I always knew there was something wrong with me, horribly and irrevocably wrong with me. And for the longest time the earliest memory I had of feeling that way was when I was two or three years old.
I was sitting in the backseat of my dad’s Volkswagon Scirocco–I was sitting behind my dad, who was in the driver’s seat. We were rocking out, er, I was rocking out to The Beach Boys’ “I Get Around”. I loved the The Beach Boys, still do. I was kicking my little toddler legs and singing my heart out and you know that moment in the song when they all clap in unison? I freaking nailed it, man. I was super duper ridiculous excited! And then they laughed at me. My mom and dad. They laughed at me. I knew I had done something wrong, horribly and irrevocably wrong. I was mortified.
Now, it may seem obvious to you that they thought I was cute. Who hasn’t laughed at an adorable toddler? It rang differently for me. But, I didn’t know why. Just like I didn’t know why I suddenly felt so weird when my mom would change my clothes. I remember sitting on the foot of my bed, wrapped in a towel that I wouldn’t take off. My mom asked me why, and I said, “I don’t know.”
It would be years before I began to understand.
In elementary and middle school I was an outcast. I had only two friends and they treated me pretty poorly. I started eating to numb my feelings. I’d eat half a carton of ice cream as an after school snack. I ate toast slathered in butter and melted cheddar cheese. I made friends with kids who had junk food in their houses because ours did not. I just couldn’t fill the hole in me. But, I didn’t know why. I assumed it was because kids didn’t like me and they hurt my feelings. I was so desperate for attention that I annoyed everyone. But, I didn’t know why.
Why did I feel so wrong and broken? Why did I have to hide? Why was I constantly afraid of being hurt by my friends?
One summer I tried not eating instead of overeating and a new world was born. I dropped a lot of weight, felt pretty, and life was new. I started flirting to numb my feelings. Yes, feeling wanted was the answer! But, I didn’t know why.
As I got older, flirting got bolder. I didn’t have sex with lots of guys, but I did kiss lots of guys. I even married one of them. We’d been dating off and on for a number of years, long enough that it seemed that the logical next step was to get married and start a family. (Way wrong answer.)
I didn’t know why I was so angry, always. I was always on the brink of flipping my lid. I didn’t start or get in fights; I wasn’t that kind of angry. There was an anger deep in my belly that was constant. I felt angry at the world. But, I didn’t know why.
In the meantime, I’d discovered booze and pot and was in full blown active alcoholism. And, then one day, after a few years of a lot of nonsense, I woke up. I saw that I was married to a man who frightened me; I had a baby I pretended to know how to take care of; and, I couldn’t get out of bed if I couldn’t get high or drunk that day. I went to AA and got sober. I gave my life over to God (Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.) That third step was the best news I’d heard in a long while. I’d really screwed up my life. I figured God could do a better job of putting it back together than I ever could.
I got better. But I still was afraid of people. And I still flirted more than I should. I began to notice that I especially craved attention from men in a certain age bracket. And a certain height. With grey, or salt and pepper, hair. But, I didn’t know why.
One day I was sitting in an intensive leadership training program and was blown over sideways with a memory. It was like I blacked out, and my mind was transported to years ago.
I was two or three years old and I was in my old bedroom in Rochester. (My parents were on vacation. Walter and Kay were taking care of my brother and me). Walter’s hand was moving up my leg.
And I stopped. I consciously told my brain, “No more.” I didn’t want to remember anything else. I knew all I needed to know. Finally, I knew.
I knew! I knew why I felt broken and unworthy. I knew why I used food and men. I knew why I felt afraid of everyone and trusted no one. I finally understood where some of my cracks had been hidden and was able to begin to lick my wounds.
And I finally, finally began to heal. I began to have romantic relationships that were authentic and fulfilling. I began to take better care of myself (eating healthy, playing more) because I finally felt I was worth my time.
That was almost 10 years ago. I continue to heal. I married a man who is patient with me. He is kind to me. He is generous with me. He doesn’t tolerate me hiding for long. He is, more often than anyone else, someone I don’t want to hide from. He is very, very good to me. He is better to me than I was to myself for many years. We have a fun, not-easy, chaotic, stressful, loving, exciting, boring, messy, beautiful life.