I looked up to my parents. I believed them when they told me things. I mean, they were my family and knew what was best for me, right? Surely they were right when they would tell me I was dumb. When they said I was lazy and useless. They knew what they were talking about when they told me nobody would ever love me. Or when they said I was worthless and would never amount to much of anything in life.
They knew things about the world and about people I didn’t know so I guess they knew better than me.
I was fifteen.
My best friend was closer to me than a sister. We did everything together. Went everywhere, shared everything. Then she got a boyfriend and things started to change. I tried to hang on to that friendship. Tried to hang on to that bond of love we shared. Tried to hang on to her.
She told me I was clingy. Needy. She told me I wasn’t a good friend. She told me to stop calling or trying to see her again. She told me that I was a freak. She said that I was obsessed and selfish. She told me I would never have friends because I needed too much from them.
She knew me better than anybody ever had, so I guess like my parents, she knew better than me.
I was twenty.
He was my first real boyfriend. Oh, I’d had plenty of hook-ups and fumbling, awkward sexual escapades in my life, but he was the first boy I’d ever called my boyfriend. He was the first boy I’d ever given my heart and not just my body to. He was smart and kind. He treated me like a queen. For a time.
But then I guess I got too needy. Too clingy. I guess I was as bad at being a girlfriend as I was at being a friend. He said I was crazy and would never find somebody. I guess I just needed too much from him.
I had given him my heart and he had believed in me once, so I guess like my parents and my best friend, he knew better than me.
I was twenty-five.
He was my husband. We got married after dating for six months. I was in love. I had never been treated the way he treated me. He was everything I could have ever wanted in another person and more. I didn’t think I could ever feel this way about another person.
Then things changed. Issues I thought long dead rose up from the grave, coming back to haunt me once more. I was needy. I was clingy. I didn’t understand him. Did not give him those things he needed to be happy. He cheated on me because my depression led me to be emotionally unavailable. His unhappiness was all my fault. I did not know how to make him happy no matter how hard I worked or what I did for him. I was useless, had no value, and was going to spend my life miserable and alone.
He was my husband and knew me in ways nobody ever had before. So I guess like everybody else that had passed through my life, he knew better than me.
I am thirty.
I endured several years of misery and loneliness. It was the darkest period of my life and the most attractive way out of it was also the most permanent one. I heard the voices of the people who’d been a part of my life -- the people who knew better than me. Worthless. Useless. Clingy. I couldn’t make anybody happy. I would never be loved. I would amount to nothing. I was nothing. Nor would I ever be.
It would have been so easy. A handful of pills, something to wash them down with, and then lay down and go to sleep. All of the pain I felt, all of the loneliness I’d endured -- I had the power to make it all go away. Just let myself fall into a dreamless sleep and not wake up again. I was tempted. I was close.
I will never know what made me put that bottle of pills down. But something did. Something told me it was the wrong path to take. And I listened to that voice. I’ll never know why, but I did.
Several years of therapy have helped me emerge from that period of darkness. It’s been a slow, painful process filled with many tears and setbacks, but the progress being made is tangible. It’s real. But it has not come without some painful realizations and times I’ve had to accept responsibility for my own faults and shortcomings.
I’ve learned that I’ve been looking to other people to chart my course for me my entire life. Rather than asserting my own control, I’ve let them lay the path I have walked. I’ve looked to others for validation and let them define who I am. What I never understood when I was younger, what my parents never taught me to understand, was to not follow the trails laid by others.
They never taught me that my true north was inside of me all along.
They never showed me that I had the ability to chart my own course and walk my own path. I never knew that I had the ability to follow my own star and define myself, rather than accept the definitions others had of me.
I am still very much a work in progress. It is a day by day thing. But with every day that passes, I walk a little more confidently on my own path. The way I define myself grows a little more concrete. And with every day that passes, I put that dark place a little further behind me.
I keep that pill bottle -- empty of course -- to remind me of the path I walked away from and to always chart my own course and never let others define me. It reminds me that I am not worthless. That I am not useless. That I have value and I am worthy -- worthy of friendship and worthy of love. It reminds me that I can make what I want of my life -- not what others tell me I can make of it.
I keep that empty bottle so I always remember to find my true north inside of me, rather than in anybody else.