A Whole New Me

Yesterday it was seven years since I graduated high school. It feels like that was a lifetime ago—like it was a different me. So much can happen in seven short years and it has been a journey full of ups and downs.

They say the body replaces its cells every seven years. The thought that I am an entirely different person from the one who walked across that stage in 2013 makes me happy. I didn’t like who I was then.

As my body has replaced those cells over the years, I have replaced other parts of myself. I like to think that I have been pruning myself, cutting away the bad, unhealthy parts of myself to make room for new growth. It’s hard to look closely at yourself and pick up those shears. The process was painful and not without tears but a necessary step to becoming who I am today.

In order to change my view of myself, I had to rethink everything that I thought I was. All the lies that had been put in my head had to go. They would have no place in my new life. I ripped off the labels that people had stuck on me, tuned out the echoes of hurtful words and erased the distorted images of what I thought my body looked like.

No longer will I let others define what I think of myself.

I am not worthless.

I am not ugly.

I am not stupid.

Despite what I was told, I have worth. It comes from inside me and does not depend on what others think of me.

I am still sad for the girl I was. It took a long time for me to come this far—to go from crying myself to sleep almost every night to being grateful for the life that I have. I wish I could go back in time to comfort that girl and tell her she was beautiful. I would tell her that things would get better, that there is hope.

Since I can not go back and change my past, I hope to change other’s futures. I want to help others on their journeys to love themselves. It is my wish that the words I write will help people to know they are not alone.

For so long, I was so sure of my lack of value that I didn’t believe any positive comments. I thought people were just trying to be nice but that the words they said weren’t genuine.

There have been some amazing people in my life who have made me believe in myself. These people helped me weed out those negative thoughts and gave me the seeds for positive ones be planted firmly in their place. The dark corners of my mind have been replaced with beautiful gardens.

I had to do the hard work. In spite of that part of me that said those positive seeds weren’t real, I planted, watered and waited for them to grow.

Let’s spread the seeds of love and compassion. You never know what will grow when you give it the chance. The seeds you spread might just help someone start their garden.

           

As I used to doubt but now believe, healing comes with time. Your happiness is worth fighting for.

Nerissa

I Don’t Owe My Abuser Anything

I have learned to be selfish when it comes to my health. For my mental health, I need to limit my contact with my mother. Talking to her can trigger memories and feelings that I would rather not experience. It can make my depression worse. The interactions with her have a way of slipping past my defenses and making me feel like that small little child again. At times, I have even considered cutting off all contact with her. I don’t know yet what is right for me.

Many people have tried to tell me how I should feel and act towards my situation. Common phrases I hear are “But she’s your mother!” and “Everyone should always be grateful to their parents”. Views like these are seen as normal. These people think they know my situation and have the right to tell me what I owe to my mother. They think that I owe my mother everything because she gave birth to me and kept a roof over my head. She even seems to think so. Being a parent is so much more than that. Having a blood connection with her does not entitle her to anything from me.

I do not think that anyone who has been abused should owe their abuser anything. The abuser shouldn’t be able to get off scot free just because they are a relative or a close friend of the family. So, no, I do not owe my mother a relationship, love, gratitude or forgiveness. It is up to me, and no one else, to decide what is right for me. In the end I am the only one who can make that decision. Each victim will have to decide for themselves how they would like to proceed. I think it is very important to support their needs.

The trauma I went through has affected my life in a huge way, and it was something that was out of my control. I was a child and for a long time I didn’t know that what I was experiencing wasn’t normal. Yet, I have managed to survive all of that and come out a strong person due to my own resiliency.

It is only in the last few years that I have started to reach out and seek treatment. I waited so long because of all these people who didn’t believe me or didn’t support me. The lack of support was quite shocking especially when it was close family members who knew what was going on. They insisted that I had an obligation to remain in my mother’s life. It invalidated my feelings and made me think it was my fault.

While I have not made a final decision yet, I know that I will do what is best for me. If I decide I can handle keeping her in my life that’s fine but it is also okay if I decide that I don’t want her to be a part of my life anymore. Either way, I do not want to let her bring me down anymore. I am healing, I am stronger, and I won’t let her treat me that way anymore.

I encourage anyone facing a similar situation to seek out the help they need because it is easier to deal with when you are not alone.

As I used to doubt but now believe, healing comes with time. Your happiness is worth fighting for.

Nerissa

Believe in Your Strength

I have found at times when I am really struggling with my depression, I feel very weak. I think to myself that a stronger person wouldn’t let this happen to them. This gets me in a downward spiral of thinking about all my faults. The list seems endless. Things like I am weak, stupid, ugly and fat. Sometimes, I even think that I don’t deserve to be happy or even alive.

            It can be very easy to see the faults other people pick on, but it can be very hard to see the good qualities your friends see in you. Listen to your good friends when they give you compliments and talk about your good qualities. They look at us with a love we often don’t feel for ourselves. A good question to ask yourself is if you were talking to a good friend, would you treat them the way you treat yourself? You need to boost yourself up, like your friends would do for you and you would do for them.

            Learning how to love yourself can be one of the hardest things to do, but I have found it has helped me greatly in fighting my depression. Then, I can begin to acknowledge my accomplishments. The biggest thing is accepting my strengths and weaknesses for what they are. For my weaknesses, I like to think about what I can do to strengthen myself in those areas. I learn how to adapt myself, so that weak area won’t hold me back in my life. When it comes to my strengths, I need to learn to embrace them. There is a part of me that doesn’t believe I am good at anything and because of that I don’t often use the skills I have strength in. Utilizing my strengths has been something I have been getting better at. By believing in myself, I increase my strengths and confidence in my skills.

            Strength comes from the little things as well. Sometimes, showing my strength is as simple as getting out of bed on a hard day. Going to work and school, despite my fatigue, body ache and depression, is a sign of strength. Everyday that I fight my inner demons is a day that I use my strength. I applaud anyone who has to battle their inner demons on a daily basis. Some people don’t realize how much strength that takes. So, for those who struggle with that I tell you:

             You have amazing strength. I hope you realize how strong you are. Believe in your strength, believe in yourself and anything can be possible for you.

            As I used to doubt but now believe, healing comes with time. Your happiness is worth fighting for

            Nerissa

Therapy is Important

            Two and a half years ago I had my first counseling appointment. At first, I was against the idea of going to therapy. Making excuses, I put off making my first appointment. A part of me knew it would be good for me, but another part of me was afraid to deal with my emotions. I was afraid that maybe my problems weren’t bad enough for me to need therapy and that I was silly or stupid for wanting help. Finally, a really good friend gave me the push I needed to finally make the appointment and I went on a weekly basis for eight months. I was lucky enough to have access to this counseling for free through my school.

            There were so many things I learned during those sessions, about myself and how to process things. Most importantly, I started to learn how to take care of myself and put myself first. Taking care of my self has always been the last thing on my list of things to do and because of that my physical and mental health have suffered. I know now that sometimes it is okay to be selfish in order to survive. It is okay to fight for what I want, and to say no to something that is bad for me. I have known all of this in theory for a while, and I am working on getting better at applying it to my life. Knowing what I should do, and actually acting upon it are two very different things.

            Growing up, I was bullied at home and at school. The bullying made me feel so small and worthless. It felt like I was a burden to people. I felt like I didn’t deserve to be happy. When you grow up with a mind set like that, it can be very hard to break those thinking habits. The one thing I know for sure is that I am strong. I have survived through so much and I will keep on surviving even when it feels like my world is crashing down. Going to therapy for help did not mean I was weak. In fact, it showed my strength and determination because I was finally willing to fight for what I needed to make me healthy. Since I started therapy, not only have I become a stronger and happier person, but a freer person as well. Friends and family noticed the change before I did.

            Not everything has become sunshine and rainbows, yet I am able to look at the dark days in a different way. Also, I am able to look at my past in a different way. My therapist has changed my perspective on things, even though I kept fighting her on it. Every week I looked forward to my appointment. I am glad that someone cared about me enough to push me into going. It has been one of the best things to ever happen in my life and has lead to many other good things.

As I used to doubt but now believe, healing comes with time. Your happiness is worth fighting for.

Nerissa

Never the Victim’s Fault

It was not my fault. It is never the victims fault. Over the years, I convinced myself that all the abuse I received was my fault, which I have read is a normal thing for victims to do. I even convinced myself that it wasn’t a serious thing because it was just emotional abuse. Compared to sexual and physical abuse, it hardly seems half as bad. Since I could have had it worse, I told myself I had no right to complain. My mom would tell me that kids in Africa had it way worse. She would also talk about how she had it way worse as a child. It was her way of justifying everything she did. So, I kept quiet and held everything in.

It is only in the last six years that I finally started accepting the fact that what my mom did to me was not right. The way she treated me has contributed to the many self-esteem and confidence issues because when you hear something enough times you believe it. She would say things like ‘that dress makes you look fat’, ‘you may be school smart but you are stupid in everything else’ and even at one point she called me ‘a stupid teenage bitch’ which I found quite offensive. Despite how much these comments hurt me, there were ones that hurt more. Often, she would say things like ‘I want to set the house on fire’, ‘I wish the world would end’ or ‘I don’t have any reasons to live’. The little girl inside of me wanted to say ‘But what about me mom? Aren’t I enough? Don’t you want to live for me?’

When I was young, I sought my worth from my mother’s approval because I didn’t know any better. Now I know I was never going to find my worth that way. Sometimes she would build me up a bit, but it seemed to be only so she could tear me down. My mother did not have confidence in herself so to feel better about herself she would make me feel terrible. Through her behaviour, she taught me that I didn’t have any worth.
I felt so alone because the one person who should have been on my side simply wasn’t. A mother should want to protect her child more than she wants to feel good about herself. At times, I think she was jealous of my happiness and my school smarts. When I started going to church, it brought a light to my life where before there had only been darkness. After my mother noticed this she actually tried telling me I wasn’t allowed to go to church anymore but I was not about to let her stop me. I fought for my happiness. It wasn’t easy to stand up to her but I told her, “I’m sorry mom but you aren’t going to stop me from going to church. It is the only thing in my life that is making me happy right now and I am not about to lose that.”

As I have grown, I have been inspired by people who have great confidence in themselves and the fact that they have accepted themselves for who they are. They taught me to believe in myself and to know it was not my fault. I don’t have to carry that blame anymore and neither should any other victim. It is a heavy weight that has been lifted from my shoulders. I have also learned that no matter how she tries to justify it, what she did was her actions and it does not take away from the trauma she caused. Abuse is wrong and there is no excuse that would ever be able to justify it or make it okay.

As I used to doubt but now believe, healing comes with time. Your happiness is worth fighting for.

Nerissa

Learning to Let Go

There is a song called “Kristy Are You Doing Okay” by The Offspring and when I am having trouble letting go of something there are a few of the lyrics that run through my head.

“A rose that won’t bloom

Winter’s kept you

Don’t waste your whole life trying

To get back what was taken away.”

I had been having a really tough day and my thoughts were anything but positive, when all of a sudden these lyrics began to run through my head. At the time, it was really what I needed to hear. I had been thinking a lot about my past and how much I was hurt by it. There were regrets about things I had done and wishes that things would have turned out differently running through my head. I wanted to get back the childhood I thought I deserved, one free of all the hurt and depression.

When the lyrics ran through my head, they reminded me that the past is the past. If I keep trying to hold onto the past I wish I could change, I will keep myself frozen in it and prevent myself from truly embracing the present and all that lies ahead. I can’t bring back the innocent happiness of a childhood that I lost too soon. All I can do is let go so that I can begin to move on. Once I begin to truly let go, I can begin to bloom and grow into the person that I am meant to be. A person that I can’t wait to meet in the mirror someday soon.

As I used to doubt but now believe, healing comes with time. Your happiness is worth the wait.

Nerissa