Am I damaged? I used to think that I was, at the very core of me damaged or bad. And I used to use all my energy to hide my damage to others. I wanted to appear normal and fit in by saying the right thing and acting appropriately. I grew up in an abusive household where I had no choice but to accept inappropriate behavior and somehow integrate it into my brain and emotions. My parents had no regard for my emotional well-being. I was ‘loved’ and got affection and attention only when I was doing something for them or making them look good. I felt love from them, or what I perceived as love, but how did I know it was really love? I had no point of reference at such a young age of what love was supposed to feel like. But what I did know was that some of their behavior was wrong and abusive. My experience of being subject to abuse and having to accept their bad behavior without being able to defend myself damaged me. It changed me. It made me leave my body and mentally and emotionally go away; go to someplace safe. So, when I left my parent’s house and ventured out on my own and experienced abuse by others I also left my body and mind to find safety. I would space out. I had no words or language to defend myself. My brain would register that certain behavior was wrong, but it was almost as if I was mute and could not get the words out to make it stop. I had been taught not to talk about these things, I had been punished if I did talk about these things. I had learned to witness and take abuse and not say a word and keep physically living my life. This way of being saved me. My ability to witness and experience terrible things but not really take it into my emotional being, saved my life. But as I got older and wanted to fall in love and be intimate, I couldn’t. There was a wall there. My whole body and brain knew that if that wall came down I would be destroyed. So, in loving someone and trying to let that wall down it felt like death to me. The very thing that should be giving me joy in life was associated with death. The only way I knew how to gain connection and get the love feeling I felt as a child was to keep that wall up and do things for others so they liked me, praised me and found me useful. I was sad inside but I wasn’t alone. It was the best I could do without feeling like I was going to disintegrate. It wasn’t my fault, it wasn’t my lover’s fault, and it wasn’t even my parent’s fault. It was how I developed to survive a situation that I was born into that I found unacceptable. My whole body and brain rejected my parents, but my whole body and brain also loved and needed my parents. And I wanted them to love me. I wanted them to accept and love me. I wanted to make them proud. So, when I moved out and got an apartment, started my finance career and established a life of my own without asking for their help I thought I would get their praise and love. But I didn’t. The only way I could get attention from them was when I failed. If I shared my successes, there was silence. But if I shared my failures, they were interested. So, I learned that I could be close to them if I sabotaged myself. In that space of failing and insecurity I had my parent’s attention. I learned that, without consciously knowing it. So, it began. The self-sabotage where I stopped talking about my accomplishments, and also down played any gifted qualities that others saw in me. It is in self destruction I found peace because I wasn’t fighting against my parents and my past, I was giving in to it and gaining attention and acceptance. That is the damaged part of me, that part of me that longs to destroy myself so that I can relax. I can feel the pull to that place every single day. It is a battle within me. It gets worse when I am tired and overwhelmed, my brain wants to go there and find comfort and peace. It is a disease just like a physical disease. It is an emotional disease that I was exposed to as a child and I will have it for the rest of my life. I know I will have it, because I have tried everything to get rid of it and it is still there. I have tried angrily screaming it away to anyone who will listen, I have tried drinking it away until I threw up and couldn’t think anymore, I have tried fucking it away with romantic partners and random strangers, I have tried analyzing it away with a myriad of counselors, YouTube coaches, and self-help books. None of it worked. It may have worked in the moment or for a few days but even when I didn’t feel it, I was cringing in anticipation for it to come back and it always did. So, I have finally given in to the fact that whether I like it or not I was handed a burden to bear as a child and I have to bear it. It is who I am and will forever be a part of me. Once I accepted it, I could work on methods to manage it. And that is where I am now. Now I manage my emotions by being able to verbalize my boundaries. Also, reminding myself daily that when people are being nice to me that they are not trying to break down my wall and destroy me, that they are actually just being nice. I have worked on accepting others’ kindness and taking it in, which believe it or not has been very difficult for me. Also, I have spent time getting to know myself, and to know when I need to pull back and have some me time and regroup. I have also learned that I don’t need to explain to anyone why and what I am doing when I do take that time for myself. If I had a physical disease and I was taking care of it, people would understand. But I have an unseen emotional disease that is hard to understand, and even harder because for some reason society has built shame around emotional and mental diseases. But, I developed an emotional disease in order to survive, it is the very thing that saved my life, so why should I be ashamed of it? I have learned to look back and thank the little girl that I was, and her resourcefulness and her mental and emotional intuition to know what she needed to do at such a young age. I used to hate her for allowing all the abuse to happen to her, I used to hide her. I used to resent her and think she was bad and ugly. Now, I love her. Now I thank her. Now I protect her because she deserved to be protected as a child and she wasn’t. So, finally I am giving that to her. And I am also talking about her, because there is no shame in surviving. There just isn’t. I can talk about it, I can accept it, and I can learn to manage it. It is who I am, it is what I have been through, and without shame or judgement it is my story and there is nothing I can do to change it.