Ten years ago I was an angry, bitter victim. I had been taught to think that the world was against me. My parents were at best unfit, and at worst, monsters. My mother was a paranoid schizophrenic who repeatedly told me “I wish you had never been born.” My sadistic father liked to kill my pets while I watched. So I didn’t just grow up in a dysfunctional household; I grew up in insanity and understood cruelty too well.
On the outside you would never know any of this. I learned to keep secrets and wear a socially acceptable mask at school. No one must know what happens behind the upper middle class suburban home with the Mercedes in the driveway. Anyone driving by might envy my family…until they stepped through the front door.
I was angry at my friends for having relatively normal families, where the worst thing they argued about was jealousies, politics and sibling rivalry…but they knew they were loved. I was angry that they had parents they trusted, and siblings who might disagree with them but would protect them.
I was afraid my entire childhood. I learned very quickly to become small and invisible. I escaped into a world of books and dreamed of a day I would feel safe.
For me the path of healing was not straightforward. There were many twists and wrong turns, inadvertent u-turns on the path back to victimization. I chose partners who verified I was worthless, and I hung out with negative and cynical people. I understood that world and while not happy to live there, I at least knew what to expect. This lasted until my late 30′s.
Happiness eluded me. I embarked on a deliberate path to healing. I wasn’t sure where the road would lead me, but I knew where the path I was on would take me, and I didn’t want to end up like my family. I missed some of the steps and fell through the cracks along the way and wallowed in anger before pulling myself out.
I learned that happiness is a choice, and some days it’s harder to make that choice than others. But as I kept deliberately looking for the positive in negative situations, I formed the habit of happiness. I began to stop looking for the bad in things, and sought the good. I learned to relax about things I couldn’t control. I enjoyed this feeling of happiness more than the darkness.
Fast forward to my late 40′s. I’m mostly happy, though there are days when the inner darkness does still poke through. I don’t know if I will ever fully ‘recover’ from what was done to me as a child; but I do know that I have learned to shift my perspective through forgiveness.
Forgiveness does not change what happened to me, but it changes the way I think about it.
This blog was prompted by a conversation about happiness and friendship. There are people in my life who live on the periphery now. They keep trying to get back into my life, but a seemingly invisible forcefield keeps them away from me. They can’t get to me anymore. They have not changed, but I have, and my energies won’t let them near me.
As you chose happiness rather than bitterness, chaos, crisis, strive, anger or whatever other form your pain takes, ‘friends’ are going to fall away from you. You can mourn the passing of the friendship; grief is a normal part of anything ending, whether it’s healthy or not. But know in your heart that a new set of friends and relationships will arrive in your life that will support you in your quest for happiness. If you grow past that new group of friends, new more positive friends will show up.
I wish you the best in your own healing journey.