As a young girl, I was very close to both my parents and my older brother. It was always very important to me to make my loved ones happy. I always tried my hardest to be the best daughter I could be; I was obedient, patient, and worked hard in school as I was encouraged to do. My mom would tell me that I was an angel of a daughter and the best she could have asked for at that time. My brother was the one that was a handful, so she loved that she didn’t have to worry about me.
I remember being happy and feeling safe.
Things changed drastically for me when I was just 5 years old. I began to be sexually abused by my 13 year old cousin when he would babysit me every Saturday. That went on for about a year before it finally stopped, and I was never the same after that. Something in me felt like it died, maybe my innocence. I felt dirty and ashamed and began to think “how can I be good now?” I felt ruined.
In the fourth grade, I began to get bullied. My brother is about a year older than me and has bipolar, ADHD, explosive personality disorder and a few other things. This led him to get into a lot of trouble at school including many fights if anyone even looked at me the wrong way.
He was very protective of me. I didn’t really have any friends but I always had him by my side. That year, he got expelled due to a rage incident and he transferred to a special needs school where he could get more help.
I was left to deal with kids who hated me and they began to physically and verbally attack me daily. My mom would tell me not to fight back, so I didn’t get in trouble. I listened to her. My parents reported it to the school, but the school did nothing. My brother’s reputation preceded me and the school did not believe my claims.
I felt helpless and alone.
I didn’t understand why the other girls hated me so much. I was ridiculed constantly. I began to feel emotionally overwhelmed and would sit in class clawing my arm with my nails till I bled to calm me down. I was so angry with authority.
Adults were supposed to help me, protect me, but in the end I felt abandoned. My mind raced trying to reason why all of this happened and it was at this moment that I began to resent my brother for leaving me alone when I needed him most. I blamed my mom for not being able to protect me like she’s supposed to and without realizing it, I just shut down, distancing myself from them. I just didn’t know how to cope with it all.
As I went into middle school, the bullying stopped but my relationship with my family severely deteriorated. I felt like I didn’t recognize my home anymore, that feeling of joy I felt as a little girl was gone, instead it just felt chaotic and unpredictable.
My brother would rage out and break everything in sight when he didn’t get his way. My mom became very controlling, manipulative, verbally abusive, and scary to be around when she’d get upset. The cops were called often at our house, followed by mandated counselor visits that never really helped.
My mother’s frustration turned into a “power-hunger” to control everything else she could. Much of it fell on my shoulders because I was the “good one” that did what I was told- but I no longer felt like that girl. I was angry all the time. My mom and I fought constantly, so I hated being home. I didn’t know what to expect, sometimes she was happy and loving but at the flip of a switch she would get hurtful and bitter.
I was told almost daily how useless I was, how disgusted my mother was with me. She told me no one would ever love me, and that I would always be alone. That I deserved to be alone. “Liar,” “whore,” and “bitch” were common names shouted at me.
I turned to my dad for comfort.
I’d run crying to him when she’d get that way. I had always been a daddy’s girl growing up. During this time, I felt like my dad was all I had. I began to feel like my dad was the only one who loved me, who understood me. I knew he cared. I became very close to him. We did everything together. We got up early mornings before anyone else in the house to play video games together. We played basketball in the driveway, threw the football in the street, and went swimming all day every Sunday. I was his little girl and I felt joy when I was with him.
I felt happy and appreciated around him like I mattered. He comforted me and I felt a security in him like somehow everything was going to be ok.
Despite the comfort of my father, I felt deeply betrayed by my mother. In the beginning I felt rejected and misunderstood, thinking to myself “I don’t deserve this”, but then as time went on I began to believe that I just couldn’t do anything right, that I’ll never be good enough no matter how hard I try.
These thoughts snowballed to really hating myself. I couldn’t wrap my head around why my own mom would say these things to me if they weren’t true, if I wasn’t useless. It seemed like no matter what I did, it was never enough. My shyness and inability to be happy and outgoing like people around me at school made me hate who I was even more.
When I looked in the mirror all I could see were imperfections. I became disgusted with myself.
I wanted so desperately to have friends to talk to about everything, but any friends I did talk to didn’t stick around because there was too much drama in my life. They didn’t want to deal with it.
As a freshman at high school, I was just 14 years old when my dad went to the hospital for a blood clot in his leg in January. The following month, we were shocked to find out he had cancer and was in the final stage. On the day we got the results of what kind of cancer he had, he passed away. My protector was gone.
In that one month everything I knew that was safe had changed. My mind was overwhelmed with thoughts of being alone in the world without him to love me.
I felt like no-one understood me or cared to try. They didn’t know what it was like at home. They didn’t know the darkness I felt so smothered by.
Losing my dad was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through and the most alone I have ever felt.
On a constant basis I felt emotionally overwhelmed like I was going to explode and other days I felt numb.
One day I got cut by something on my arm and the pain and the sight of the blood soothed my mind for a moment. I picked up a pair of scissors and cut my arm again. I can’t explain why… it felt for a moment as though by doing that, it was releasing my emotions. The tears stopped and all was silent in my head.
I began to cut every time I felt overwhelmed emotionally. I cut when I was angry and when I was sad. I cut when I was numb to feel something.
I began to feel like I had to cut to make the emotional pain stop it. I got good at making excuses for the marks and hiding them. I learned to wear a facade when I wasn’t alone. I pretended as though there was nothing wrong.
I masked my true emotions with a fake smile.
At this time in my life I didn’t know anyone else had a problem like mine. I had never heard of cutting before. I just did it. The feeling of relief was only temporary and the scars remain like a story on my arm. I was terrified of anyone finding out about it and of being committed to an institute like my brother.
After awhile just a few cuts weren’t enough to make me feel better. I had to cut deeper, more often, and more. After awhile, even that didn’t make me feel better. The inner pain could not be subsidized by the external.
This continued throughout high school and into my early twenties.
One day my co-worker Grace invited me to a stage production she was going to be in. I went and loved it. The story that was told in the production really spoke to me.
For the first time in a while, I felt hope.
I stayed after the production and met some other Lovely girls who invited me to hang out with them. There seemed to be so much love among them, and this was what I sought after. These Lovely girls offered me their friendship, and they actually listened when I talked. They didn’t get scared off when I told them my story.
I began to learn so much about my own value. I felt treasured for the first time since my Dad died. I was learning to love myself and cancel out those constant thoughts in my mind that told me otherwise. I can’t say it was an easy process. It was one day at a time. It was learning to accept compliments and truth even if I didn’t believe them about myself…yet.
I had to change my mindset of the way I felt about myself and allow those areas to be healed. To look in the mirror and tell myself I’m beautiful. Telling myself daily that I am a lovely person with something great to offer the world.
I also learned what true friendship is. I don’t know why I decided to give these lovely girls a try- but I’m so glad I did. I can honestly say it was a turning point.
That thought that used to tell me to grab the scissors is gone.
I’ve forgiven my family and we’ve talked about our past. My family and I have reconciled. I’ve accepted that we can’t change the past but we can change the future. We have moved forward and have a pretty good relationship now, which I thought I would never be able to say.
I’ve overcome cutting and low self-esteem. Not to say my life is perfect, because there is no such thing, but it is much improved.
I found joy and boldness to be myself.