all be able to finally write a new story and not really be defined by my past pain but I will always be proud of all the hard work and the courage it took to heal.