How does one determine self-worth? Is it based on results? Competent employee? Good parent? Good partner? Who validates this? Is the validation from another what “proves” our worthiness? Perhaps some of you are saying, “The proof comes from within.” How do you know that? Is it a feeling? Is it possible for others to SEE your worth, yet you FEEL none of it? I’m not talking about feeling “unworthy”, just having no self-worth. To me, there is a difference between the two. Maybe that’s where I’m getting tripped up.
Perhaps I’ve always felt…screw it, let’s put it in the present tense, shall we, since this is what I’m wrestling with lately.
I think I feel like I am a body to be used by others. My employers are mostly happy with my job performance on any given day. They use me for my intellect, problem-solving abilities, common sense, and knowledge of all things financial in our small piece of the corporate world. In return, I get paid and can walk around with a sense of having control over that piece of my life. However, for as high up on the ladder as I am, I am replaceable. It would be difficult for the company, but hiring two people with the correct skills is all it would take to replace me.
I am a mother. My daughters use me for the fulfillment of their basic needs, guidance, a soft-spot to land (emotionally and physically), and a source of stress, humor, and love. I am not a “great” mother, but I do what I can most days. Some days I can only do the bare minimum. I know that mothering is supposed to feel like my most important job, but I’ve always fallen short of that. That’s MY reality. That’s what they’ve grown up in. That’s THEIR normal. Unfortunately, their normal is a mom who doesn’t get up to make them breakfast (not since they’ve been old enough to do it for themselves). Instead, they have a mom that would sleep all day and stay up most of the night if it wasn’t for that pesky job. They know they have a mom that likes to be asked, or at least warned, before being touched. And for as hard as I try to hide it and not let it happen, I’m pretty sure my 11-year old knows that it’s easier for her 10-year old sister to touch me and not have me tense up or recoil. I feel bad for them growing up with a mom who on most days doesn’t want to be touched, but some days hugs them and never wants to let go. I tell them all the time, “I love you, I just don’t want to be touched right now.” They usually respect that and I try to ignore the fact that I feel like a bad mom.
Then there’s my “love life”. Perhaps calling it my “sexual life” is more accurate since the partners that have said they loved me have all changed their minds at some point. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you know that I’m a recovering alcoholic. Simply stated, most women in recovery have a tumultuous past filled with sexual abuse, misconduct, and promiscuity for one reason or another. I am no different. In the past (in my active drinking days before I was married), sex (not just intercourse, I’m talking in the BROAD sense of the word) had many functions. It was something to be bartered to get what I want, a type of “get out of jail free” card when I was in trouble, a way to control others (or at least granted me the illusion that I was in control), something to do for the hell of it, a form of self-punishment, and yes, sometimes it was a weapon used against me. When you look at the entire scope of it, I guess it’s no wonder that my views on sex differ from “the norm”.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever been “made love to”, but I’ve had a lot of sex, and have been fucked a great deal. I think the emotions behind the act are what is supposed to determine which category the act falls into, but like I said, when every partner that has claimed to love you eventually changes their mind, how can I be sure?
Putting that a side for a minute (it’s info you’ll need for the next part, so keep it in the back of your mind), let’s talk about what’s been going on over the last few weeks. Again, if you are familiar with my facebook page (OrganizedPeopleAreJustTooLazyToLookForStuff), you know that my boyfriend broke up with me. He was supposed to be THE ONE. Promises were made and in my head the future was being planned out. However, after a few short months, he changed his mind and left me. To say it threw me for a loop is an understatement. I went into a tailspin. How do you go from “We should get married” to “I don’t have the energy for a relationship” in such a short time? I was told it wasn’t my fault, but that didn’t make it any easier. I think it made it worse because if felt just that much more unfair. There was no way to gain closure. I was hurting more than I had hurt in a long time, and I do not deal well with emotional pain. Physical pain has always been easier for me to tolerate than emotion pain, and anger is ALWAYS preferable to hurt. I know what to do with anger. I act out. When you’re pissed off you can yell and scream and swear and throw things and break shit and lash out and people (including myself) will usually excuse it by saying, “Ah, she’s just angry. She’ll get over it.” Anger is easy. HURT, and I’m talking the deep-down, soul-crushing hurt is so much harder to deal with. To admit I’m hurt is to admit I’m vulnerable. To admit I’m vulnerable is to admit I’m weak. To admit I’m weak is unacceptable. I like to pretend I’m the Ice Queen with the cold, black heart that has no feelings and therefore can’t be hurt, but we all know better.
If I DIDN’T feel, I wouldn’t have gone into that post-breakup tailspin. It began with disbelief in what was happening and moved into a sadness like I had not felt in years. Getting out of bed became nearly impossible. Moving around was such a chore you would have sworn I gained 200 pounds over night. The nightmares came back in full force,I started having panic attacks daily, sometimes more than once a day, and I started cutting myself (a coping skill from long ago). That’s when I started taking the anti-anxiety meds (benzos) the shrink had given me months ago to get through a couple of really long dental appointments. I started with the suggested dose even though I knew it wouldn’t be enough (body size factors in and that dose is used on people ¼ of my weight). When 1 didn’t work, I started taking them 2 at a time and that helped for a couple of days. Unfortunately, former drug addicts build tolerances very quickly and before I knew it, I had to take 3 at a time to be ok (Note: even 3 at a time was a medically acceptable dose, I was not in danger of over-dosing). I spent the next week or two in an emotional haze. Going through the motions as best I could, but I was losing ground. I sent the kids to live with their dad; the very man who I had to protect them from a few years ago due to HIS mental state. That blow was almost as bad as the breakup itself, but it had to be done. I couldn’t stomach them seeing me in that condition.
Becoming an alcoholic at such a young age prevented me from learning any real coping skills. MY coping skills included drugs, alcohol, self-abuse, and/or sex; sometimes a combination of all of those. I wasn’t drinking and the drugs (which stopped the cutting and the panic attacks) were running out (because my shrink is a fucker and wouldn’t listen to reason – or so I felt), so what’s next? Yep, self-abuse and/or sex. I needed to have physical pain to overshadow the emotional pain I couldn’t handle. I didn’t want to hurt myself (because really, I don’t need any more fucking scars on my body), so the only other option is to let someone else do it, and that’s what I did. I called a guy from a couple of years back (after weeks of talking it turned into a one-night stand) who had been VERY aggressive in bed and left me with bruises all over and a reactivated PTSD reaction. Yep, in all of my “wisdom”, I got a hold of him, told him what was going on and told him what I wanted. I would meet him in a hotel and told him to do whatever he wanted to me as long as it was enough to take my mind off of everything. I didn’t want to feel the HURT anymore and if physical pain is what it would take, I was ok with that.
Here’s the bitch about being an addict – whatever we use as a method of escape, only grants TEMPORARY relief and once that relief starts to wear off, we need MORE of whatever we’re using so the feelings don’t come back. We will use until we hit the gates of insanity and sometimes walk right through them just so we don’t have to FEEL any more. That being said, the night in the motel was not ENOUGH. Yes, it took my mind off of things temporarily, but it didn’t cure the emotional hurt. I needed MORE. Less than 6 hours after spending the night in a hotel room letting a man abuse me, I was laying on another old friend’s massage table getting a naked massage. Why? Because the physical sensation was enough to quiet my mind, and he was willing to give me a massage and not expect anything in return other than the joys of getting to rub down a naked chick on his massage table. The massage was still not enough to fix the hurt. I needed MORE. MORE “something” to make the feelings stop. I sent a text to a old boyfriend from high school (we’ve stayed in contact over the years and have hooked up a couple of times in the last 20 years), but he was busy. SHIT. Now what? SOMETHING had to be done. The panic attack was coming and I was out of benzos and didn’t want to drink. That’s when I got on facebook and basically offered to drive 2 states a way to make out with a friend I have known for awhile but have never met face-to-face. I was seriously out of control.
Please understand that although I try to lace some humor throughout the story, I am fully aware of how ashamed I should be…of how embarrassed I should be of my behavior. This is not lost on me. I share these things because more likely than not, there is someone else out there dealing with similar stuff and feels alone. It is my hope that my story can help someone else. As I sit here typing this, I have not taken any extra medication in 3 ½ days. My daughters are back home. I have been attending 12-Step meetings every couple of days, trying to get myself back on track. I still want to crawl out of my skin, but have kept my pants on.
This is where we return to the original topic of self-worth. I don’t believe a person with a sense of self-worth would have done the things I have done in the last couple of weeks. Would they? I can’t attribute ALL of my behavior to my addictive tendencies, can I? Would someone who feels like they have self-worth put their body through what I just did? I had a moment of clarity (which always wrecks a good denial session) while I was laying on the massage table letting a man I had only seen once in the last 6 years fondle my boobs. I thought, “Why am I letting him do this?” He didn’t ask to; I stripped on my own accord. I’m beginning to think I never got past seeing my body as something to be used by other people. Shouldn’t I by now? I mean, MOST people wouldn’t just get naked and let people do whatever they wanted to them, would they? Don’t some people feel their bodies are THEIRS and feel like it’s a gift to share them with others intimately? I’m sure I’ve heard that somewhere, but I don’t know.
I guess I’ll put this question out to the class: How do YOU know (or show?) you have self-worth? I hope that some people will leave comments, because I really don’t know.