No one ever said life was going to be easy. It is almost a guarantee that it won’t be. Life is what it is, nothing can change that. It is all what you make of it. With all of the horrible things that happen in the world, there is one thing that remains constant: Hope. No matter how bad things get, you must have hope. You have to know that if you can just hold out for a little while longer, things will get better. That is sometimes easier said than done.
It has been 18 years. That’s a pretty long time. Sometimes, the memories are very real, very fresh. Other times, the memories are faint and distant as an echo. While the memories have maintained their distance lately, it wasn’t so long ago that they took control of every facet of my life. I lived in a black cloud, swarmed by the dark memories of my past. I was numbed to anything in the outside world in a futile attempt to make the pain hurt less. I cut, trying to remember what it was like to feel. I darted away from people when they got too close, physically or emotionally. I couldn’t imagine the idea of being touched, even for a hug or a pat on the back. My past crept into every moment of my life, filling me with fear and resentment.
This journey hasn’t been easy, but I have lifted the black cloud. It is a tiny, little inky stain that creeps on the edges of the book of my life. But it no longer covers the pages to the extent that I can’t see past it. There are triggers, a movie, a news story, a look from a stranger on the street, a dark corner. This is not a journey I could have taken alone. The very first champion of my life, JR was like a mother to me. As a small, 12 year-old girl whose mother was not yet aware of what happened, what I needed most was gentle comfort, a quiet place to hide. She gave me that. She was the same age as my mother, but soft, gentle and nurturing in a way that my mother never was. It still took me two years to tell her what happened. When I did, she was expectedly comforting, loving and eager to get me the help that I needed. My mother, controlling and harsh, didn’t understand why this woman would befriend a teenage girl. But I knew better. She was eager to give me the childhood I had lost, long before that day.
Then came high school, with all of the typical challenges that high school has to bring. JR stayed close by my side, but challenges over jealousy my mother felt to her became stronger and almost unbearable. My solution? I delved into school 110%. I studied, I joined every club I could. I filled up every second of my time, trying desperately to drown out any memories. I wanted no time to think about anything. I wanted to stay busy. Stay busy I did. I joined the Color Guard and found my second major mentor. PB was my coach and a dear friend. I watched her kids, I sat for hours at a time in her classroom after school working on my homework and hiding from the world.
It was 3 years before I told her. I called her on the phone one night (something I did from time to time) and told her I needed to tell her something. I was numb, I could barely speak. When I got it out, she was shaken and demanded to know if I was in danger. “No, I’m okay.” By then, it had been about 6 years. There was nothing she could do, I was in no danger. I never told her about the cutting. I did well in school. I dedicated my life to Color Guard. She was what I needed most: a friend. Someone I could trust and another mother-like figure to guide me, gently, through those difficult teenaged years. JR was still a force in my life, but PB was there everyday. These two women put me on a path to healing. They never broke my confidence. They put up with my ups and downs (of which there were many) and guided me, gently as a mother, through to worst times.
I can never forget what these two women did for me. Without them, I don’t know where I’d be today. It had nothing to do with strength on my part. I was completely lost, I was only surviving. These two did something amazing. They woke me up, reminded me that I wasn’t broken and set me on a path to learning how to be part of the world again. They accepted that I wasn’t like other people and they never asked me to be anything except exactly who I was. They never forced me to talk about anything but listened, encouraged me and hugged me when I needed it.
For their kindness, my life got better and I was able to eventually find happiness. With the help of JR and PB, I was able to trust the others who would start the recovery process.
To be continued….