“What would you tell your own client?” my therapist asked me. “When you’re in my position, what would you say?”
I uncrossed my legs. My whole body shook, and shivers ran up and down my legs, my arms. Over the past year, my therapist and I had started to uncover the abuse I experienced at the hands of my mother. Though I had made tremendous progress, talking about the abuse still made my skin crawl, like the past lived and moved inside of me, tiny slivers of memory ready to burst into flames at any moment.
“I would tell them it’s not their fault,” I said. Continue reading
Two nights ago I wrote a review of A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, an epic book about four friends growing up together in New York City. One of the four, Jude St. Francis, suffered extreme sexual, physical, and emotional abuse throughout his childhood. As an adult, Jude works as an ambitious and renowned litigator. In addition to his handsomeness and his intellect, he forges several deep and tender friendships. However, Jude’s trauma continues to haunt him. He cuts himself in egregious ways to numb his psychological pain. He views himself as someone who only inspires disgust. He refuses to open up about his past. I write this post because Jude’s struggle reminded me a lot of the emotional abuse I suffered as a child and my personal battle with the scars it has left behind. I write this post to prove that hope exists for people like us, for people who experienced what no child should have to.
I slept with this book after I read it. I kid you not. You can check out my review for more detail.
A lot of the conflict in A Little Life stems from Jude’s inability to accept care from those around him. Continue reading
When J hurt me a few months ago, he reawakened a lot of the trauma I experienced from my mother’s hands as a child. I had a brief phone conversation with him last weekend, which hurt me a lot, because in several implicit ways, he blamed me for what happened. As I gripped my new smartphone in my hand and heard his callous tone, a flood of questions and doubts raced through me: am I just a product of my mother’s abuse? Does my compassion for others only stem from a need to distance myself from her? What does this mean for me, for my personality, for all of my good deeds? After that conversation, I deleted a post I wrote on this blog – a decision I regret – so I want to re-share a quote I included in it, about how people misrepresent love as a bond free of conflict:
“Love is possible only if two persons communicate with each other from the center of their existence, hence if each one of them experiences himself from the center of his existence. Only in this “central experience” is human reality, only here is aliveness, only here is the basis of love. Love, experienced thus, is a constant challenge; it is not a resting place, but a moving, growing, working together; even whether there is harmony or conflict, joy or sadness, is secondary to the fundamental fact that two people experience themselves from the essence of their existence, that they are one with each other by being one with themselves, rather than by fleeing with themselves. There is only one proof for the presence of love: the depth of the relationship, and the aliveness and strength in each person concerned; this is the fruit by which love is recognized.” – The Art of Loving, Erich Fromm.
While J has been the only friend to do something horrid to me this semester, others have abandoned me, and I realize I cannot control that. Continue reading
I faced a lot of abuse as a child. To this day, I still feel an ounce of panic when someone raises their voice, and I still flinch when anyone raises their hand, even if just for a high-five. One of my most vivid adolescent memories centers on the first time I saw a friend’s parents interact without shouting. It proved to me that non-dysfunctional families did exist outside of fiction, that some people did get along without hurting one another, and that maybe one day, I would find someone who understood me, too.
I do not want pity for my past, but I do want to talk about how I coped with my abuse: I developed a huge internal locus of control. Continue reading
A little less than three weeks ago, I had a rough day. Memories of J kept pulling me under, even though I knew he never spent a single second thinking about me. After hours of staring at walls and pretending to have my life together, I walked to a dorm in the middle of campus, where for some reason, I started reading my old blog posts. Then, I found this:
The cheesy and heartfelt words of seventeen-year-old me, from my blog post “Things Change.” Dang, time flies.
After reading those words, I ran to a bathroom stall, played the Teen Titans scene from my blog post on repeat, and sobbed for twenty minutes. I felt every tear like a shock of electricity running down my face; as I crouched down on the cold hard tile, my cheek pressing into the cool granite, every nerve in my body sung, as if all my emotions just then ripped through my body. Because reading my old blog post and watching that scene made me remember an important lesson, one that gave me hope: things change.
I loved the old J, the one who cared about me, the one with an honest calm, the friend who worked hard to improve himself. Continue reading
In high school, I gripped the fat on my stomach and stretched it thin until I could feel the hard, protruding bones of my ribcage. I sat in the basement of my house and flipped from the pages of my Algebra textbook to the threads of pro-anorexia blogs. I still remember the anxiety that struck me every time I walked on a scale, how a single number could reduce my diet that day from two meals to none, from a salad for dinner to a few grapes and no lunch.
Flash forward to this past semester of college. Continue reading
When I was little, I fantasized about my mother’s death. Continue reading