Day 1 - My Story - The Vulnerable Version
Updated: Apr 1
When I asked God this morning what we were doing today, His answer was "Be vulnerable." So here we go... I started posting again a couple of weeks ago with the mission of telling my story. Mostly because I was challenged as I looked back at my old journals from the last couple of years at how many times God told me "write your story." If I saw it once, I saw it 100 times.
So I started and made the commitment to post every day for a year. But somewhere in all the noise about Corona and our whole lives being tossed upside down, I lost the original, VERY SIMPLE mission... to tell my own human story of weakness, pain, brokenness AND healing and redemption. I got lost in trying to help people with what I think I know instead of just being vulnerable, telling my story and letting that be enough. So, here's me, just putting it out there and saying "Let's try this again." My story... Day 1.
It's funny, even though I'm 39 years old and have lived so much life and been through so much, in many ways it feels like my story started 5 and a half years ago. That's when the Reckoning happened for me. It was an awakening to truth... to things that were always there, but I had been denying. I always struggle with how to tell this part well, so bear with me.
At that time, I was living with my mom (odd, I know, but it will make sense in a bit). My dad left when I was a little more than a year old, and it had pretty much been me and mom ever since then. We owned a catering business together and our lives were completely enmeshed. There was no separation. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was merely a reflection of my mom and I was living a very small, very fearful, very numb Plan B life. Without going into great detail, it's hard to really let you in on how tormenting an existence it was. But through an uncanny set of circumstances that only God could make work for my good, I WOKE UP and came out of the 34 year coma I was living in.
Things had been pretty terrible inside our home for a really long time. Honestly since before I can remember. But I believed it was all my fault. I was told it was all my fault. I was told that if I could just "make the decision to be an honorable daughter" then everything would fall into place and there wouldn't be so much chaos and conflict. That every argument, every time things didn't work out, every moment love was pulled off the table and dangled over my head like a carrot was my fault and my responsibility to fix. I'd been hearing that since I was 5, so I whole heartedly believed it.
Finally things escalated to a point I couldn't take it anymore, and I reached out and told someone what was happening and asked for help. I'd never done that before. I'd always just put the weight on my shoulders, tried to make it better and just keep trucking. I told a beautiful woman in my life what was happening and she heard my heart and went home and told her husband about me. He was the one who pulled me out in a way. He asked her to find out if I would talk to him and I said yes. When we sat down, I had only told him 5 minutes of my story when he stopped me and told me the TRUTH.
I'd been living in emotional, spiritual, mental and physical abuse for 34 years. I honestly didn't know. Well, I take that back... when I look back, I can see that my HEART knew it all along and had diligently been trying to send me warning signs for a really long time. But I was an expert "stuffer" and just ignored it (more on that later). He patiently explained to me what real, Biblical honor looked like and even then tried to help me have compassion and sympathy for my mom. Which I do... I have had so many moments of grief and anger and feeling rightly wronged, but those are just all part of what it looks like to be human. The truth is my mom is suffering. She and I aren't speaking right now (her choice, not mine), but I can tell you what my counselors have been able to help me see... from all evidence, my mom struggles with something called NPD - Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
I know we're all super familiar with the word "narcissistic" these days. It's almost become a catch phrase for anytime someone is selfish and immature. But it's a mental disorder that afflicts many people and it does deserve a great deal of compassion. True narcissism comes from a very deep, very early childhood wound that totally threatens the equilibrium of the child. In order to survive, they deaden their emotions and create a "grandiose false self". They build an image in their mind of what they look like and who they are. It's BIGGER than life and never wrong. And because they can't be wrong (like, they literally can't or they will crumble), they have to manipulate and control the rest of the world into being wrong. That happens in ways that are very damaging and abusive to those in relationship with them mostly because their main tool is to convince you that what you see, feel, think and KNOW in your gut is NOT REAL. They convince you that YOU are the crazy one and you need them in order to survive. This is the side of narcissists that most of us experience and it's just toxic for a relationship. But again, keep in mind, what's really going on under the surface. There is a scared child in there who doesn't know who they are and is TERRIFIED that you are going to tear down the very fragile persona they have made themselves and other people believe.
The other part of that coin is the codependent. That would be me in this case... and 5 years ago, I was SO good at it! The interesting thing is that a codependent comes from essentially the same thing. A very deep, very traumatic early childhood wound that shatters who they are and their whole world crumbles. Just like the narcissist, we develop a false self. Ours is just the opposite... instead of choosing to believe we are GRAND, we choose to believe we are THE PROBLEM. Their false self is big, in charge and perfect. Ours is small, massively insecure and fatally flawed.
For me, that wound happened when I was five years old. I had just come back from a visit with my Dad and told my Mom that I had a good time with him and failed to follow the script I had been given. See, I was caught ink the middle of a really toxic battle between them for about 5 years. My mother programmed me to repeatedly tell my dad that he wasn't my father, he was from the devil and my real father was in Heaven. That started when I was five, and this particular time I hadn't been able to keep my guard up with my dad the whole visit (which honestly, I usually wasn't...) Mom punished me by withdrawing love and shunning me. This is one of the few distinct memories I have of that time period, but I so clearly remember her turning away from me and telling me she couldn't talk to me because I lied to her and my dad. I was crushed. It felt like Inside Out when all the islands are crumbling...
I remember numbly walking inside to put away my clothes from the visit. I put them in my dresser and shut the drawer. And when I shut that drawer, I decided to hate myself. I shut the drawer on my clothes and my heart. The only way I knew to survive was to make myself the bad guy. It was too terrifying at that age to consider the possibility that my mom could be wrong. That love wasn't actually supposed to be conditional. Of course, all of this happened under the surface and I wasn't aware of it, but looking back, that was the day I turned on myself in order to survive. And I lived in that prison until 5 1/2 years ago (and quite honestly I'm still learning how to live outside of that prison), when a kind man sent by God came and told me the TRUTH sitting in a Walmart. We met there because I had to tell my Mom I was grocery shopping in order to get away to talk to him. I couldn't just tell her I was going for coffee with a friend. I was 34 years old and that's how much control she had over me.
That's where I'm going to stop for today... I honestly don't know where I'll pick it up tomorrow because I think the point of this is to NOT CONTROL where it goes. So, there's my truth, guys. I've NEVER written that or said all of that publicly, so please be gentle. It's raw, vulnerable and really hard to write. Just to be super clear in case it wasn't... I hold no judgment against my mom and do not want to make her look like the villain in any of this.
My goal is to tell my story... not hers. Things happened that I can't deny and one of the things I have finally realized is that the shame that comes with abuse can work SO HARD to keep you silent. It steals your VOICE. It feels terrifying to say what happened to you for some reason I don't fully understand. But what I do know is that if I can find the courage to tell my story, maybe others will find the courage to tell theirs - or to see themselves in my story and have their own awakening. So I can't keep quiet anymore. There it is... no pithy truth or thought for the day. Just me and the gamble that it's enough.