It hurts. Like razor blades all over my body, like a butcher’s knife through my chest. A pain too intense to breathe through, too encompassing to find ground, too deep for tears. It hurts. It can only mean one thing: I’m bad.
I can apologize enough to make it go away but it always comes back.
Being in the company of people who have let me apologize over and over while telling me I don’t need to say sorry, who have let me say how much it hurts, how bad I am, who hold space for me through all of this, helps me step back and see myself.
I see a giant hole. I’ve seen this before — raw and bleeding, wrapped in barbed wire. In the hole I’ve seen the earth, the sea, the sun, beauty, but always surrounded by blood, pain, hurt.
I see where the hole comes from, how it grows bigger and bigger over time. Rejection, lack of love, a wall built around the person who is supposed to love me and me wandering outside this wall, trying to get back inside but failing over and over. Trying to leave more and more pieces of myself outside to squeeze in between the bricks but never quite being able to stay there.
‘Living a lie is inevitably bound to fail. How could you have succeeded?’ they tell me.
But what about the hole? So many things don’t seem to work: love yourself more, have self-compassion, work on self-care. Like apologizing, they have a temporary impact but don’t do enough to close it. It’s still there. The tips of the barbed wire are waiting to cut once again.
I go back and look again. Look at all of the things that have happened, from the small to the enormous. Every rejecting and minimizing act I have kept hidden from myself. I keep going until it feels like it’s being vomited out. This is the deepest stuff, the stuff that is rooted so far down inside me. I’ve never seen this before. It feels like it happened to someone else but it’s what happened to me.
The hole is still there.
I stop again and see my own life now. See how I cower at a raised hand. See how I search out a hiding spot to curl up in. See my fear of rulers, sticks, anything that can be used to hit. See how I sometimes sleep on the floor because it feels better and more deserving than a bed. See how I feel like an animal, a cowering dog. I’ve never seen this before. It’s also been mine, hidden away somewhere deep, kept secret from the world and me. I’m deeply embarrassed at these feelings. Something about them feels very wrong.
Then I go back and look again. Look at all the stuff that was vomited out. I see how those things were done by someone who was incapable of loving. I see how I feel about my reaction to them as an adult and how very wrong it feels. I look back, forward, inside. I look down at the hole in me again and slowly begin to see it disappear. When I look up again, I see the hole appearing on her instead.
Guilt creeps in and I wonder if I’m being fair. In an adult relationship, we would each have a role to play. There wouldn’t be a reassignment of the hole. But this wasn’t an adult relationship; I was just a little girl. Little ones don’t have holes in them. They’re innocent and do everything in their power to find love. ‘We don’t hurt the ones we love, we seek to protect them,’ they tell me. But she did the opposite. The hole continues to fade.
We don’t hurt the ones we love. We seek to protect them. Living a lie is inevitably bound to fail. How could you have succeeded? The last bits of the hole are fading now. The little girl stops wandering around the wall and trying to get in. We see each other. A tear slides down my cheek and then another. I hold out my arms. There’s no hesitation because we recognize each other. Arms wrapped around her, I whisper, I found you, and we both know the relief of being found.
Moments like years pass by without sound. I feel her body, soft and shaking, see her small hands, dirty and scraped, and bit by bit the shaking slows and the dirt and cuts fade. A new window of time appears. We are both without a hole now.
I look back and clearly see the hole in the person who should have loved us. Seeing it brings both a sense of peace and sadness. The hole is gone from us but not gone from the world. It’s a gentle sadness, seeing this hole in her. I can’t take it from her again and she can’t be the focus of my world again. Nobody can be the focus of our world except for ourselves. The gentle sadness comes again with the acceptance of this.
Then a creeping realization: without this hole, I am a person again. A person in a world where others seek to protect the ones they love. I’m not a receptacle. I’m not an animal. I’m a person. Even though the hole — the hurt — still leaves an echo on my body and heart, it’s just an echo, a shadow, a memory. It’s not the same as it has been.
It will never be the same.
There is no more living a lie.
There is no more being hurt and alone.
It’s hard sometimes, being a person again. It feels like I need to learn everything again. But I have seen there are such good people in the world, so gentle and kind. It makes me more comfortable to be a person in a world with them.
Thank you to those gentle and kind people for helping to set me free.
I’m a person.
I’m a free person.
I’m a whole person.
I’m a good person.
I’ve found the peace I have been looking for. So little and brave and loving. I’ve found her and found me. And an everlasting love has found us both.