Self-blame, insecurity, depression, codependency, helplessness… There has to be something wrong with me. Right?
I learned from a young age that I had to work through life by sacrifice. It does not matter who you are; if you are not useful, not capable of giving all of you to someone else, you will be worth nothing. Now imagine a 10-year-old disabled boy trying to live up to that standard. How should he feel if even when he does his best to reach it, he cannot avoid relying on other people? Not useless, not like a burden; nobody should ever feel like a burden. Oh, but I did. I still do, sometimes.
However, there is another side to the story. I have always found a way to thrive against the odds. According to the doctors, I should have never walked again after being stranded in a wheelchair; and here I am, having beaten the chair after six years confined to it. I thought I would never defeat the suicidal thoughts, the depression. I thought I would never feel useful. I got to thrive while I had my brain in “survival mode”; I can only imagine how much I would be today if I had found the key sooner: self-love. I will never know what could have been of me, but I am definitely in control of what I will be from now on.
It was hard for me to deal with the constant let-downs of life.
Well, I told myself that it was life. Life is supposed to be cruel, hopeless, unfair. I needed to believe that the source of my pain was out of my reach, that it was natural to feel it, and I had to go through it to fully experience life. But that kind of pain that swallows all of your energy and makes you consider if maybe the world would be a better place without you, that does not feel natural. Life should not make you feel dead. Not long ago, I realized I had chosen to believe that so I did not have to face the fact that the people I loved the most were tearing me down.
Until then, I always lived driven by survival mode. It feels like being depersonalized and becoming a representation of your most basic instincts. I am sure all of you have ever felt like that, be it in a good or bad situation. It was somehow exciting, but empty; fair, but cruel. You live every day in a grey zone, you submerge yourself into constant relative thinking, and life starts to make sense. It was exhausting.
With exhaustion came the revelation that I may have been living up to a false standard.
Once you get to the limit, you either choose to fight or give up. I have always preferred the former, and this time would not be different. This is how I finally started to face my greatest challenge: to accept that I deserve to be loved. Unconditional love, the kind of love I had been giving all my life. If I was able to provide it, why would I not deserve to receive it?
I learned how to treat myself better, to raise my self-esteem on my own. It does not mean to put me above the rest; it means lifting myself to the same level where I put everybody I love. I also learned about what healthy unconditional love is about; how to love someone while being able to protect yourself from codependency. Such a simple theory that costs so much to put into practice. It may be the hardest thing somebody has to face after having been mistreated, but the effort is absolutely worth it. Not only did it help me to be healthy in love, but it has also made me appreciate more all the people that have always been there for me. People that I deeply regret to have pushed aside so I could focus on caring for those who hurt me the most. Imagine how damaging focusing on loving an abusive person is that it feels strange now to have somebody treating me right.
“We will always struggle, but it is the choice to keep fighting that makes us who we are”.
That kind of love leaves scars, none that may ever fully heal. But that is not something to be afraid of; it reminds you that you went through that battle and survived to speak about it. You should be proud of those scars; they mean you had the ability to love, to be good, even during your hardest times. And even though you may sometimes fall into the old way of thinking that brought you so much pain, you should see that as an opportunity to show yourself how much you have grown. Those are nothing but small challenges you have to face to stay on the right path.
Some things will always be rooted in ourselves. I sometimes go back into thinking that I am useless and not worthy of being loved. While some years ago that would have led me to a depressive episode, now I only have to remind me that I will always be useful to myself to get rid of any depressive thought. I want to start this new year by telling myself what I have been waiting for so long to hear: I am who I have always wanted to be.
If there is anything that life (well, Star Wars, to be honest) has taught me is that I should never lose hope.