Life is tough. Since childhood, I have wrestled with demons. Although I was blessed to be born into a family with loving parents, no one can protect you from everything. People I should have been able to trust betrayed me, leaving me heartbroken and guarded. Carefree childhood memories intermingle with what-ifs and how-could-theys and it’s-my-faults.
I will carry that baggage for the rest of my life, and that weighs on me. I grapple every day with being able to look in the mirror and not hate what I see. My weak self-love is vulnerable to the images I’m supposed to live up to: girls with no stretch marks or cellulite, with blemish-free skin and perfect teeth. I look in the mirror and remember every time someone called me “too skinny,” “anorexic,” or “weak”. I consider just lying back down for the day and not letting anyone see the face I have grown to loathe.
So, in the past, I looked for reassurance in all the wrong places. I wore less and flirted more, seeking the affections of people just as troubled as I was to heal my wounds. I thought that if someone could love me while I learned to love myself, I could heal. But you can’t have a healthy relationship if you don’t know what healthy is. I personally dug the grave for many of the relationships from which I tried to force life. My self-hate made me just as toxic as those I tried to find love from.
That cycle repeated until I wound up alone and pregnant with a child I knew deserved two parents whose hearts were whole, who could provide the stability I was unable to give at the time. She was not meant to be with me. So I mustered what courage I had and did right by her, placing her for adoption with the kind of parents I wished I could be. I gave every last drop of love and courage I had to get her where she needed to be.
And then I sank. I never left my bed unless forced to. I didn’t eat, or sleep, or care about anything. Depression for me wasn’t sadness. It was mind-numbing loneliness and apathy. I didn’t care to get up and shower or leave the house. I couldn’t hear music without hating whoever had felt enough of anything to write a song. I reached a point where I wondered why, if there was a God, did He have it in for me? Wasn’t there a single person out there that was meant to be mine? I spent months thinking of baby R, every friend I had lost, and every relationship that had failed. I was all alone, and it was my own fault.
But I wasn’t really alone. I had a wonderful caseworker, a family, and a very dear friend . . . all of whom rallied around me and loved me even when I didn’t know how to feel love. They were right there in front of me, even when I refused to see them. Their unconditional love and support pulled me, little by little, out of the numbness. They couldn’t fix me, but they gave me the tools to help me fix me.
Now I can see that period of very real, complete despair for what it really was: a dark time in my messy life. There are still days that I don’t get up all day. But there are days like today, when I can wake up way too early and watch the freshly-risen sun make patterns on the walls of my apartment. With indie rock playing over in my head, I can hear music.
My circumstances have not changed. I still miss my birth daughter with an ache that will never completely go away. I still don’t quite trust that I will ever find lasting love or build a family of my own. I still wrestle the same demons.
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But now I know that I am strong. I still keep hoping. I keep loving. I keep walking through the baby aisle at every store I go to, dreaming of the day when I will be able to parent the precious lives I will bring into the world.
My pain and mistakes have given me something to live for. The child who, while meant to be a part of her family, was also meant to be a part of me. On the dark days, it’s seeing her little grin and hearing her innocent giggle that pulls me into the light. I live to show her that she can conquer the world. Life is tough, but I am tougher. And so are you.
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