The Mighty Logo

What Trauma Taught Me About Love

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I’m unlovable. Broken. Damaged goods. I wouldn’t want me either.

These thoughts are too heavy to carry on my shoulders, so I carry them in the deep corners of my mind. The mind I have worked so hard to keep healthy. I fight to keep these thoughts hidden from the world, hidden from the ones I love, but most of all, hidden from myself.

• What is PTSD?

I do all the things I am supposed to. I exercise. I journal. I see my therapist. I take my medication. I make my bed in the morning. I do my homework. I surround myself with people who love me so deeply they would walk through fire for me. I’m happy. I’m the happiest I can ever remember being. And I cycle through the process of self-care over and over again until I can almost pretend I have always been this healthy. But these thoughts, no matter how untrue, sit dormant in the back of my brain, waiting for the right time to rear their ugly heads up when I let my guard down. They come when I slip up. They come when I stop the self-help regime I cling on to like a life preserver long enough to take a breath.

The first man I ever loved, loved me deeply and fiercely, as every good father should. He loved me unconditionally. He loved me as I grew from a stubborn child into a bull-headed teenager. He made sacrifices. He worked to give his family the world. But my father, who loved people with his entire being, could not find it in his heart to love himself. When the first man that I ever loved took his life, he broke my heart. He shattered it into a million pieces and I worked frantically to gather all the broken pieces and glue my heart back together by myself at the age of 16.

By the time I got to college, still reeling from one traumatic event after another, shattering my already fragile heart over and over, I was desperate to give my broken mess of a heart to someone. I was so desperate for someone to love me the way I had once been loved, the love that had been ripped from my grasp just a few short years before.

I found what I thought was love. I shoved my heart into the hands of a poor soul who had no idea what he was getting himself into at the time. I expected him to fix my beat up, broken heart, and I was unsatisfied when he couldn’t. That relationship I built upon an unstable foundation of impossible standards fell apart.

Although I masked it the same way I had learned to mask all my pain, I again felt empty, alone and unlovable. The thoughts found their way back to the forefront of my brain.

I’m unlovable. Broken. Damaged goods. I wouldn’t want me either.

These feelings ate at me until they found their way out of my heart, soul and my brain and into the open where everybody could see them. But when these feelings of brokenness and loneliness finally escaped long enough to confront me face to face, I was too tired, too weak to fight them off, and so I began to learn from them. I want to share these lessons with you.

Nobody can “fix” you. If you build a relationship upon the unattainable standards of suddenly becoming happy and healthy because you’ve found someone you think can love you through your struggles, you’re wrong. You will come up empty-handed and you will find your heart is even more damaged than it had been before.

Not everybody will understand what you have been through. Not everybody will want to understand. But that is their loss, not yours. This was a tough pill for me to swallow. I wished so badly for so long that people could see the world through my eyes. If they could just walk in my shoes for a mile, if they could feel how tangible the trauma I carried around was, maybe they would understand. But not everybody can do that and not everybody wants to do that. The people that truly love you, the people who really care — they will want to help you carry that burden. These people are few and far between, but they exist and they are worth it.

The trauma you’ve experienced doesn’t make you unworthy of love. I have to remind myself of this truth daily. I didn’t pick the experiences I endured, but I survived them and that makes me strong. Just because I’ve walked through hell and back does not mean there isn’t somebody out there willing to love all of me, including the wounds that are still healing.

You have to learn to love yourself and all your scars before you can let anybody else. This might be the toughest one to follow through on, but it might also be the most important. This is hard work. This is getting yourself well and not expecting others to do it for you. This is learning to see your scars as badges of honor. This is taking care of yourself, your body and your mind. This is looking in the mirror and knowing that despite what you have walked through, you are good enough.

There is someone out there who will love you exactly the way you are. I haven’t found this yet, but I know that this someone is out there for me. And for you, too. Because we are strong, we are beautiful and we are so worth loving.

I’m unlovable. Broken. Damaged goods. I wouldn’t want me either.

I carry these thoughts in the back of my mind because of the people who have made me feel this way. But these thoughts are lies and like any lies, they can be counteracted with truth.

I am lovable. I am not broken. I am whole. I am wanted.

And these truths set me free.

GettyImages via Benjavisa

Originally published: December 6, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home