Abuse, Dear Life., Guest Posts, healing

Dear Life: I Don’t Feel Worthy of Love.

January 6, 2015

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Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column.

Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer (and please keep sending because I have like 567 writers that want to answer your burning questions. Click here to submit a letter or email dearlife@jenniferpastiloff.com.) Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. We are “making messy okay.” Today’s letter is answered by Angela Marchesani, who wrote this stunning piece on rape here on the site. Her essay was anonymous until a few weeks ago. She is also the awesome soul who made me the “Don’t Be An Asshole” wine/coffee cup. Order one by emailing her at angela.marchesani@gmail.com. Say Jen sent you. And remember, don’t be an asshole. 🙂

10906250_382188381942065_3259713207549686863_nSend us your questions for Dear Life because there loads of crazy authors waiting to answer ‘em. Just kidding, they aren’t crazy.

Well okay, maybe a little. Aren’t we all? xo, Jen Pastiloff, Crazy Beauty Hunter. ps, I will see you in Vancouver in a couple weeks! My first workshop there! 

VANCOUVER! The Manifestation Workshop in Vancouver. Jan 17th. Book here. No yoga experience required. Only requirement is to be a human being.

VANCOUVER! The Manifestation Workshop in Vancouver. Jan 23rd. Book here. No yoga experience required. Only requirement is to be a human being.

Dear Life,

I don’t even know where to begin – I have so many thoughts running through my mind right now, so I am just going to write.

As a young child, I endured sexual and physical abuse, I observed my parents go through a horrible divorce, and I was put in adult situations no child should ever be in. To sum it up: I had a dysfunctional childhood.

My teenage years were not any better – my family life was chaos, I had a broken/unhealthy relationship with my father, mother and siblings. I longed for my parents’ love, affection and attention. I unknowingly sacrificed my innocence by offering my body to men/boys as a means to feel loved. Yet, deep down in my soul, I knew all the suffering I had experienced in my short lifetime was not my future.

Since my early 20s, my determination helped me move mountains to heal from my past, so I could live a life I know I deserve. I never let my past be my crutch, so I put myself through college while working a successful full-time job. Throughout the years, I sought out different therapist to help guide me on my journey. I have tried to form a consistent spiritual relationship with God, I have read end-less self-help books, I am constantly on social media reading inspirational quotes and self-discovery blogs (Oprah is my new best friend) – you name it, I’ve tried it. Yet, I still feel empty. I still struggle with depression, weight gain (self-sabotage), and I lack self-love, self-worth, and self-acceptance. I often find myself pondering why I am still so broken, if I am a “survivor”?

So, let’s fast forward to the past few years — I have been hit with one crisis after another, and as a result, my mind, body and soul finally shut-down. The stress I was under triggered my past, and I became that fearful five year old girl, immobilized. I became severely depressed and by the summer of 2014 I was suicidal. On the outside in, I appear well put together, the one everyone calls for advice, the person who will lift your spirits, the reliable one – yet, on the inside I was dying. I was in a black hole that I could not get out of alone, so I cried for help, and for the first time, I shared my dark secret with my loved ones. Unfortunately, the stigma around depression made it hard for my loved ones to truly understand what was happening to me mentally. At the end of the day, I still suffered in silence and alone. I fear my depression because I can feel the illness lurking in the background ready to pounce on me when I least expect it. I never want to go back to that dark place, ever!

Now I am going to jump into my relationship. For the past six months, I have put my relationship on the back burner to focus on myself while I was severely depressed. I live with my boyfriend of nine years (it’s more like we are roommates) – we share the daily hugs, kisses and “I love you”, but there is no true intimacy: physically or emotionally. We don’t really share the same interest anymore. I spend more “alone” time with my girlfriends than I do with him – I go to family functions by myself because he would rather sit at home drinking a beer and watching sports. I feel depleted – I don’t feel in love with him anymore, and I often fantasize about being in a relationship with a man that has lots of passion. Our lease is up in a few months and I am torn between working on the relationship or saying goodbye.

For the first time in my life, I feel like I don’t have the mental capacity or the tools do handle this all alone!

Sincerely,

Am I Worthy of Love?

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Dear Worthy of Love,

You can not- nor should you- handle this all alone. You’re asking for advice about your relationship, but there is so much more to be said.

I’m not surprised that you feel empty. You endured trauma and neglect for most of your childhood, and then the cycle repeated itself in other relationships and situations. I AM surprised you’re still standing, because a different person may have succumbed to a far worse fate long ago.

Brava to you.

You are a testament to the enduring strength of the human spirit. You have always known that the suffering was not for you— it’s not how you were meant to live, it’s not what you deserve.

And yet, how do you get out of that place?

Leave this guy after 9 years and just go it alone?

My fear in recommending that right now is that no relationship or external situation will meet your needs as long as you’re in this deep depression. The depression (and possibly some other post-traumatic symptoms) will prevent you from connecting with him or anyone.

So the pressing question, as far as I can see, is not what to do about your relationship with him…. But what to do with your relationship with yourself.

Bad things happened to you. And now it’s time to change that for yourself.

Here’s the hardest thing you’ll hear, and I want you to let it sink in:

Before you can find relief from the depression, before you can feel fulfilled in your life, you have to tap into that tiny little part of you that knows you deserve better, and help that part thrive. Before you can “feel self love,” you have to practice self love.

You have to do it.

Treating yourself with love and practicing impeccable self-care is not an option. You’re at a point where you have to re-parent yourself if you want to get through this. I don’t know whether you’re a parent, but stick with this analogy. I realize it has its limitations- your parents didn’t parent you how you deserved- but I assume you’ve seen some beautiful examples of parenting in your life. I’m sure you’ve looked at a family and thought, “Wow, how different would I be if I were loved like THAT? If I were nurtured? Protected?”

You do deserve that. And you can start by giving that to yourself.

If you were your own parent, what would you do to love your daughter and help her through this darkness?

-You would make her a weekly appointment with a therapist and you would get her there every week, no matter what. You would know the importance of an open mind, a listening ear and a professional opinion. When she resisted, when she said it wasn’t helping or it was boring or it was uncomfortable, you would require that she continue in therapy, because you’d know that the real work happens when shit gets uncomfortable.

-You would talk with her doctor or a psychiatrist about medication, because once she’s reached that darkness of suicidal depression, there may very well be some chemical imbalance that needs pharmaceutical intervention, STAT. You would not let your child suffer without that intervention. You would not take the risk of a suicidal urge overtaking her in a moment of vulnerability.

-You would support her body with the essential elements of health: rest, nutrition, water, and exercise. You would turn off her TV if she sat there in the dark for hours and say, “Hey, let’s go for a walk!” You would open the windows for light and fresh air. You would cook her a nice nourishing soup and you would tuck her in at a reasonable hour.

-You would encourage her friendships with other people, and would suggest she reach out to friends when she is feeling bored, lonely, depressed or restless. If she isolated herself in her room, you would bring her the phone and say, “Call someone. Get out of the house.”

-You would call her out when you see her tolerating bad treatment (and you would get her the resources to address it), when you see her behaving in ways that are against her values, and so on.

-When she makes a mistake, or backpedals, or falls off the wagon of self-love, you would pat her gently, give her a kiss and say, “It’s okay. Try again tomorrow.”

-When she cries, which occurs often and unpredictably, you would hand her the tissues. Let her sob. Draw a warm bath for her to take a private moment and release the pain of years of trauma. You would fluff up the pillows and let her stay there crying for an hour if that’s what she needs. And then you would make sure she got up. Talked with someone. And did something good for herself.

-You might even print these suggestions out, as loving parents always seek guidance in best caring for their children, and post them throughout your home until they become a habit. You might refer to them daily, and check in with yourself: “Am I being her best parent today?”

Worthy, it is not simple. And it will take a long time. But once you’re treating yourself with love and compassion, you will be able to better utilize all that self-help and personal development material you seek. You will be able to make a reasonable decision about your relationship. You will be able to choose healthier friendships and situations, over and over and over.

If you start by taking impeccably good care of yourself, your life will start to change in miraculous ways.

Sending lots of love to you. You got this. xo, Angela
“Angela Marchesani is an artist, a therapist, and the founder of ArtWorks, LLC, an organization in Pennsylvania that provides creative workshops for fun and healing. ArtWorks also sells hand-painted glassware and other locally made art. Find out more at www.facebook.com/artworksinpa.

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it's magical.

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2016 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it’s magical.

 

Please note: Advice given in Dear Life is not meant to take the place of therapy or any other professional advice. The opinions or views offered by columnists are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed physician or mental health professional. Columnists acting on behalf of Dear Life are not responsible for the outcome or results of following their advice in any given situation. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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11 Comments

  • Reply Jenna January 6, 2015 at 7:21 pm

    Ok, wow. This is exactly the most perfect thing I could have read right now. I didn’t have nearly the level of trauma that the letter writer had…and my heart goes out to her. Yet I did have a very dysfunctional home and have realized how deeply my inability to love myself has impacted my life. I have been clinically depressed for nearly a year. I am doing some of what Angela recommends, but what makes her advice so powerful is the WAY she expressed it. As caring for yourself the way you would your own child. I am going to print this out and read it every day. I wish self love to ALL of us. Xo

    • Reply Somewhere January 7, 2015 at 7:26 am

      When I read this I actually paused to recall whether I wrote it and forgot! It is exactly what I’m experiencing pretty much word for word from childhood on. What is helpful here, and what I wish there was more of in self-help literature, is the actual list of things to do in particular situations to love myself more. People toss around “you have to love yourself first” but leave you hanging. Many of us don’t know what that looks like or feels like. Or if we have an inkling or have seen it in other people, we don’t really know how to apply it to our own lives.

      There is a part of me that is pissed off. Pissed that all this crap happened to me and how it just exhausted me. I’m so tired. And now I have to do MORE work?? …..because this self-love is work. I can see where I treat myself unlovingly just how my parents did. Part of me is grateful I have no children because I’d be terrified to pass on this awful dynamic. I’d not want my child to endure the things I have or feel the way I have felt. To me that is loving. And it takes constant effort to flip the switch and actually take time to care for myself. I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to find my worth through others….through their approval, etc. What I take from this is asking myself “how would I treat my daughter in this situation?” Even if the answer isn’t clear, the asking is a start.

  • Reply Angela Marchesani January 6, 2015 at 8:02 pm

    Jenna- YES! Basically you can always be asking yourself, “Am I taking care of myself the way I’d take care of a loved one?” Or, be sure that, as Jen Pastiloff likes to say, “I have done love”….. TOWARD MYSELF. I’m glad you found it helpful, and I know I will probably refer back to it myself from time to time. 🙂

  • Reply Barbara Potter January 6, 2015 at 9:37 pm

    From someone who had a lot of the same situation I love your advice. By the way I am great now and it is possible. Good Luck with your dreams.

  • Reply Anita January 6, 2015 at 11:02 pm

    What a lovely response to a reader I can relate to quite a bit. Learning to love yourself can be a hard, long road, but I think it is the most important journey a person can ever take. I am still learning, but further along that I have ever been. I wish you a lot of luck 🙂

  • Reply Marie January 6, 2015 at 11:52 pm

    I needed to read this. Thank you. Having a childhood trauma that was suppressed for years only for it to resurface recently to face it all over again, is quite a challenge. It is only recently that I realized it wasn’t just the trauma, but that there was a lack of parenting in my childhood along with lack of emotional support to guide me. The moto of the time was: “Children should be seen and not heard.” Being taught to care for family before myself left worthiness issues still impacting my adult life.

  • Reply Janelle January 7, 2015 at 5:21 am

    what a great response. Timeless advice!

  • Reply Lucy8a January 9, 2015 at 5:17 am

    Been there. Got the t-shirt (“Hugs Not Drugs” – from the rehab I didn’t want to leave after 28 days). Incest (there, I said it.) Back in the early 60’s, when there were no child psychiatrists or support systems cause no one talked about it. If he said he wouldn’t do it again, he wouldn’t, Mom said. But he lied. I did everything the shrinks told me to do, took all the pills, went to all the meetings, did the forgiveness song-and-dance thing (well, tried to – now I don’t believe in forgiving assholes). Forty years of blaming him and thirty-two years of being married to an alcoholic Vietnam Nam veteran with ptsd later, I finally got to tell him on his death bed that I hated him for destroying my innocence, my childhood, my life. Then thanked him because I had become a stronger, better woman and – most importantly – mother. Altho he was comatose, he heard me … the tear rolling down his cheek while I talked just an hour before he passed was all the evidence I needed. That was and will be the last tear ever shed for what he did to me.

    Two things changed for me, things I couldn’t have known or done as a six year old. First, ACCEPTANCE. It happened. Shit happens. I can’t change that it happened, but it will never happen to me again. Second, once I accepted it, I also accepted the, the bottom line is, my life has been a wreck – not because of what he did to me, but – because of poor choices *I* made as an adult. He didn’t make the choice for me to drink, or be promiscuous, or feel like damaged goods. *I* did. Once I started holding *myself* accountable for my choices, my thoughts, my actions, the transformation began. And it’s been good. No, it’s been great! Two months before my 60th birthday, I finally got divorced. Now I have room in my heart for the love of my life of 2-1/2 years. I’m healthier and feel younger than I did at forty. The journey has finally begun!

    PS-and this is HUGE. GET OFF PROCESSED FOOD!!!!! The additives in processed food is what’s causing all of our so-called “chemical imbalances.” Do your homework … Stop eating wheat, dairy, sugar, and just about anything that comes in a box or bag. Trust me … Been there.

    • Reply Angela Marchesani January 9, 2015 at 7:42 am

      Oh, Lucy, you are singing my tune!! I agree, and I am so glad you’re doing your part to make your life beautiful.

      I wrote this piece recently, about a related “epiphany” that I had: http://www.themanifeststation.net/2014/08/24/learning-to-live-again-after-rape/

      Thanks so much for sharing!

      • Reply Lucy8a January 10, 2015 at 7:14 am

        Wow, I’m feeling a connection – you, too? I actually read that article a couple of weeks ago – I can so relate to your raw, honest style.

        I’m changing “I am my own worst enemy” to “I am my own best friend!” I’m so grateful today that when I start self-sabotaging (procrastination, fear, insecurity, etc – does it EVER go away?) I can *recognize* what’s going on relatively quickly. The key (still working on this part) is how long before I *choose* to just stop it and pull myself out of that shitshed. I’ve had a lot of practice recently after losing my little 11 year old shih tzu, Mitzi, on Christmas Eve morning. The loss feels so overwhelming at times, and I think I am naturally transported back to the days I felt so hopeless and last but didn’t know why. I’m finally realizing that this is just grieving (just???), not depression. Hell, I’m happy I can now allow myself to FEEL the pain instead of numbing out (Patron, anyone?) or completely shutting down! Here’s to progress!

        Thank you for sharing your story, Angela. I still (and probably always will, just to a lesser degree as I get stronger) have a trust issue talking with people face to face, but love the “safety” of the written word. Thank you for being a beautiful human.

  • Reply Lorraine January 13, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    I too could have written this letter. It’s a hard road to travel but a road worth taking.
    I started with forgiveness. I forgive myself for allowing others to use and abuse me as a teen and as an adult. I forgive my mom for thinking she didn’t love me or wasn’t there for me, knowing now she did the best she could with what she had at the time.
    I forgive my dad for dying when I was 5 and I forgive god for all the crap I had to go through to become the woman I am today.
    I did therapy, solo and group. I’ve been diagnosed major depressive disorder and ptsd. I’ve been on medication off and on since 1999. I did the self-help books, and always posting inspirational messages on FB. I had lost my faith in everyone and everything. Yes, even god.
    But I did the work, still doing the work. I no longer obsess about food and weight. I am who I am. Love me as I am as I do or move along.
    Relationships are on my terms and if I’m not happy, it’s not the right one for me.
    I do have children, and if I didn’t have the life I did, they wouldn’t have had the mother they did. And I hear she’s a pretty awesome mom. 😉
    So thank you god for the path I endured. Because of it, I am a warrior, a goddess, and a more loving and compassionate person to others!
    We can do it, all of us! We’re here aren’t we? Much love and many blessings to all!♡

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