Six years ago I was in a dark place. One of the two darkest places I’ve ever been in. I still struggle to sort out my past in some ways. I made some choices that contributed to me being in that dark place that I wish I would have done differently, and yet, at the time I did the best that I could with what limited resources, physically and emotionally, that I had. I made mistakes. I fully accept accountability for people that I hurt when I was in that dark place, but I was also horribly mistreated but a lot of people and that caused a lot of deep wounds. Due to a lot of trauma starting early on in my childhood, I was in survival mode for a large chunk of my life just trying to get from one minute to the next. I really didn’t have any space left within me to think or plan for the future because I was so consumed with surviving my present. The best way that I feel I can word things is that I accept accountability for the damage that I caused to others, but I also feel that we are all connected to each other in the ways that we choose to treat each other. One string pulls another string which pulls another… it’s complicated. WE are complicated. We have so much more influence on each other than we consciously realize. That is such an awesome, yet terrifying responsibility. Our choices and our words reach others in ways that we can never hope to anticipate or prepare for, so we have to be thoughtful and intentional with everything that we put out into the world. We WILL make mistakes. NONE of us are perfect.
I believed that back then too, and I passionately did everything that I could to stream, cry, and force people to accept their own accountability for the ways in which they bullied and gaslit me. The problem was that the more I reacted, the more they twisted my reaction into “proof” that I “deserved” to be treated like trash. It’s the classic “poking the bear” story. You poke a bear repeatedly with a stick until it finally takes a swipe at you, and then you point and scream that the bear is dangerous and needs to be shot. Other people didn’t see that you provoked the bear, and when the bear tries to explain that, you flat-out lie… it’s a horrible way to gaslight and makes a person feel so powerless.
The worse that this got, the more depressed that I felt. The louder that I screamed and protested, the more I was gaslit and bullied. The more I was gaslit and bullied, the worse I felt and the more I protested… it was a cycle that I didn’t know how to get out of. It was a hard lesson for me to learn and face that you absolutely CANNOT force a person to acknowledge how their words and choices are hurting you. Nothing you say or do will ever force another person to care.
I feel like I’ve been so alone throughout so much of my life that at times I just clung to anything or anyone that came along that gave me even a glimmer of a chance at belonging. Like anyone, I just wanted to belong somewhere. But I would ignore signs that people weren’t kind. I’d argue with my own gut and I’d ignore little ways in which I watched them treat others in ways that I didn’t agree with or that I thought was mean and dismissive, forgetting the cardinal rule of “if they treat someone else that way, they’ll treat you that same way, too.” Let me say it louder for the people in the back: YOU ARE NEVER ANYONE’S EXCEPTION. I would get involved with people who didn’t share my biggest core value, and I’d rationalize it all by telling myself that having someone, even if I felt sketchy about them, was better than having no one. (Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong!) This wasn’t just mundane. I allowed people to take advantage of me in some pretty horrible ways because I had no self-esteem and took whatever I could get, or in other cases, I didn’t stand up for myself because I didn’t think anyone would believe me. (Unfortunately, with good reason. Hello, Rape Culture, I’m looking at YOU.) But that’s NOT the topic or the point of this blog entry.
Loyalty is my most important value. When I care about someone, I don’t stop caring about them. Even if we grow apart and life takes us in different directions, I still care about them. I still wish them well. I still want them to be okay. I will never comprehend or understand people that claim to care, and then throw you away like trash. It’s not in my brain’s chemical vocabulary. It’s very painful to care about someone who doesn’t give a flying f*ck about you in return.
But loyalty isn’t everyone’s thing. Some people are opportunists and if you don’t directly serve a place in their lives that will lead them to their goals, you’re dropped on your ass. I’m sure there are other reasons for loyalty to not be important to people, but I honestly don’t know what they are. I have a vague unspecified memory of someone once saying “friends come and go, but family is where loyalty is” and I interpreted that to mean that they have a close family so they don’t really value friends… but who knows. I never felt I could depend on my family so maybe that’s why friendship really does mean a lot to me. I don’t get how a person doesn’t care if they’re hurting you or betraying your trust, or how you have no value to them if you aren’t directly serving their wants or needs. I’ll never understand that mentality, but it is what it is.
Six years ago, the last person that I had left after a string of other betrayals got angry with me (I don’t even remember what started our fight) but then the people who had betrayed me prior had been stalking me for months and literally jumped on the opportunity to “team up” with this person and together they chose to exploit some of my most vulnerable personal aspects to humiliate and hurt me as “revenge.” (Which made no sense as I was the one whom they stole from and used in the first place. But then they lied to people about what they did so …. whooo knows. It never made any sense to me and just felt inexplicably cruel.)
It wasn’t the worst betrayal that I have faced, but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I literally had nothing and no one. I had two choices. I could either take my life, or COMPLETELY start new. I chose door #2. I resolved that I’d do things differently. I’d do them better. I learned the hard way that having no one is NOT worse than having someone in your life who hurts you. Once you truly have nothing and no one left… well you find out who you really are and what you’re really made of.
My commitment to doing things differently has definitely been tested over these recent years. I’ve come across people who have chosen to treat me poorly, but I’ve handled these situations with a new approach. I’ll say my peace and stick up for myself, but then I turn my back. I bite my tongue and wait it out. I don’t stoop to their level and I don’t reflect their behavior. I don’t give them the opportunity to gaslight me on top of whatever they are already doing. It also does help that I chose the right friends, because people can and do stick up for me, now. My friends whom I trust truly have my back. Having supportive friends and trusting in karma has in the end thrown me into the winner’s circle every time. I’ve gotten everything I’ve wanted. A trustworthy, kind, supportive social circle. A place that feels like “home.” Horses. A job that I’m passionate about with a great boss who actually values me and stands up for me as well.
I’m a different person now than I was six years ago. I attribute part of that to learning and growing, but another part of that to the kindness of others. It matters SO MUCH how you treat people, how you approach people, and how you face people. It doesn’t only matter in reference to your own life, but it matters in reference to theirs as well. Kindness is motivation and inspiration.
When people treat you with kindness and compassion, you relax, you open up, you don’t have to live on the defense every moment. You can focus on joy instead of bracing yourself for the next hit. Treat two identical people differently; one with kindness and compassion and the other with judgement and ridicule, and pay close attention to how they respond. (Don’t ACTUALLY do this, it’s obviously cruel. But you get the point.)
Even when people do completely inexplicable things and hurt others, I still try to look at their actions and remind myself, and sometimes others, that this person is probably dealing with a lot internally and they probably don’t have the capacity to process how their behavior is coming off to others. Ask questions. Offer help. Choose compassion over judgment. If a person seems “crazy” maybe they need a support system instead of ridicule. If someone is just spinning out of control, I remember how I felt back during those times and how I probably appeared to others, and I pause and remind myself that this person is likely in a lot of pain and I don’t need to make it worse. Yes, by all means, take care of yourself. If someone is toxic and hurtful to your own well-being and mental health, step away, but don’t add to their pain. Tell them respectfully, and tell them once, that you need to step away, and why, but then leave it alone. Encourage others to either be kind to that person, or to step away completely as well.
I don’t wish harm on the people that have hurt me. There are times when I’ve daydreamed that there’s some kind of pill that a person can take that would TEMPORARILY make them feel exactly as they made you feel, just so they have the opportunity to understand the gravity of their words and actions on others, and to learn and grow. But there is no magic pill. There is only karma. Once in a great while, I subtly check in on people from my past. Quite often I find that they are struggling or have been through a struggle since our paths last crossed. I have NEVER taken pleasure in ANYONE’s pain or misfortune, but I will be honest and say that when I see that, I do feel like, well, what you did to me was wrong and you needed to learn that. Have they learned that? I have no idea. I haven’t exactly been contacted for any apologies. But I hope they aren’t hurting anyone else the way they once hurt me.
I do feel that learning to turn my back on the people who treated me poorly has finally opened up opportunities in my life for karma to do some healing. Am I fully healed? No. I still get a sting in my heart when I think about the past. I close my eyes briefly and let the pain wash over me, but it does so quickly and then its replaced with gratitude.
I’m grateful for my life today. I’m grateful for the kindness that others have shown me. It’s nice to not only feel like people have my back, but to actually see it when it counts. I absolutely 100% have theirs in return. I feel like karma has opened up a LOT of doors for me now that I’m finally calm and able to focus and walk through them. I’ve been patient through some trying times. I’ve waited it out when people treated me poorly or underestimated my potential. I chose to trust that eventually, the right things will happen, and that’s proving to be true. I continue to trust in that. I choose to be kind, and if the situation is complicated and I just can’t find the kindness, then I at least walk away so that I don’t display UNKINDNESS.
There are names that I’ll never forget, and they know who they are and what they put me through. I’m not here to “make them remember.” I’m only here to walk forward with my head held high knowing that I will never allow myself to treat anyone the way they treated me, and also knowing that I have apologized sincerely to people that I’ve hurt in the past. They cannot say the same. I have made mistakes, and I’m sure I’ll make more, but my life goal is to fall asleep every night knowing that I’ve done the best that I can to do the right things. I don’t want to be someone that another person has to overcome. And if and when I am, I want that person to receive the sincere direct apology that they deserve. I want to be the person that has made the lives of others brighter and better.
Happy slightly-belated 6 Year Anniversary of “My Life Version 2.0.” This version is turning out a lot better than the first.