Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pouring my heart out…if I could go back in time

It’s Wednesday, which means it’s time to pour my heart out again with Shell at Things I Can’t Say.

At the tender age of 15, I fell in love for the first time…so deeply that I lost myself completely.

I ate, breathed and lived for my boyfriend, who was a year older than me. To say this relationship was extremely toxic was putting it mildly.

I had just moved to Northern CA with my family when my dad got a job transfer. While I was broken-hearted to leave my friends in Florida, part of me was excited about making a fresh start somewhere new.

However, beginning over as a freshman at a school where all the kids had known one another most of their lives was hardcore. Upon returning home after my first day, I cried to my mom, "No one really talked to me. It was so awkward. I wish we had never moved."

Within a few months, I had made a few friends and was starting to feel more comfortable in my new surroundings.

That's when fate intervened.

I spotted Jimmy in the parking lot with his best friend one day. There was something about him that immediately captured my eye. He was tall and handsome with the sweetest smile I had ever seen. I had to meet him.

After a brief introduction through a mutual friend, Jimmy and I exchanged numbers and the rest was history, much to my parent's horror.

He came from a working-class family and lived in a modest home on the other side of town. While my parents found his parents to be dull and lacking in style, I thought they were warm and caring.

The more my parents tried to keep me away from Jimmy, the harder I fought with them to give me my own space. It was a battle they wouldn't win for a very long time.

For me, the sun rose and set around this guy. If he said the word "jump", I answered, "how high?" I would do anything for him...and I did.

After a few months of dating, he convinced me that if I didn't sleep with him, he'd get back together with his ex-girlfriend, who still came around from time to time to stare daggers at me.

I felt I had no choice...I whole-heartedly believed I couldn't live without him.

I was young and naive. And I fully presumed that I wasn't capable of being loved. After all, being raised by two people who were completely dysfunctional on their own and too wrapped up in their own little world left me feeling alone and unsure of what real love felt like.

To me, love was proving that you were worthy of someone's attention. Love was selfish, conditional and binding. Love was meant to be betrayed. Instead of making you feel joyous and happy, love made you feel ugly and bitter.

Any time I felt Jimmy slipping away from me, I would do something desperate to keep his attention. I wasn't above threatening to take my own life...or make him feel as if his life would be completely empty without me in it.

He betrayed my trust plenty of times by sleeping with other girls behind my back...although sometimes he was happy to flaunt it right in front of me. Instead of seeing him for what he truly was, I clung to him even tighter...begging him to stay with me, even though we both knew we were tragically wrong for one another.

I allowed him to abuse me, physically, emotionally and verbally. I use the word "allowed" because I could've walked away at any time...I could've told somebody and gotten help. But I was scared and ashamed.

Essentially, I believed I deserved to be treated in such a poor manner.

If I could go back in time, believe it or not, I wouldn't change a thing. My experience in this venomous relationship helped shape me into who I am today.

However, it does make me sad to look back and realize how little I valued much so that I didn't expect others to value me either. There were times where I felt my life was a mistake...I was simply taking up space on this earth with no purpose, no point of being.

So I clung to the idea of being with somebody who I thought cared about me...because belonging somewhere, even if it was completely harmful, felt good. Love was supposed to hurt, right?

Now, as a parent myself, it makes my heart ache tremendously to think of any of my children feeling this desperate for love and attention that they would subject themselves to any type of abuse.

I long for them to be healthy, strong individuals who can think for themselves and make positive choices, even when in the most damaging of situations. I want them to value who they are as people and to realize what an important contribution they are to society.

Most of all, I want them to love every ounce of their being and hold the same expectation for those they call friends. I yearn for them to recognize the difference between real love and desperate love, but only because they understand what real love feels like.

It wasn't until many years later when I was drowning in yet another destructive relationship that I finally found my inner strength and refused to tolerate being mistreated any longer.

I stood up for myself, used my voice and and shouted "NO MORE!"

It felt good. And it felt real...because, finally, I had learned how to love myself, first and foremost.


Kristina P. said...

This is the story of so many girls I work with. It breaks my heart to think that their entire self esteem is wrapped up in who wants to sleep with them.

Donna said...


You are soooooo strong now AND it shows. It shows through in everything you do! And you have given so much of that strength to your children - they (unlike you) will have the tools in their arsenal to fight off their demons.

Yay! Yay for YOU for overcoming so much! Sooooooo many don't. ;-( LOVE it! LOVE your Wednesday posts!

Anonymous said...

Helene you are awesome! I am so glad you realized you are better than that, because you are. You are an amazing and strong woman. I'm so glad I have gotten to know you girl. xoxo

MiMi said...

Friend, you are amazing! I'm so happy that you were able to see that you are worthy of love!
So many women never do realize it and they basically die slowly because of it. :(

Tylaine said...

Isn't hindsight great?
The things we go through in life do make us stronger and it's wonderful that you see that. You're so strong and such a great example for your kids.

Creative Junkie said...

With a few minor changes, I could have written the gist of what you wrote about myself.

Don't you wish foresight was 20/20 instead of being incredibly myopic?

Jen said...

Very powerful.

Crossed Fingers said...

Awesome. It's always sad to hear of people in relationships like that - great for you for ending the cycle!

ashley said...

You are an amazingly strong woman now, and your children will learn that from you. :)

Christina said...

Great post. I like it. Thanks for sharing it with us, its a very powerful message.
I'm writing one up tonight...I'm nervous, but feel in my heart I need to get it out.

The Girl Next Door Grows Up said...

That was really beautiful. I am so sorry about all that has happened to you when you were younger, but it really did make you stronger and more aware even though it never should have happened.

I think this is so important for so many parents to read. Building a child's self esteem is so VITAL. It helps with drinking, and drugs and sex and everything. You've got to build a child's confidence to be able to say No and I am happy you finally did.

Fantastic post.

Nobodys Nothings said...

subtract a few of the more personal details, and i could have written this myself. i hate those lessons we all had to learn as young kids in order to become the strong women we are today. i dread my daughter's time.

good post.

Shell said...

This part really spoke to me: "Most of all, I want them to love every ounce of their being and hold the same expectation for those they call friends. I yearn for them to recognize the difference between real love and desperate love, but only because they understand what real love feels like."

I had that desperate sort of love for someone once- but I was 22. I don't regret it, either, because it was what eventually made me realize that I deserve to be treated better and respected.

Rhiannon said...

yay for you for not only over coming but also for sharing your story.
Thank you and God bless you

Nezzy said...

You go girl, your story can be told by many girls all over the world that wrap their value in the eyes of others. I was not raised in a "happy" home but when I married I knew I could make the kind of family I'd always dreamed of for my children. It IS possible. My family is livin' proof that the cycle does not have to continue. Your children are most blessed to call you mom.

God bless and have a super day sweetie!!!

Chocolate Covered Daydreams said...

Your story is echoed by me and a lot of other women and girls. To recognize it for what it is and know that you will not let that same thing happen to your kids but others (by sharing this), is what I call Strength. So glad you broke away from him. I wonder where he is now and if he's continuing to treat women the same way.

Karen Peterson said...

I love that you say you wouldn't change any of it. Because you really did learn from your experience. Too many people never learn and end up with a lifetime of regret.

Your kids are going to be in a much better position to avoid these kinds of relationships because they have a mom who knows how to love them and make them feel every bit as special as they are.

Eva Gallant said...

I'm so glad that you recognized the abusive relationships for what they were and started making healthy choices! That took courage.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you broke free from thinking that you didn't deserve to be treated well. I know you'll pass this on to your kids.

Mrsbear said...

This sounds so familiar. I had a similar experience when I was 15. I couldn't imagine my life without this boy who verbally abused me, destroyed what little self esteem I had, and convinced me to give him all the money I made working part time to fund his underage drinking binges. Ugh. It was toxic, but like you, I didn't expect any better. It was a growing experience, it truly was, but one that I wouldn't wish on any of my kids. Unfortunately I'm struggling a bit with my teen and her boy issues, but thankfully not on the level with what I survived back in high school. It's hard to watch though. She wants validation that she's an awesome girl, suspecting she is just isn't enough. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

It's such a powerful feeling to realize that you wouldn't change something awful in your life because it would change the person that you are now. I have been to hell and back over the years. Each instance has been an opportunity for me to grow, to change, to learn. Without any of them my life would not be the same. I'm happy you found the power within so that you could gain the amazing family you have now:)

shortmama said...

Unfortunately that is a story a lot of us can relate glad you found yourself and your strength

Michelle @ Flying Giggles said...

Learning to love yourself is the greatest accomplishment of all and for some of us, it takes going through destructive relationships. It made us stronger.

Putting the FUN in DysFUNctional said...

I can completely related to this, your story with him is SO much like mine with my ex husband. I wish I could change the fact that we had 3 kids together, so this toxic person is my children's father, and I worry a lot about their relationship and how he affects them.

Karen & Gerard Zemek said...

I'm sure you are not the only one who was naive thinking you couldn't live without a certain guy who was no good for you. I bet you would enjoy reading "The Secret Life Of CeeCee Wilkes" by Diane Chamerlain if you ever get some free time.

BigSis said...

Great post. I think that having survived something like that makes us better parents, so it's definitely a value added experience.

Anonymous said...

Wow. That sounds A LOT like my 1st relationship. Scary!

I hope my boys never treat anyone like that. I would freak out on them so fast!!

Amy W said...

It amazes me when others can share their hearts so openly. I have a hard time understanding my feelings, let alone voicing them. So I cheer on those who can. Way to go, Helene!!

L.Michel said...

Wow! You are amazing!

Gaspegirl said...

I am visiting from SITS and I am so inspired by your entry! I will be asking my teenaged daughter to read it... you share a powerful message, thank you!

Make it a great day!

Sadia said...

Oh, Helene, I hope you know how much you are loved and respected, and how many people draw inspiration and strength from you.

Mighty M said...

Good for you! Your kids are sooooo lucky to have such a strong momma - they are going to learn from you!

Mamatoosi said...

Whoa, I had a very similar experience in my teenage years! Fortunately, my boyfriend wasn't physically abusive, but he used similar tactics to get what he wanted. I learned a lot from my relationship with him, though. Such as - you can't change a man (or any other person other than yourself for that matter), and if you try, you're wasting your time and energy! I'm glad to see you changed yourself and learned from that relationship. It's tough being 15. I'm so glad I don't have any girls (yet).

I figure that if the children are alive when my husband gets home at the end of the day, I've done my job.

----Roseanne Barr

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