By the time I was 7, I knew there was something wrong with me. I knew I wasn’t like other kids, but I didn’t really know why. I knew I carried lots of secrets and baggage with me, and I knew I couldn’t talk about it with anyone – not people at church, not friends or teachers at school, not other family members or my adopted mom’s friends. I learned to trust no one but myself.
By the time I was 10, I understood what emotional abuse was, but I didn’t understand that it was happening to me. I saw it inflicted on A-mom, and I tried to help protect her. At the same time, I learned my love of the forest, because hiding in the woods was a refuge away from the problems at home. I found I could hide physically, but when I was at home I learned to hide emotionally as well.
By the time I was 16, A-mom and I were out of the situation that had caused so much hurt, but there was the little problem that I still felt empty and damaged and hurt inside. I trusted no one with the deep secrets until Lisa came along. She was the first person I wanted to trust, and the first person I ever felt safe telling some of those corrosive secrets. I suppose that’s why I loved her so intensely, probably in an unhealthy way, and she was right to keep me in the friend zone no matter how much it hurt me at the time.
By the time I was 20, I thought I had healed from the scars on my psyche. I naively thought that I could get past that pain that easily, and that I would be okay. I thought it was safe to start building honest relationships, even though I had never been in one or near one. I thought I was going to be successful in spite of everything that happened.
By the time I was 21, I had lost my co-survivor, my A-mom, and I inherited all her emotional baggage as well of two houses full of bad memories. The old wounds inside were ripped open again, but I thought I could band-aid everything over by myself. I started to hide things again, even as I was getting married. I thought I could keep the memories out of my head by keeping myself busy at school. I learned that evil people can haunt you both physically and emotionally. I also learned to self-medicate with alcohol.
By the time I was 25, I felt like I had healed again. I had purged all physical reminders of the past, and I was working on removing all my memories from that time and place. I moved far away, making it easier to separate myself from the past. However, I was bitter with the feeling that I had been manipulated into starting a family I wasn’t ready for. I ignored the bursts of anger and depression that still popped up with regularity.
By the time I was 28, I had physically recovered from a near-fatal crash, but emotionally I was still trying to reassemble myself. My deep depression after the crash hurt me deeply, but I didn’t want to admit that I needed help. I felt I could fix things on my own. After all, I had a new job and had escaped a strange job situation with an emotionally unstable boss. I had two little kids to try to build a relationship with, and a support system with my wife’s family. I minimized the fact the depression and anger were getting worse.
By the time I was 34, I knew I was moving into deep waters emotionally. I was hiding more from Anne than ever before, trying to protect her from the growing beast inside me. I turned for help to Lisa, who in turn told me I needed more help than she could give. I admitted to myself that I couldn’t fix things on my own, and finally sought help. I started therapy, and learned how easily the old woulds could be ripped open again and hurt more than ever. I left therapy, and paid no attention to the fact that my anger and depression were unabated.
By the time I was 36, I learned I had bipolar, and this gave me an easy way to explain the anger and depression, still ignoring the fact that I had never dealt with the root cause of the hurt inside. Despite all my efforts to purge the past from my mind, new memories would rise to the surface and hurt me all over again. I tried therapy again, but I never felt like it could heal me. I felt more damaged and broken than ever before.
By the time I was 43, I had finally calmed down the bipolar symptoms so that during periods of stability I could come to terms with what happened in the past. I realized that the scars will never fade completely, but by then I could think about the past without being overwhelmed by it. I had finally come to an point of acceptance where I understood that my life will always be affected by what happened when I was a kid, and nothing can change that. I decided I could stop being angry because no amount of anger can change the past, it only gives the past the power to hurt me.
After all this time, I have still never learned to forgive.