Editor’s note: This is part 38 of Marie’s story.
[Private journal entry written on Thursday, September 23, 2010]
Well… I took yet another run at my therapy homework assignment… third try has to be a charm. This time, I wrote it as if I were speaking directly to Carl—I imagined we were sitting in his office and I was simply having a conversation with him. The words came easier to me when I put it into that context…
“I was so desperate to feel connected and wanted by you that I went looking for ‘that’ elsewhere. ‘That’ didn’t come cheaply… I had to trade my body for it.”
It’s such a short paragraph. Yet it stirs up such strong emotion for me.
I tried to tell you about that part of my life, but I didn’t know where to start. You asked me to write about it, but I was so overwhelmed by the multitude of parts and angles and players that my words got all tangled up on the paper.
Still, I persisted. And, this week I was finally able to identify and isolate the part of the mess that strikes the greatest terror in my heart.
It has to do with what I believe about myself. More accurately, it has to do with what will happen as a result of me telling you what I believe about myself.
What I believe about myself is not nice. But, I have become accustomed to thinking that way about myself. I’ve become numb to the pain of it. To some extent, I have accepted it as a permanent state and have begun adapting my life to make the best of it.
You see… in this moment, the pain I most fear is not the pain of believing I am “less than”. Rather, I fear the pain that comes when I am brutally reminded of the futility of hoping for something better. I have found it far less painful to simply remain complacent about the state of my self-esteem.
You spoke accurately when you said I seem to be asking, “What is wrong with me?” Well, your words were almost accurate.
I used to ask myself that question in my younger years when I still had hope I could fix whatever ailed me. In those years, I could adjust my mask a little bit—put on a little more make-up, lose five more pounds, take on some new daring hobby, read some best-seller book, perfect my work product a bit more—and try being “enough” once again.
Over the years, I was given the message I am “not enough” so many times that I no longer have hope of ever being enough.
Now, I just say to myself, “Yes, something is wrong with me.” The interrogatories are finished. I’ve quit trying to identify my shortcomings; I’ve just accepted there is something very wrong with me. I am surrounded and overwhelmed by the evidence of my chronic brokenness.
The few times I have dared to put into words what I really believe about myself, well-meaning people have responded by telling me what I believe is not true. They tell me that any person with a brain can see I’m as good as they come—a real treasure. They tell me I just have to tell myself a different story. They tell me to “snap out of it” and to stop feeling sorry for myself.
If it were only that easy.
So, on top of believing I’m broken, I heap the words of those well-meaning people—they seem to be telling me:
- I have no brain
- I’m stuck in the role of a victim
- I’m too undisciplined to control my thoughts
- I’m lacking the common sense needed to discern reality
- My character is too weak to challenge and shift destructive internal dialogue
Well, shame on me for being powerless, too.
No, I’d rather not hear all of that. I’d rather just keep my beliefs about myself to myself, thank you very much. It’s much safer that way.
So, here, now, with you… I’m struggling.
If I tell you what I really believe about myself, how will you respond? Will you speak the same words the others have said? If so, I’m not interested.
If I tell you what I really believe about myself, does that mean I’m obligated to have hope things can be better? Is hope even possible for me? Can I dredge some up or is it all used up?
If I manage to scrounge up some hope, and if it gets torn asunder once again, can I survive that?
I don’t know.