My mum left one day and never returned. It sounds dramatic and considering I was a very young child when she abandoned me, you would imagine it to be traumatic. Actually at the time, it wasn’t. I trusted her completely; so when we sat on our favourite bench in the park as we had done so many times before, and she told me to “Wait there”, I did. I never doubted that she would come back because I was secure in the knowledge that my mum loved me.
It was only later that it began to dawn on me that something was terribly wrong. Any time I mentioned my mum to my father who was now ‘looking after’ me, my questions were dismissed. There was no information, no reassurances, nothing. Being only an infant, making sense of it was impossible and I did what most children do when there is no explanation. I blamed myself completely.
My dominating and manipulating father recognised the need for love in my life, but his brand of ‘love’ came at a price. As for my mother, the absence of her physical presence was manageable. However, the absence of her emotional love was unbearable. By the time I was a teenager I knew with certainty that I wasn’t going to be loved just for being me and branded myself as ‘unlovable’. Not only by others. But crucially by myself. So started my downward spiral of self-destruct.
Love me? Love me not? Who cared?
A life time battle with depression commenced, only to be exacerbated by my dependency on vodka which I affectionately named ‘The Hurt Healer’. My adult life developed into a series of harmful relationships, alcoholism and a death wish. All of this I believe stemmed from the fact that I had no ability or inclination to love myself.
Amazingly, there came a turning point in my life. Completely addicted and full self-hatred I decided that suicide was my only option. It was nothing short of a miracle that I survived so with the tiniest amount of strength that I had left in me, I decided to reclaim my life, my faith and with it my identity.
Crucially, instead of looking for love from others, and looking for love in others I started with myself. It wasn’t easy! And it took time! My faith told me I was loved unconditionally. That concept was much easier to grasp than the idea of a human being loving me, but it was still difficult to actually feel. Grasping tightly to the little speck of loving in my mind, I made baby steps towards accepting myself and believing that I had some worth. With some amazing support I learnt that it was okay to love ‘me’.
Eventually I started to reach out to others. And in turn they reciprocated. Today I celebrate a life of sobriety filled with the most wonderfully supportive friends, a caring husband and two fantastic daughters whom I love unconditionally.
I understand that sometimes it’s easier to give affection and appreciation to others than to ourselves, but perhaps it’s time for some self-love.
Do you ‘Love you?’ or ‘Love you not?’
“Love loves to love love.” – James Joyce, Ulysses