Creating my story

This year is no different than any other year. I still have my history, my faults, my stubbornness and my tendency to withdraw into my own world. Except this year it is worse. It is worse because I can’t use any of my old excuses that worked so well to keep me comfortable and in the same place. Last year I revealed publicly that I grew up in an abusive household. I am in my 50’s and up until now, this was a subject I talked about only with counselors and people close to me. It was usually discussed in hushed tones and with the lights dimmed. The shame I would feel after talking about my truth would last a couple of weeks. I didn’t like feeling ashamed so I would go through long periods of not talking about it at all. But I broke that pattern last year. I wrote about it in a public blog for anyone, including my family, to read. It was scary, it was nerve-racking, but it is done. I can’t take it back. I can’t hide behind my wall of shame anymore. That is why this year is going to be harder. I have had a self imposed shame barrier my whole life. There were certain things that I just couldn’t do and chances I couldn’t take because I was different. I didn’t grow up with parents that loved and supported me unconditionally, so I decided that I wasn’t allowed to participate freely in life.

I was taught at a young age to not question anything, do as I was told, and maybe worst of all, protect my abusers

Instead of being encouraged to take chances and explore, I was taught to be cautious and watch what I said. Because I was too young to understand the full scope of what was going on around me, sometimes I would reveal a truth without knowing it. In other words, sometimes I would just talk without thinking too much about it, like most kids do. I quickly learned not to do this, as there were severe punishments. This was how I was taught to be in the world. So, I was completely unprepared to take care of myself when I left home at 22. But, I was good at observing people and copying them. I was like a chameleon and I could turn color to quickly fit in. I didn’t feel like I was compromising myself at the time, because I didn’t know enough about myself to feel compromised. My main objective was survival and not being rejected. This worked very well for a long time, but as I got older it became completely exhausting. Four years ago, my exhaustion and dissatisfaction became so severe that it started to become a problem in my life. I tried distracting myself and drinking more to keep the lid on my emotions but that only made things worse. So I began the journey that led me to reveal my truth last year.

So, this year has to be different, I am not the same person.

But 50 years of approaching life a certain way, doesn’t go away overnight. My self imposed exclusion from taking chances was my security blanket. My blanket is now see through and small and doesn’t cover me. I am exposed and I feel my nerves rising up at odd times. Sometimes, I feel insecure and I want to withdraw. I can no longer rely on my old stories to comfort me. I have always told little white lies so that I appeared ‘normal’. And since I have been telling these lies for so long my brain is having a hard time sifting through what is the truth and what is not. My brain has been protecting me and was prepared to lie for me forever. Now, I feel like an inmate who thought they were serving a life sentence, only to be pardoned and set free with nothing but the clothes on their back and a toothbrush. I am starting over. It is exciting, but it is hard. I am ready to break down new barriers, but I am also scared of the unknown. This week when I was feeling insecure I searched for a reason to not attempt things that scared me. I tried to come up with an excuse to stay in my comfort zone, and I longed for the comfort of my old predictable patterns. My brain tried to provide an excuse for me, but it came up empty and then said to me ‘You got yourself into this, I guess there is no direction but forward.’ So, this year is going to be harder because I can’t use my old excuses.

I see and feel the limits within me even now.

I felt them last week when I was trying to do an Instagram Story. I decided that I wanted to talk to my followers by doing stories. It is one of my goals for this year. So, I went out on my lunch break and walked the sidewalks of Portland talking into my phone. I felt really stupid. I thought that everyone was watching me and thinking that I was silly. But I had told myself that whatever I recorded I was going to post, so if it was bad then oh well. So even though I felt really stupid, insecure, and had all sorts of doubts I did it, and I posted it. And that act of pushing through my insecurities and doing something anyway made me feel happy. For some reason, I thought that creating stories on Instagram was off limits to me. That I wasn’t qualified enough, or didn’t know what I was doing. I realized this week that it is an example of the limits I place on myself with no real reason. They are not real barriers, they are created stories in my head. And now I have the power to change the story in my head and in my life. Now, I have the power to create a new life story.

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    1. Hi Kim, It is very hard growing up how we grew up. But we survived, and moved forward. It is hard for me to tell my truth because I was so conditioned not to talk. But it feels so good to finally just be myself! Thanks for all of your support!! Love, Peta

  1. I do love your words, there is a time in life where we just have to let go and live for ourselves no matter what the cost. Our life is a journey and it’s up to us to make it worthwhile. The word I choose for 2019 is Remarkable, I don’t know why that’s just how I feel it’s going to be. As always thank you for your words.

    1. You are so right Kristin! I felt like I came to a crossroads about 5 years ago that I could either go more into denial and bury everything at the cost of my emotional and physical health, or I could state my truth and take an unknown path. I decided to take the latter, stop drinking and get in touch with my real feelings. I love your word for the year, because it has been and continues to be a Remarkable journey! Love, Peta

  2. Oh Peta, this is a brilliant post that I can relate to so much. Security blankets are wonderful for making us feel secure, but too often they can suffocate us and leave us struggling to be who we really are. I think women, just as much as boys, are told to bottle up their true feelings and pretend everything is okay when it’s not. We’re the supporters, after all, the ones who have to make sure life is okay for everyone. I know myself, I have found it so hard putting my blog out there because of so many years guarding what I said, always trying to please everyone and be what they wanted me to be. Writing what I truly think is scary – what if people don’t like it? Worse, what if people don’t like me because of what I’ve said. I don’t think I could be as brave as you to record an InstaStory. I think you’re marvellous.

    1. Thanks Elizabeth! I was scared for so long! But, what I realized last year is that the people that were never there for you anyway are the ones who will reject you. It is very hurtful, but in my experience when I thought back on my relationship with certain people it was a competitive dynamic and not supportive or truthful. Rejection hurts really bad, especially from your family. I think the hardest reality I had to come to terms with this last year is that being the youngest of 6 children in an abusive household that none of my brothers and sisters tried to protect me. It was not their job, I understand that. But they were so much older than me, and must have realized what was happening as they got older and witnessed things. I had such a hard time with that, that I kind of filled in the blanks and made up stories in my head because that was SO HARD for me to acknowledge!! That I was completely alone fighting my own fight!!! Even though it was so long ago, it is hard to admit, and I think that I didn’t want to write about this to protect them, and not have them mad at me, but really I was protecting myself against the truth of my experience. There was such a block within me not to see that truth, and really that block more than anything stopped me from writing up until now. Love to you on your journey! You are more courageous than you know! Love, Peta

    1. Thanks Katie! The comfort zone is well, comfortable. And I think there are times when it is good and healthy to hang out in that space. But, I believe our bodies tell us when it is time to change. That is how it was for me, my thoughts and my body started rejecting where I was in my life and stopped me in my tracks and I could have drowned out all those signals, meaning more alcohol and more distractions, which I tried unsuccessfully for a while, but eventually I decided to take a look at what was really going on. I realize now that my body and mind were sending me signals to put me on another path, a path of my truth and in line with what I truly believe. I didn’t understand it at first, I thought I was having a nervous breakdown, but now I get it! I cringe when I think of how my life would be right now if I stayed on my old path. I would have never written this blog, or created my drawings, or met and connected with amazing like minded people like you. I would have stayed in limbo, and self imposed isolation. It makes me happy that I changed, and also sad for the person that I may have become. Thank you for your input. Love, Peta

  3. Hi Peta! First of all, I commend you for your bravery! This is not easy for you and you did it! Congratulations!! Your journey begins now. I have known one other person that I know went through abuse and she displayed so many similar ways as you have shared. Judging by the comments above, this may be a common pattern for the abused person, and for that you are now a shining light of hope to others. You have made it through. You have had therapy, and may still, but that is none of my business, it is yours, and you have changed and grown and now are showing others the way through too. A beacon of light, my sister! I have been through much emotional abuse from my dad, marriage and relationships. I also used chemicals to cover up my feelings. I don’t have to do that anymore either! I have been clean and sober for 15 years now and I live a life for me. I have had tragedy and many many problems in sobriety, but I had the tools to survive without picking up. These are true miracles. You are a miracle. Thank you for being brave, thank you for sharing, and I know you will continue to have an amazing path ahead of you if you choose to stay the course! Much love to you!

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I believe there is a common pattern for people like me that were abused as children. I thought I was ‘over it’ years ago, but I have come to realize that I will never really get over it. As my life changes and new challenges come, my history is a part of who I am and will factor into any decisions that I make. To not have my emotions or desires acknowledged as a child, and to spend my childhood using my energy to figure the adults out around me so that I didn’t suffer isolation or punishment is an experience that will never leave me. It definitely taught me how to survive in any condition, and it made me tough, but I didn’t know myself and felt depressed much of the time and didn’t know why. I turned to alcohol and men for fulfillment. It is a tough path to turn that around, and it is a struggle even now. But I have never felt as light and happy as I do now. I didn’t even realize how much I was still holding on to, until I let so much go last year. Thank you again, and I praise you on your sobriety and your path. I praise your strength and resilience. Love and gratitude to you! Love, Peta

  4. Thank you for being so raw and open about your life. We grew up in a generation where you never talked about the bad things in life. Heaven forbid you should have any insecurities or have someone judge you so, yes, you accommodate and please everyone. But things have changed.
    Your words are power to you and to others going through the same thing.

    1. Hi Danni, so true! For most of my life, I have used so much energy to try and hide what I thought were my faults, and appear ‘normal’, but there came a time that it became so exhausting not to live my authentic self that I almost had a break down. From there, I decided to move in a different direction, and tell my truth. I am glad that you see my words as power. That means so much to me! Love, Peta

  5. Peta … so glad I’ve found you. I need to go back read from last year now. You’re very brave for being transparent and hopefully helping someone else that may be going through that now. You’re a strong woman and excited to see how this year unfolds for you!

    1. Hi Melanie, I am so happy that you want to read my previous writing. I wrote every Saturday last year, so there are 53 of them : ) There are direct links in the Site Content of my website I have always wanted to write about this, but I have always been too scared. I still have fears sometimes, but so far the good feelings outweigh the negative. The best part of writing about it is that my writing me is connecting me to you, and it is those connections that mean everything after feeling so disconnected most of my life. Love, Peta

  6. I commend you for sharing your story Peta. I come from a dysfunctional family myself, and have felt shame my whole life. I’ve never had any confidence in myself until my fifties. I think blogging helps a lot, as well as the support we get from our readers. Thanks for sharing your post. I’m know that you have helped a lot of people, including myself, with your honest words.

    1. Hi Christina, I appreciate your comment. Shame is probably the hardest emotion to have as I think I didn’t even realize I felt it until I went to counseling. It is so ingrained in children that come from dysfunction, and it keeps them silent. But we don’t have to be silent anymore, we can claim our space and our voice. I am so happy that my words have encouraged you, your words have encouraged me too! Love, Peta

  7. Congratulations to finally finding the courage to reveal what was very likely burning inside you. It can be an incredible tough thing to do and it is not easy to deal with feelings of shame and maybe even guilt. You have written a very vulnerable post but I am sure so many people will recognise something in their own lives that resembles what you wrote about. It made me think of Brené Brown who has done some great stuff with shame and guilt. If you do not know it, check it out. It is brilliant. Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Thank you! It is something that I didn’t even know bothered me so much until I let it go by telling my truth. I was scared of negative feedback because as a child you are taught that terrible things will happen if you reveal the truth, this is done to protect the abuser. It is the psychological abuse of keeping a secret and not being able to reveal hurt that does more damage that the actual act of abuse. So, letting go of that is life changing. I do know Brene Brown, I do like her but sometimes she is a little angry and harsh for my taste, I agree with a lot of what she says, but not everything. Thanks again! Love, Peta

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