I had a meeting today with a former colleague. Although we had worked together pretty closely on a few projects, I had never shared with him my no-contact status. At the time, the cut from my family was still too close for comfort. I was still dealing with the fall out, I was scared, tired, overwhelmed, and mostly ashamed.
Yeah, when I first realized or acknowledged to myself that I had grown up in an abusive family, I was ashamed.
I thought that coming from an abusive family meant there was something wrong with me. I thought I was the chipped glass no one wants to use, the taped-together toolbox that just sits empty on a shelf, or the slightly-cracked watering can that is not quite watertight anymore. Of course, there is the shame and guilt of the survivor. But additionally there is the condemning stare of the other person.
Most people don’t actually use the condemning stare, but I used to expect and dread it. And so I tried to hide the truth.
I would be anxious about questions about my past and my family. A simple “where are you from?” would leave me near paralyzed. I just did not want anyone to find out, and condemn me.
Most People Do Not Condemn You
Over the years, I have experienced again and again that the expected condemnation usually doesn’t happen. And when it does it usually comes from people I have no interest in. Or perhaps the two are connected.
I have gotten to a place where I do not accept condemnation in my life. At the end of the day, do I need to make room in my life for people who judge me for having been the target of an emotional abuser? Would they also condemn me for having been run over by a truck as a kid?
You see, the trick turned out to be the following:
I needed to accept that abuse is part of my story (only part of it, mind you). So, yeah, I come with some chips, and a fair amount of duct tape. I still work, though! And the chips and duct tape give me character!
The only tea cup anyone remembers of Beauty and the Beast is the one with the chip, yes? There you go!
Back To My Meeting
So that meeting with my colleague this morning. For the subject we were discussing it was important for me to mention my family situation. So I did.
By now I have learned how to do that without causing too much distress. When I first started sharing more openly, I was still battling the shame. So I would just dump my story because that alone was quite an emotional battle. Now that I have had some practice, I can prepare people a little by leading up to my story before getting to the big ugly truth.
Of course, there was no condemnation. There was some good advice about the topic on hand, though.
Owning My Story With Pride
Does it sound weird that I am now finding pride in my past? Why, though? I worked so hard to escape and heal. I have beaten so many odds. Why should I not celebrate that strength? hold my head up high and say
I made it through! This happened, but I will no longer condemn myself for it. Because, let’s face it, all that fear of judgement is just projected judgement of myself.
You are wonderful, you are worthy, and you are loved.
Be proud of how far you have come—
regardless of where that is!