When I was growing up, every day I dreamed of escape. I envisioned myself running away from home and living on my own just as The Boxcar Children. I wanted to run as far away from the mania as my little legs would take me. The abuse was not the only reason I dreamed of abdication. The insanity that revolved around my mother’s relationships constantly brought me to the brink of delirium.
Because of all the abuse and neglect that I endured, most of the relationships I’ve had were not very positive. I often repeated the very circumstances I loathed. My mother lived in fear of my step-father. He treated her badly, but she begged him not to leave her. He cheated on her and even fathered two children with another woman , yet she ignored his infidelity. She was not a model of love for me, but a model of fear. She taught me how to be afraid of being alone, and to allow others to take advantage of me. If I did, I would get the love and attention that I desired all my life.
Instead of escaping, I allowed myself to become a victim, just like my mother. My mother displayed little or no emotion, other than anger and fear. This left me afraid of my own feelings. Without a healthy demonstration of how to control the powerful emotions that people feel from time to time, I acted out in destructive ways. I craved attention to such a degree that any attention was better than none. I naively believed that my mother and my family situation reflected the entire world. This was just the way it was. There was nothing I could do to change it.
Change needed to happen, though. That was inevitable. As gullible as I was, I thought that the change that needed to happen was within me. So, I changed, and changed quite often. I became a chameleon of sorts who learned to adapt to any situation. This flexibility due to the chaos of my childhood became an asset to me later in life. In childhood, it made it very difficult for me to understand who I was since I was often changing my persona to fit the demands of others. I created an alternative reality. I lived an imaginary life. I often molded myself to fit or fix any situation.
As a child, I was told again and again that I was responsible for my mother’s happiness. “If it weren’t for you, I…” completed by some dream gone awry was aimed toward me time and time again by my mother. It burdened me with tremendous guilt, and I felt as though I owed penance for being alive. I was obliged to my mother for giving me birth, and for that, I owed her my life as the cost of her happiness. Of course, today, I realize that this line of thinking is ludicrous.
As I grew, I still was unaware of myself, but became keenly aware of others’ thoughts and feelings. No matter how hard I tried, how well I managed, or how successful I was on the outside, peace of mind evaded me. My adult life reflected my old responses to my chaotic childhood because I did not know how to make healthy choices.
Somehow, I managed to allow my personality to break through, and with that, I decided that the obligation that I have inside me is to myself. I am responsible for me, and me alone. Taking accountability for my own happiness is daunting, but if I do not take it, then who will?