In the spring of 2011, I traveled to India. It was the most exhilarating and terrifying thing I’ve ever done. I got so far from my comfort zone, I came back changed. I began to question everything. I was thirty-three years old, and had absolutely no idea who I was. Motherhood seemed to be my only purpose on this planet. Though it was a noble one, I knew that I was meant for something more. But, what?
I had always felt that something was missing in my life. I struggled with depression and anxiety. I was surrounded by friends, but felt so alone. A year after that fateful trip, I was ready for a big change. The life I was living was a lie. All of it. In my heart I knew it. Our perfect little picket fenced suburban existence was little more than a house of cards. If I was ever going to be happy, it was time to knock it down.
Since starting over and finding my way back to myself, I’ve been obsessed with truth and authenticity. I write and speak often of “my truth”— standing in it, owning it, accepting it, embracing it. But, it occurred to me that while I’ve put little pieces of my story out there, I haven’t really explained what it means to stand in my truth, to own it, accept it, and embrace it completely.
My truth is pretty fucking messy. I guess that’s why I lived a lie for so long. I went around trying to convince everyone that I was ok for three decades. I wasn’t ok. I was a liar. I was a coward. I was doing what I thought I had to do to survive. Mostly, I was trying to tell the sick, scared, broken little girl inside myself to sit down and be quiet. I neglected her. I neglected us. But, ignoring the gaping hole inside me would never make it go away. Filling it with addictions, distractions, eating disorders, toxic relationships and self-punishment would never help me heal.
Healing would take some work. Hard, honest, real, raw, soul work. I would have to rip the scabs off all of my wounds and allow them to bleed again. I would need the light of day to kiss them, and oxygen to surround them. The things I’d worked so hard to conceal and avoid would have to be revealed for my healing to begin. I would have to finally admit that all the years I thought I was battling my demons, I had really only been running from them.
Standing in my truth means not being afraid of my darkness or ashamed of where I came from. Owning my truth means sharing all of who I am with the world, without fear of judgement. It means looking for the gifts and lessons in the ugliest parts of my history, instead of trying to conceal or avoid them. Living my truth means being exactly the same person at the office as I am when I’m home with my family or out with my friends. It’s offering the world an honest expression of my soul every day.
My truth is: My first childhood memory is being molested. I was three years old. It happened at the dinner table in my parents’ home. I was sitting on the neighbor’s lap. My daddy was right across the table. I told my mother that it was happening. She didn’t know how to help me, so she didn’t. That man was invited into our home over and over until I spoke up at age sixteen.
My truth is: My dad is schizophrenic, and my mother has her own set of issues. In my childhood home, I learned that abuse feels like love. I learned that grownups cannot be trusted, promises are seldom kept, and there is never, ever enough time, money, food, love, or attention to go around. I learned that I was bad, loud, bossy, fat, and annoying. My baby sister, however, was none of those things, and that is why I hated her.
My truth is: The only substance I could turn to for comfort in my early childhood was food. I began binge eating as a little girl, and continued with that until high school. In high school, I desperately wanted to be pretty, and to be pretty, you had to be thin. I became anorexic. I gave up my food rituals and replaced them with cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, cutting, and sex. I struggled with one or all of those for the rest of my life– and still struggle to this day.
My truth is: I feel like an orphan child with living parents. I remember standing in the window of our trailer as a little girl, waiting for my real parents– the ones who loved me. I just knew they would come back for me someday, and they must have had good reasons for leaving me there with that family where I didn’t belong. I began mourning the loss of my parents when I realized the ones I wished for were not coming.
My truth is: I got pregnant in high school by a drug head loser who couldn’t be a father. I went to my high school graduation in a maternity dress, which felt like a great big scarlet letter. People were not kind to me when I was a pregnant teenager. I felt like a failure, like I would never be a good mother, and like no man would ever want me with the giant pile of baggage I was dragging around.
My truth is: I married one of my best friends from high school when my daughter was two years old. He loved us both to the best of his ability, but, there was always something missing in our marriage. We distracted ourselves with money– chasing it from job to job, state to state. We reached a point where no new house, car, or extravagant vacation brought us any joy. We were miserable. We were making our kids miserable. I finally asked for a divorce a year after our trip to India. It was the first time I was honest about how empty our home felt to me. When I got honest, he did too. That’s when he came out of the closet.
My truth is: I was relieved to learn my ex-husband is gay. It meant that there was nothing wrong with me. It meant I could stop hating my body. People often asked me if I was angry with him for concealing his sexuality. I never felt I had a right to be angry with him. We were the same in that relationship– both hiding who we really were because we thought we had to. I’m grateful for the ways our marriage changed my life, for our children, and everything I learned from our years together.
My truth is: I made a lot of mistakes with my children I wish I could take back. I was young, impatient, and for the first several years poor and barely surviving. I was living to please another person instead of being who I am. I didn’t give them the best of me until after our divorce. That’s my biggest regret in life. Thankfully, we have wonderful, open, loving relationships today.
My truth is: I don’t hate any of the people from my past. I know that my parents did the best they could with what they had to work with. I know the man who abused me did so from his own pain and sickness. Being a survivor of sexual abuse has not been easy, but it has made me damn strong and resiliant. Sharing that part of my story has been incredibly powerful, and connecting with other survivors has brought me peace and healing I never imagined.
My truth is: I used to belive that there was something wrong with me that made other people treat me badly. I thought I was born with an inherent flaw that somehow made me worthy of abuse. As the abuse piled up over the years, I began believing I was damaged because of the things that were done to me. I let shame keep me from realizing my potential. I didn’t think I was worthy of love, happiness, prosperity, or respect. Today, I know that I am now– and always have been– perfect. I know that the people who hurt me did so from their own fucked-up-ness. It didn’t have a thing to do with me.
My truth is: I know who I am now, and I love that girl. I know my past only defines me if I allow it to. I could choose to be a bitter, angry, hateful person if I wanted to. Who could blame me? Instead, I choose love. I choose peace. I choose happiness in each moment. I choose to be grateful for my life, and embrace all of who I am. I know that each experience brought me here to this moment, where I can see my own courage, strength, and fortitude.
My truth is: I am a badass motherfucking warrior princess. I survived a hell most people can’t imagine. I didn’t just survive there. I learned how to thrive. I am the pioneer who stepped into the unknowns of life beyond the edges of my hometown where the world is still flat. And when I did, I left the cycles of poverty, abuse and dysfunction I grew up in behind. I had some angry years, and some difficult days fighting inside myself. Then, I learned the beautiful arts of forgiveness and surrender. I learn to extend unconditional love and acceptance to myself. I learned to put myself first. I found my power, my voice, my ability to manifest the life I desire. Finally, I realized I was worthy of such things.
My truth is: I am perfectly imperfect. Like every human being on this earth, I make mistakes. Hopefully, I learn from them before repeating them too many times. I still fall into old habits, still have the same old fears sometimes, and still have moments of wishing I had a “normal family”, whatever the fuck that even looks like.
My truth is: From my pain, I’ve learned deep empathy and compassion for others. I am a better person because of my struggles. Knowing that my story gives a little glimmer of hope to another human being is my greatest joy.
Standing in my truth means awknowledging all of my scars. It means owning every single thing that happened to me. It means knowing that those things do not define the woman I am today, and yet, I couldn’t be who I am without the lessons and gifts that came from those experiences.
This is me– beautifully broken, perfectly human me– standing in, owning, and embracing my truth. This is me– healed, whole, happy, healthy me– leaving fear and shame in the past. This is my story, I am the author, and I get to choose my very own happy ending.