I was in a funk this past week. A year into therapy and I’m still susceptible to my dark moods! It’s like everything turns gray and the joy is sucked right out of me. I’m left feeling parched and like I have nothing to offer anyone, not even a smile. I couldn’t shake off the thought, “you’re worthless”. Not a new feeling here, and it made me feel hopeless. I’m slowly dealing with old wounds. The kind people say are “long gone and in the past so you should get over them.” I don’t doubt some are able to do this without letting them become issues. That’s awesome. These are strong people who don’t let others determine their own value. They know their worth and don’t let anyone diminish it. I have to remind myself that unlike them, I’m building myself up from the ground, where I felt I belonged. I can’t just “get over it”, without first dealing with whatever has upset me.
I delved into one specific memory this past week with my therapist, and it brought up these feelings of worthlessness and pent up sorrow.
It was the summer when I was 12 yrs old, and our family had traveled up to Michigan to work for the summer. Other members of our extended family also came up. All together there were about six separate families sharing a five bedroom house (yikes, I know). I didn’t look forward to it, not just because of the work, but because I hated that house from the minute we arrived. And even though we young ones had plenty of interaction with one another, I didn’t know an older cousin had already set me apart.
I had no memory of meeting him prior to this, but from the moment he and I were out of hearing range, he called me a b****. I remember feeling so ashamed and at first confused as to why he was calling me this. I didn’t want to hear the things he was told by the other male family members who had abused me. So I pretended like I didn’t know what he was talking about. I also pretended that being called a derogatory word didn’t bother me. I didn’t tell anyone about his behavior towards me. I was the perfect victim; afraid to say anything for fear I would have to disclose the other shameful events. So I kept silent.
The adults in the family noticed how much time we were spending together, but there wasn’t much of an effort to supervise, or join us to hear the conversations. I felt like it was on me to behave properly, because he was a young man, and young men can’t control themselves. I fought hard to not give in to his constant advances. He told me a couple sad stories so I could feel bad for him and want to comfort him. He made demands, used threats, constantly name called, and finally made a confession of love. I didn’t know what “love” was at the age of 12. But he wore me down to the point that I gave in. I had let him determine my value as a human, and he saw me as worthless.
When the adults found out, I had to face my mom and the other women in the family. They were upset at me. Disappointed, to say the least. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to endure. My value in their eyes had diminished. I was tainted and it was all my fault, because I had allowed it.
So after sharing this I had a good cry to release the sadness. I also shared the story with my daughter and warned her about the tactics some young men will use to get what they want. They won’t target girls with a healthy self esteem. They’ll look for those who already think they aren’t worth much and continue to crush what little is left.
Feeling worthless is deeply entrenched in me, but if I want to overcome it I can no longer let others determine my value, whether it’s in memory or now in the present. We all posses qualities that make us valuable. We just need to polish them until they shine, because we are worth it.
Love you guys ; )