It is usually my message to other people: You Matter. Because it is the truth, you do. Your life and all the little things you do within that life will have great impacts on the world around you. I probably focus on this idea a lot because it is something I struggle with greatly… remembering that I matter too. Yes, I matter to my family – especially my children. And logically, I know that I have helped other people’s lives for the better so I mattered to them. There are a lot of days though that I can forget this and spiral into these thoughts: I am not important. I do not matter. And these are the statements that color my days as they spin around my head blocking out all the possible light.
I have been working hard on another post that will be called “Words Have Power”. It is an important truth for me, but at the same time – I have to acknowledge that actions do always speak louder. I was touched inappropriately a lot when I was growing up and while most can probably be chalked up to kid stuff – what it taught me from the age 9 was that what I wanted or didn’t want was of no importance. They were going to do what they wanted to do despite my feelings about it. So by age 17, when Sal* started hurting me and the Davie police officer told me to just stay away from him as it wasn’t worth the time or trouble to get a restraining order – it solidified that fact about who I was — I was no one. At least no one that mattered. And that self-truth never left me. Every relationship I have ever had has suffered because of it. I could never wrap my brain around the idea that someone would care about me just for me and not sex or some other ulterior motive.
During the summer I very often fall into agoraphobia. Without the push to get the children off to school every day, I tend to stay inside where I am safe and my fear of people (especially men) will not interfere with day to day living. I asked one of my better psych doctors why I couldn’t gain more control over it. He said that it is a learned behavior. If every time I walked outside, I got rained on then I would learn to bring an umbrella. If I felt that too often when I left the house bad things would happen then I learn not to leave the house. Each time the agoraphobia slips in, I have to work hard to push it out. I take baby steps and do short trips to the grocery store always with a companion. I keep exposing myself to the outside world until I grow comfortable again. (This relates in a moment.)
In forgetting that I matter, I have a tendency to allow people to take advantage of me. I do not stand up for myself because again — in my mind, I don’t matter enough.
My PTSD does make it extremely difficult for me to be strong in the face of anger and I cannot handle confrontation at all. But that has to change. I have children including a daughter and that is not what I want to teach them. I want them to know that I do matter and I never ever want them to doubt that they matter too. So taking a page from my agoraphobia therapy, I tried to stand up for myself in a baby step type way. I picked something that bothered me and was an easy right/wrong issue – the school car line. It wasn’t so much about people wrongly cutting into car line and how HUGE of a problem it was, but exactly the opposite.
It was a small problem. I could stand up for myself from the safety of my own car, not have to actually speak and instead hold up my little sign (Stop Cutting in Line) and finally learn to be brave. My kids were actually proud of me. My daughter would remind me to hold up my sign. When I have spoken about this before, I don’t think my motives came through clearly enough. Probably because it is very hard to be this vulnerable about my warped thinking. People did get mad at me. I shared about the one guy who ran me off the road and then tried to follow me home. Then a couple of weeks ago, another man got out of his car to try to talk to me. I was absolutely terrified. I think if he would have yelled at me then I would really broken. He finally went away. But I realized that I had stood my ground and did not let him become this big huge monster (like Sal*) in my mind. It was working. My heart still raced. I still cried afterwards. But maybe this was going to work and I would finally find a little bit of confidence.
This morning after the children got out of the minivan, the guidance counselor and the school’s police officer came up to my car. They asked me politely if I was the one holding up the sign in car line. I had no trouble admitting to this. She very nicely asked me then to stop doing it. I kept the smile on my lips the whole time, but I responded in a small voice that even children know that it is wrong to cut in line. She responded that I don’t have to let ten people in front of me, but I did have to stop holding up my sign. :::sigh::: All I hear is you don’t matter. What you think is of no importance, Melissa. Stupid thoughts? Oh yes. Controllable for me in that moment? Nope.
I get it and I’m over it. Right now, they are allowing them to merge in. It is their property. It is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Will I start leaving for car line later, go the quicker way and start merging in like those others? No. I still think it is wrong. There is one line and you should go to the back of it. But in the end, that isn’t the point. The point is I lost my training ground. It was a unique safe way to teach myself to be brave. My therapy experiment is over and I don’t know when I will have another opportunity to take an opposing point of view in a way that I’ll feel safe doing so.
In the meantime, I will continue the struggle to remember that I matter.
xoxo ~ Melissa