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On Not Letting My Abusive Past Define My Future

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Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced domestic violence, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by selecting “chat now” or calling 1-800-799-7233.

“I keep a record of the wreckage of my life.”

There is a distinct difference in how I present myself online and how I look in real life. Filters are a bit of a habit of mine, and if I can slim down my face I will jump all over the chance. But is that really me? That is a yes and no kind of answer. The photo itself is of me, but it’s so heavily filtered that it is almost hilarious how different I look in person. I only feel comfortable posting these types of photos of myself for the world to see. There should never be shame in what one does to feel comfortable. Filters, surgery, wigs, makeup, it’s all the same and the before is just as beautiful as the after. You are you underneath the layers. It’s strange how I can feel so strongly about the matter when it comes to everyone but myself. Every tree has its roots, though.

The pressure to be someone I’m not began at a young age and with the woman who birthed me. Her consistent critical nature left an already fragile youth completely shattered. There was rarely peace in my home and despite my will to carry on through it, it still left scars deep in my soul. It had a small start and grew in to this malignant thing that shackled my self-esteem and drowned it in the depths. I describe it so heavily because that weight has ruined me. There are more days than not that I feel like a shell of a woman.

It wasn’t just insults that she poured in to my soul, it was the physical scars she left on my body as well. Rebelling usually ended with a handful of hair being grabbed and a beating to my young face. If that wasn’t effective she would break out the large stitching needles and sit on my tiny form, peeling my fingernails away from my flesh. The worst was the brutal murders of my pets one after another if I acted up; they turned up “sick” and were dealt with accordingly with a gun. If they were too small it would be a pillow she smothered their life away with. The same drum was beat over and over throughout my developing years and while my father watched on, she steadily dove in to the madness.

That madness manifested as her absolutely favorite punishment, even as an adult she still tries these tricks like that control is still somehow there. In many ways, it is. Starting at the age of 9 years old she began emptying her pills bottles in to nooks and crannies of the house and tossing them at my face. I can still hear her shrill voice haunting my nightmares as she would tell me she was planning to die by suicide and it would be all my fault. I would beg on my knees as she smirked down. I would plead and negotiate for her to live. If it took degrading my very existence, I would do it. I insulted myself to the soul in an attempt to save hers. She loved the thrill of having those shackles on her adolescent daughter. So in the end it was always about her and that need to be on top of the household.

It didn’t matter what it was, she insulted it. My weight, my hair, my makeup, my existence. Mother would mock and sneer until I turned tail to run. Even at my back she would hurl insults like knives that sliced through my flesh and in to my psyche. The words were like fire at my feet, burning me alive but with no way to cut the ropes that bound me to the stake she built herself. I was the black sheep, the witch to purify by flames. From physical to verbal, she had all of the tools to break me.

“You look like a street walker.” I heard this about a pink tank top when I was twelve.

“You’re a wh*re just like your sister.” This was tossed my way when I changed middle school boyfriends.

“You should have died with your father.” A nice one given to me on Christmas day around friends. Unprompted.

“I should have aborted you.” I was talking back.

“Your makeup looks like you worship Satan.” In ninth grade when I slapped on too much eyeliner.

“Your entire appearance disgusts me.” When I walked out in popular goth pants for the first time.

“You just keep gaining weight, you’ll look like your (obese) father soon enough.” I was 97 lbs at 5’8”.

“No one likes a fat b*tch.” Talking back, again.

“You will die alone.” When I mentioned being in love with a girl.

“You’re a disgusting sl*t.” When she found out I was having sex (with one man).

These aren’t even the tip of how many she has given me over the years. Once puberty hit it was game over for me. I couldn’t win no matter how hard I tried to please this hateful woman. It was at least one a day and never failed to leave me crying in my closet or bathroom. As I searched my soul to find who I wanted to be as I grew, she stifled the flame I was nurturing. And she took joy in it. What made these insults especially hard was just how happy she was to offer them. I could see in her nearly dead eyes that she enjoyed inflicting this pain on her second born.

For years, I chalked it up to her projecting her own insecurities — but it wasn’t that. It never was. It was about the thrill of having complete control of another human. Much like a doll she could tear and break to pieces. She was the little girl who took pleasure in ripping her toys apart, limb by limb. Everything she did and does to me was and is about control on her part. She’s a true born psychopath with a taste for destruction. She is the real reason I developed anorexia at 13. She’s the cause of my deeply rooted issues about my appearance. If you hear something enough, it can, in a twisted way, become your truth.

My 27-year-old self may be able to maintain a steady job, pay bills and keep healthy relationships — but inside? I am broken. That little girl never knew a mother’s affection and in the way I present myself, it shows. My fear of being perceived as not good enough is prevalent. My desire to be accepted as someone I am not is a problem. Therapy has shown me that my mind is wired to think the worst and I am working towards not relying on other’s perception for my ego to feel fulfilled. It doesn’t matter how many likes my filter frenzied photos may get, it doesn’t replace that love I in-fact needed and need.

I look back at photos of myself from years past and my first words are always the same, “Wow I was so skinny!” This shouldn’t be the initial thing that comes to mind; I really am more than my weight. I’ve been through unspeakable traumas and yet, here I am still living and walking towards a tentatively planned future. I’ve survived multiple suicide attempts and still stand here. It may be in pieces, but I still wake each morning and look up to my ceiling telling myself, “Come on Virgo let us make today all yours!” The words at the forefront are not my own, they are hers, and I am not who she says I am. I work hard and play even harder. I’m happy and alive. The pounds on a scale may make a difference in my health, but they don’t define my entire existence. I am so much more than she said I was going to amount to and I am so proud of that.

I am a successful paralegal in a joyful committed relationship of 12 years. I own my own home and have dreams of my own daughter and son, and how I will be the best parent I can be. This woman works hard and plays even harder, I find joy in spite of her. She is not me and her own shortcomings cannot always define who I was and who I will be. Finding that little spark of love for myself has made me who I am this day. Not a single human can take that from me, I have the will to fight now. Will I cry? Of course. Will I be hurt some time? Well, yeah. Will I let my past write my future? No way in this universe. I write all of this to my fellow adults and teens and even children. It does get better so just hold on a little longer. Look forward to what comes next. It isn’t as predictable as a book, but find love in the words you write with your beautiful heart.

Regardless of what anyone has said you are beautiful on the outside so long as the inside matches. We will all make mistakes, but we’re human. Some of us are skinny, some of us are chubby. Does that mean we deserve any less? Of course not. Did some of us deserve the failures we had as parents? No, we didn’t. So show yourself some kindness going in to 2020 and I have plans to do the same.

We, you and I, are worth more than the insults slung our way. If a filter or some other tool makes you happy, then just do it. There’s no shame in how you learn to love you. Happy New Year, may this one be gentle and as loving as you deserve. You and I deserve so much. Be kind, be you. I am so proud of all of us. We made it yet another year.

Photo courtesy of the author

Originally published: January 17, 2020
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