The Way Out

I am sharing my story because I feel compelled to help others out of the lonely place where I once lived.

When I left my marriage I was running away from pain. I was in so much pain, I couldn’t think straight and I definitely couldn’t see myself and my own actions clearly. All I knew is that I felt like I had a lot of time left on this earth and I couldn’t spend the rest of it in the state I was in. I used to say to myself, “This can’t be the rest of my life.”

My exit was a shedding of my marriage, but also a shedding of the person that I used to be. The person that I was 20 years ago when I first got married was completely different then who I am now. 20 years ago I thought the best way to get away from pain was to hide it. So I buried it so deep down within me that I couldn’t even find it. But it was still there. It was like a wound festering and growing. What I have realized lately is that within the pain was my sense of self. Along with trying to get rid of the pain, I got rid of really who I am.

The pain was caused from being misunderstood and rejected by my family. I felt unseen and not valued by them. It hurt. But beneath that was a feeling inside of me that felt like it deserved to be rejected. That needy child within me. If she didn’t have needs, then I wouldn’t hurt so much. I learned that the way to stop the hurt was not to need anything from my family. When I had no expectations of love or getting my needs met from them, the pain was minimized.

This strategy worked in order dull the primal pain of being rejected by my own parents. But once I implemented this way of being, it carried over into all my relationships. A feeling of not needing anyone translated into a lot of my friendships being superficial. I was scared to go too deep and connect with anyone in case I accidentally touched on the pain that was within me. I was originally attracted to my Ex-husband because he didn’t want to have deep conversations about feelings. I didn’t either! So, it worked.

Slowly though, I started to change. Not because I wanted to, but because the pain that I had hid so well for so long started coming to the surface. It started to overwhelm me in the form of depression and anxiety. But because I had buried it so deeply within me I couldn’t understand why I felt the way that I did. Why was I so sad? Why did I feel alone in a room full of people and in my marriage? Everything on the surface was fine because I had worked very hard at it ‘appearing’ fine. I had worked so hard at it, I started to believe my own illusion of it ‘being’ fine so my sadness seemed out of place. It confused me, so I tried to hide my sadness and dissatisfaction by drinking too much and working out incessantly.

But my feelings of unworthiness would not go away no matter what I did. I looked to my husband to fill the void in me. I thought that maybe if he loved me more my pain would go away. But nothing worked, and I started to feel out of control as I could no longer suppress my debilitating pain. And then in the midst of struggles, my mother passed away. I was immobile, numb, and completely devastated. For a short period of time I relied on white wine to get me through the day. I felt myself going down that path of relying on it to not completely fall apart. I knew I was fragile, I knew that I had to make a choice. Down to the darkness forever, or start climbing out to the light?

I chose the light. That was 6 years ago. I stopped drinking and I started the journey of tackling my pain inside. I realized most of the choices that I had made in my life up until then were to avoid pain, not to connect and live a life that I was passionate about. Living a life of avoidance becomes empty after a while. My relationships could only go as deep as I would go with myself, and that wasn’t that far.

The only place I used to go deep was in my journals. Before I started this blog, my journals were private and hidden. They were the real me, and my real hurt. That is where my needy little girl came out and cried into the empty pages every weekend. That is where I asked the question; why? Why do I have to work so hard for love? I wrote and cried and searched for an answer but at the same time I was scared of the answer I might find. I didn’t want it to be that I was doomed to live forever in the empty space between the world where love was exchanged easily, and the world of no feelings where people were commodities. That had been my safe space for most of my life, but also very lonely. It was a place where I could easily go back and forth between the two worlds to avoid getting too close to anyone, even myself.

I used to think I was ‘special’, and that at birth I was assigned a burden to bear, like having a physical ailment. The difference is that my burden was not a physical ailment, it was a pain of the heart and soul. It was the pain of my parents, and their parents, and my great grandparents. It was my inherited pain of abandonment and loss. This pain was never dealt with in the generations before me, instead they learned coping skills and ways to hide it so they could survive. These survival skills were passed down to me, most likely unknowingly. They thought they were giving me life skills, but they were giving me survival skills. They taught me the ways to make it look like all is ok so that I could get through school and get a job, and survive. I know I have passed these same ‘skills’ or ways of being down to my daughter.

As I release the burden of bearing the family pain, I am starting to forgive my family and forgive my Ex-husband. We were all caught up in a dynamic of getting close, and then backing away when it got too painful. But the truth is we all were craving and wanting love, we just didn’t know how to go about it. In forgiving them, I am learning to forgive myself too. I am learning to own the mistakes that I have made because I was trying to avoid pain, and because I really didn’t know any better.

I am slowly learning to take care of the needy child within me that I shamed and left behind so long ago. I am slowly learning that pain is not my burden to bear, it is just one among many emotions that I will feel in life.I don’t have to hide it, bear it, try to get rid of it or be ashamed of it. I didn’t have the skills as a child to deal with my pain, but I do now. I am learning that trying to avoid pain, or avoid needing anything is avoiding who I really am. We all experience pain, and we all have needs. I was not assigned at birth to bear more pain than others.

As I forgive, I am also starting to feel gratitude towards my family for teaching me survival skills. I have survived. I am here, I am writing this. And I am sharing my story because I feel compelled to help others out of the lonely place where I once lived. I want to tell others not to be scared about going too deep within and asking questions. Because the answer is not that you are doomed to live in an empty space forever, the answer is that there is a way out.