Whenever I struggle to fight for myself. I write a letter to myself like I’m not me. I tell myself all the things I long to hear. And it took a long time, but I really believe it now. I’m worth fighting for. We all are. You are so worthy of so much love and I wish so much that each one of you knew it.
Love is real. It’s scary because we are so afraid it will hurt, fail us, not be what we need, etc. We search in others to fill the void within. But they never can, not fully. I had to learn that within. I had to stop searching for love to come from another person to heal the pain. I was like a lost little lamb.
I lost everything, all my belongings, my home, and I knew victimhood. I saw that I was not worthy of love because I couldn’t find anyone to give it to me. I truly suffered abuse. I do have PTSD. That is all real. But I also kept repeating the mistakes I had already made.
I left one abusive man for another. I found myself physically attacked. I ran and I ran far. I left everything. And all I had left was me; just me and my two dogs. And I had to sit with just that. I had to build my life back up from nothing. I knew I couldn’t do it alone so I reached out to a local domestic violence shelter and they started teaching me about what healthy love is. Honestly, I didn’t have any idea. Especially being a survivor of child abuse, I learned early that I was to blame. So, when others blamed me I accepted it.
I also knew I didn’t want to repeat the cycle of abuse in my family. I wanted to do better. I wanted to learn how to do that. And it started the day I took a long hard look within.
I was desperate, suicidal even. But I never really wanted to die. I just wanted the pain to end. PTSD can do that to you. And of course back then I didn’t realize I was also Autistic. But I did fight to get up everyday. I got a puppy and he reminded me. Wake up. Get up. Move. Love. Remember love.
I fed him and held him. I told him all the things I wanted to hear. And somehow he helped me remember. The night I was thinking so clearly that I just wanted the pain to end. I had a choice. How? What will happen to him? And he stared deep into my eyes when I had given up all hope. And he reminded me about love. I had to care for him. And in doing so I remembered how to care for myself. I somehow saw that I didn’t even see myself as a person. I thought, “I don’t matter. My life doesn’t matter.” But my God, how could that be true for any of us?! We are all human. We all mess up. But I was taught to hate myself. I was taught I was to blame, not by my Dad who is lovely, but my mom who had custody. She did not teach me love because she too had suffered the same abuse. She had no idea what love was. So, how could she teach it to me?
While I was in counseling at the domestic violence shelter I began to see the pattern of abuse. And I began to see that in fact, I was not to blame for everything. I was not less than. I was not broken. I am different, yes. But I am not unworthy of love.
See, I really believed that. My Mom made sure I was to blame. And I believed her. And it took me my whole life to unlearn that. It took a man physically attacking me and losing everything to learn that. I hit the bottom, as they say.
But the lesson in this is that I learned a new way of thinking. I learned to find love for myself. And in doing so I learned to heal what hurt because I found the strength, with support, to face it.
Years have past and I have healthy love now. I still have my dogs and I am still rebuilding my life. But it’s true what they say, love is all you need. And I found the ability to love myself was in me after all.
When we love who we are we love from a place of healing. We find love does not end. We forgive easier. We have more patience. We see love in all things and in all people. The world is brighter. And yes, it is possible to heal.
I baby stepped my way here and I’m fighting still. But I just want you to know the dark days aren’t here forever. And you can find a way to light your own light in that place. You’re not alone, and I’m in awe of your strength.
-Angel Marie Russell