Depression is such a difficult illness for me. I can deal with physical pain so much better. But when that dark cloud hits me, even though my intellectual self is very aware that it is the illness and not reality, my emotional self takes control and no logic or reason makes it through until the clouds thin out. The problem with that is when I’m in the midst of it, I do and say things that scare the crap out of people I love – and for good reason – I have always been quite capable of self-destruction.
This is what can happen when children are abused. My father’s last words to me were “I’m going to kill you.” I was 13, and he was removed from my family home, voted off the island as it were, that same night. This followed about a year of beatings and he even tried to run down a neighborhood boy he thought I was fooling around with (we actually really disliked each other).
Yes, my father was seriously mentally ill.
I walked around for another 13 years with my eyes over my shoulder thinking he was coming back, all the while struggling with substance abuse, medical illness and the inner belief that I was unworthy to live life.
For after all, if The Father says you’re not worthy, he must be right.
This has happened in some way to the people with whom I am closest – you know who you are. And the damage seems to last a lifetime.
There are times when I am so overwhelmed by the fact that my life is filled with a global, diverse family ranking in the thousands. How did the bad little girl who was so awful her father wanted her dead become this? It overwhelms, it feels so undeserved and yet it appears to be the greatest gift I’ve been given with which to manage the fact that I have a sense of self only slightly higher than the sidewalk, no matter what successes it appears I have achieved. If anything, I’ve overcompensated to prove to others I am worthy of life.
I’m turning 50 in January, and one would think the distance between the trauma of my abusive childhood and my own self would be softened. And it has been, a little. But the storms still come, and when they do, all that inner horror comes out.
My father died of a rare brain tumor. Between his psychoses and that tumor, there’s an explanation that intellectually I use to reason this through. I am still without peace. Perhaps it’s because I remember him when he loved me. And for a few years, before he became sicker, I loved him fiercely too.
It is a myth that we must love ourselves before we love others. In fact, if anything, loving others before yourself is the greatest gift I believe we can give the world.
What I personally must learn is quite simple in theory: to let others love me back. It has taken half a century and I’m only just beginning to learn how to do that.