“How did I get here?” I find myself thinking those words often. I’m having this internal battle where I keep going over the countless hours of therapy sessions that I’ve had and the notion that I’m operating in many instances from my child like self keeps surfacing. But I don’t mean that in a good way. It’s similar to all the ways a child acts up or out when they don’t get their way. This sentiment makes me feel like no one really see me, but I want someone’s attention. My stubbornness and inability to verbalize how I’m feeling is pushing people further away. I tell myself that I’d rather be alone. Deep down I’m scared of rejection, but my life in self isolation is simply a matter of “what I’ve learned to do.” Functioning in self-isolation fuels my ego.
I’ve never had many close friends, mostly because when my “friends” were not in agreement with me, I would kill them off. I don’t mean that literally, but figuratively in my mind. Growing up, I was really close to my mother’s side of the family. My mother’s sisters were the matriarchs and they would state over and over again to all of us kids that we didn’t have any friends. “Your friends are your brothers and sisters. Your friends are your family.” Those phrases were repeated constantly and embedded into our psyche. And it was always stated as a matter of fact.
Subconsciously, I didn’t allow myself to make friends in the truest sense of the word. I only had “friends” while I was in their presence. I could never go home and have discussions with my mom or aunts about how great I thought my friends were, let alone a best friend. That just wasn’t something we could say and stand firm on without the concept being attacked in some way. Even if I wanted to make friends and be surrounded by kids who I thought were fun I could never commit to the idea because someone was always commenting in the background that “friends” will betray you. And then, there was that occasional friendship that I would secretly make that would ultimately end because of my lack in communication. Only reinforce what I was told to believe. To ease the disappointment of any betrayal, killing someone off just made sense to me. That way, I wouldn’t need to consider people in any emotional way.
The irony with my so call friends letting me down or betraying me was that family was always exempt from the consequences of any type of betrayal. I began to realize that family could and would disappoint, but somehow, I was supposed to be sympathetic towards them. Broken promises, lack of understanding and empathy, abusive relationships that would surface, not wanting to conform to new methods of discipline; those were just a few of the areas where family would fail me and not take responsibility for their actions. As a kid, I was supposed to accept their behavior.
All of these things contributed to me growing up rather quickly and missing some stages of emotional growth. I was forced to grow up too soon for a number of reasons. Immaturity, despondence, and insecurity is usually a common factor in dysfunctional relationships. And when children are recipients of dysfunctional relationships there is always one child who seems to take on the responsibility of taking care of younger siblings while the adults try to figure life out. I was one of those kids who conformed to role of being a “big sister;” a caregiver if you will in lieu of living life fully as a child. I became a protector to my sibling and we were surviving our surroundings well into my teenage years. Problem is, there were very few people around to protect me; mostly from me. I became reserved, apathetic, disengaged, and rebellious.
As I reflect as an adult, I recognize that I haven’t always treated me so well. I tried to kill off my child self, but I only succeeded in burying her. I didn’t believe that she could serve me at the time nor was she in alignment with all the things I believed I needed in order for us to survive. She’s now digging herself free from the pit where she was hidden. I reflect only to realize that I am not operating from a childlike self when I act out, I’m acting as a version of the adults I saw around me growing up as a kid who may have buried their own inner child. We all needed to be tough. I didn’t think I could be girlie or soft and there was certainly no time for tears. When you fall, you dust yourself off and say, “I’m alright” and you keep going regardless of the emotional consequence.
Now I sit alone, tear drop falling from my eye, trying to find the little girl in me that I killed off, hoping that I can breathe fresh air into her so that I can bring her back to life. I’ve now come to realize that there has always been something amiss, something that wasn’t quite right inside of me. The missing piece in my life has always been the little girl me. It’s the child version of myself that allows me to laugh, to be vulnerable, or extend grace that wasn’t able to grow. I thought I had to kill her off in order to survive a space that I believed was permanent. It wasn’t.
I’m no longer occupying that space. I’m living…. But in order to live my best life, I must resuscitate my girl; the child version of me that I thought I had to discard years ago. She’s now free to live, free to breathe, free to just be.