I used to read Bright Eyes lyrics when I was a teenager.
The word choice was education for me.
I’d ‘dictionary.com’ what I didn’t understand and tried to memorize everything else.
I’d then watch shows like; The Cosby Show, Family Ties, One Tree Hill, The OC and Grey’s Anatomy.
I didn’t know it at the time but I was learning.
This wasn’t a conscious thought back then but all of the time spent became like studying to me.
How did humans really behave?
How do healthy people handle conflict?
What defines healthy?
How do you say I love you?
What was affection like?
What did families do for fun?
What was powerful?
What behaviors stressed me out and what behaviors felt good to me?
Again, memorizing word choice and body movement.
I wanted to learn. I wanted to dream.
Then I started reading online journals.
Journals from women who were in deep suffering.
I found it fascinating.
The writing, the rawness, … the honesty.
I’d write down what resonated in my own notebooks and would look to them whenever I was feeling down.
All of this education was extremely helpful to me.
Looking back now, I rarely implemented what I thought I knew but I no doubt spent more and more time learning what I could.
The information soothed me.
Helped me gain clarity during times when nothing ever felt for sure.
I remember feeling like I was living this double life.
This intellectual part of me knew better but my body kept continuing to do what was familiar.
Essentially, what was easier.
Years later, when I was in my early twenties, I remember when this article about ‘Codependency’ showed up in my life.
I honestly can’t remember where and who it was from but it had this yellow background and I printed it out immediately.
It sounded just like my mom and I was really excited to show her proof of what I believed she had to work on. (always gathering and pleading evidence!)
I remember thinking, ‘Holy fuck, this is her!!!’
Never ONCE thinking that any of those behaviors resonated with my own.
But still, the information soothed me.
I loved learning and loved understanding what no one could possibly ever explain to me.
A handful of years after that, I’m in a therapy office with a woman who is painfully direct during a time that I really just wanted to be seen.
I wanted clarity about what happened in my relationship with my boyfriend, that fell to pieces just days before.
I was searching for answers. I was searching for information.
Only to be pushed for more answers about my childhood and after sharing a few statements, — she immediately shared back:
‘This sounds like borderline personality disorder and a lot like narcissism.’
It wasn’t what I was there for so it took me a second to process.
What the fuck was narcissism?
She continued to name some characteristics and I remember wanting to get back to my car as soon as possible so I could start researching on my own.
Again, this information soothed me.
The clarity from understanding what happened in my childhood.
Behavior that no one could ever really explain to me.
I spent the next year reading book after book.
Feeling powerful. Feeling strong. Stacking the facts, one by one.
I started to find the articulation for what boundaries really were.
What gas-lighting was.
What codependency was and how I was deeply affected.
Everything that I had been selfishly conditioned to be apart of.
Aside with sharing with my sister, I mostly kept what I was learning with myself.
I started recognizing that I would become anxious around people who don’t communicate.
I started recognizing that I had to repeat myself often to people who I thought were good listeners.
I started recognizing that I often confuse compassion with tolerance and was putting up with way more than I thought I was.
It was a humbling experience.
But … I didn’t physically do much about it.
I read the books.
I read the articles.
I eventually built a business on the process and how the fuck I got to where I am now.
But there came a point where I had to stop putting all my time in acquiring more information.
I had to stop gathering evidence and start focusing on what it was that I needed to work on.
I had to stop building my pile of blame and focus on building a foundation inside of me.
Everything that I was putting off for Tomorrow needed to happen Today.
There was no jury.
There was never going to be a trial.
I learned enough.
I understood enough.
Narcissism fucking sucks.
Being the child of a narcissist is a pain that is almost unspeakable.
I didn’t need to learn ‘5 more ways children suffer.’
I didn’t need to learn more about ‘why she was the way she was’ or ‘how to spot a narcissist from a mile away.’
Me knowing the truth was enough.
Me understanding nothing I experienced was okay, was enough.
The real question was:
When was I going to choose differently?
At what point do we have to shift our attention from acquiring information to actual implementation?
I had to take responsibility for what was my current reality.
I had to start saying no.
I had to start making cuts with people who had no interest in growing with me.
I had to start actually doing the mindset work and not just spend time saying, ‘I’m working on it.’
I had to get out into the world and start being the person that I wanted to be.
I needed less fear and more living.
The person I wanted to be wasn’t just going to show up one day.
There is no finish line that will be handed to me just because I had a shitty childhood.
No amount of time reading and hiding behind my phone and computer was ever going to magically bring me the results.
I remember having these thoughts. Angry that there was more work to do.
Feeling fatigued and post- battle heavy.
But this is the effort that is needed to overcome.
There is no way around it.
I had to start believing I was worth bigger things.
I had to embody the person I wanted to be. Even when it felt foolish.
That meant everything else in my life needed to be addressed.
My friendships, my relationship with food, my relationship with my body, my behaviors, my listening skills, my self-sabotage tendencies, how I speak to myself, who and what I allow in my space – The list goes on.
I had to have the conversations I was avoiding.
I had to let go of a lot of ‘potential’ that I was holding onto.
I had to clear out what I had attracted when I was stuck in my toxic behavioral patterns and start making changes.
It wasn’t a one-day project either.
It took time. It still takes time.
To speak up. To ask for what I want. To not budge when it got uncomfortable.
To know that choosing how I spend my time is a reflection to how much I respect myself.
To choose time alone over time connecting with people who I know can’t understand me.
To choose time alone over people who are gossipy, avoidant and negative.
Months of months working through the discomfort, the loneliness.
Choosing to not engage with my mother even when I felt so incredibly guilty for wanting to leave her behind.
I had to stop abandoning what I knew for sure.
Stop overlooking the same lessons I kept continuing to learn.
It was like I was standing at a door I knew was available to me, I just had to step through it.
Step into this identity that was unfamiliar to me.
The decisions I had to make to get to where I am.
The decisions that helped me to get healthy.
Helped me to create the self-trust, self-accountability and self compassion that I need now in order to stay healthy.
The books helped.
The articles helped.
The hiding from the world while I was trying to figure out how to stand on my own two feet, helped.
But the real change, the sustainable change, the healing … came from the doing.
Having the tough conversations.
Being clear and not apologizing for what I want.
Staying true to my boundaries.
Choosing to operate from a place of integrity.
It was a time in my life that I remember being so incredibly fucking uncertain.
I had the anger to motivate me but I was scared out of my mind.
But I bet on myself.
I believed that what I wanted, wanted me too.
I just had to start making the moves to get there.
One choice, one decision, one day at a time.