No one likes to be thrown away, forgotten, or considered less than valuable. It’s this simple fact that makes me wonder time and time again why people choose to behave in unfriendly or even cruel ways when chances are a lot of the time they are aching to be attached to something, to be remembered in some way. It’s probably safe to say that there are exceptions to this rule but fact is, not a single person in this world WANTS to disappear without having contributed in some way to the world around them. Some choose to do it negatively but many strive to somehow stamp the environment they are in with their mark and make a lasting impression. Some strive to make a difference for the better.
I know what it’s like to be the forgotten one, the unwanted, the black sheep. I’ve had ups and downs in life. I’ve been abused, ditched by my birth father, felt as an outcast in the majority of my family. On my mothers side, primarily because the abuse stemmed at the hands of a man married to one of her relatives, she cut herself off completely from that side of the family. Due to that experience, the part of the family that remained just didn’t feel like my own for many many years. It didn’t help that I never saw them, and that as a young girl, if I wanted to see them, we always had to go to them. I can’t recall a time when they made the effort to visit us instead. I don’t think they consciously excluded us. I think it’s just that they had so much more want in them, to see what the rest of the world had to offer, to improve their own lives, that a cousin, aunt, whatever, just didn’t factor as majorly into their traveling plans as I was naive enough to hope for. On my birth fathers side I was buried in guilt, ambiguity, and so much confusion. My father is far from a saint. In fact, I wouldn’t put much past him. My cousins (his siblings children) are amazing though. When my mother and I were forced to make the conscious decision that my father being in my life would be too unhealthy and unsafe for me, I sadly had to forfeit my cousins too. It was like having a huge part of me ripped away and it never fully healed. I do communicate with them now, but the act of ripping myself away meant that I missed out on so much of their lives that I really feel irrelevant now. I haven’t spoken to one of my aunts in over 15 years. An aunt who was once like a mother to me. I’ve reached out but I guess maybe I just missed out on too much and her circumstances right now would make it close to impossible for us to bridge the gap that occurred over the last decade and a half. All I can really say about that is that I genuinely do miss her.
The point to all of this is that, while everyone else had some strong root and connection to one another, I remained the forgotten. At least, that’s how it felt. I have my mom, who has many flaws but is a really supportive mom for the most part, and my stepdad, who has always been more of a father to me than my own father. I have two grandmothers who have made every effort to help me overcome anything in life and who struggle to do the same in their own lives every day. Even then… I felt that particular loss of having once belonged and suddenly feeling like a ghost. Of never being in on the inside jokes. I also felt like I couldn’t breathe without losing yet one more person. I began attempting suicide at a really young age. I once asked my therapist why I wasn’t succeeding and we ended up discussing several of the things that triggered it. She basically said something like, “Maybe you’re just the only one who was strong enough to survive it.” and that my failures at suicide weren’t really failures, they were an obvious sign that I wasn’t meant to die yet because I was too strong to go out like that. I struggle to believe that, constantly. Half the time I walk around feeling like I have invisible weights tied to my wrists and that my arms will fall off, my head feels cluttered, and I fight to breathe through all of the thoughts in there.
I’m not sure when the attempts fully stopped. I just remember feeling like I didn’t need to try anymore. There are times when I have panics and in an instant make a bad decision. That probably won’t ever change, because unlike people who can take medication to stabilize certain aspects of their depression or anxiety, mine isn’t chemical. Mine is so far gone into this realm of confusion, that I don’t know where it started. This isn’t a disregard towards meds, at all. Fact is, I’ve tried them. At 16 I was on Zoloft, then it was Lexapro, then another, and another. Eventually, I made the decision alone to never take another pill like that again. I walked around like a zombie most of the time, with tears in my eyes that just wouldn’t fall. I didn’t stop BEING sad, angry, or deadly towards myself. No, instead it squelched every symptom that could tell anyone I was in trouble. That’s when I knew that it wasn’t for me. Had it been for me, there would have been some form of progress or alleviation in the 10 years I took them. So it isn’t a disregard on the field that helps people with their depression, it’s an actual fact that it just wasn’t for someone like me. My issues stem from the events that led to who and where I am now. In order for those issues to be resolved, they have to be worked through in therapy, and that’s okay.
It was in therapy that I realized I had done the worst thing a person can do. I had forgotten myself. While I worried about how everyone else had forgotten me, about how I was no longer of value to them, I left myself behind. While I struggled with the ache of BELONGING to my own family, I threw myself away. I did not LOVE myself. I did not treasure myself. I, instead, became an overachieving workaholic. I had to succeed at something, anything, everything. If my family didn’t want me (as I felt then), then I’d make myself invaluable to someone or something else. The problem with that, though, is that you lose sight of the big picture. You forget that corporations generally view their employees like ants. It’s a sad reality, but let’s face it, most people at the head of a corporation can’t view each and every single employee as an individual because then they’d never get anything done. That’s why there is managerial staff and even they can’t really view you as an individual because they have to be the face of the company and are forced to cater to many people at once. In other words, even there, I was stranded and alone. I made friends but a great deal of the time it felt like I was outside looking in.
Curiously enough, they weren’t doing the isolating. I was. I was again, forgetting myself, not treasuring myself. So what happened? I was tired all the time, I felt inadequate so when they invited me out, I didn’t go. I ended up spending a lot of time alone. I got to build up memories with a lot of wonderful people, but I held myself back by suspecting the worst in everyone and by expecting myself to fail. I did this all of the time. Sometimes, I accidentally still do.
That’s why I look up to women like Audrey Hepburn, Claudette Colbert, Grace Kelly, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Greta Garbo. Hepburn had secretly danced for groups of people to collect money for the Dutch resistance during World War II. Claudette Colbert lived as she saw fit and rebelled against the low expectations set for her simply because she was a female in an industry that treated females like a commodity. Grace Kelly exuded grace, even under pressure. Greta Garbo struggled through poverty in Sweden, and eventually made it to a completely foreign land to become a world renown film star. They did not allow their pasts to dictate who they would be in the future. They didn’t allow it to crush them and make them lose their sense of self. That’s why Audrey Hepburn was right in saying “Never throw out anyone.”. She may or may not have meant it solely as a statement about others, but I choose to view it as a personal statement as well. Don’t throw yourself away.
The minute you’ve thrown yourself away, you’ve given everyone else a free ticket to disregard you, or to treat you however they like. There is nothing wrong with being strong, assured, or weak, and confused. Those things are all understandable. The vital key in any of those things is being true to yourself, loving yourself enough to realize that even throughout the vicious and ugly moments that can occur in life, there is one person fully capable of ever understanding you, loving you completely, and encouraging you all the way. That person is yourself and the only person who can make that person change their mind is you.