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.