Since my earliest memories I can not remember a time that I truly felt safe as a person. I am not talking about physically safe. Though a lot of my life I did not feel physically safe either. The safety I am talking about is emotional safety. I have thought about this a lot in the last few months. I use to have a therapist that use to tell me when things get really bad go to your safe place in your mind, A time that you felt the most safe. I never understood what she meant so I just kinda ignored it. As I have struggled with everything in my life falling apart this year I searched for that place.
I searched through my childhood, through my teenage years, and my entire adult life. I realized that I have never felt truly safe. I actually don’t know what it means to feel safe. It is such a foreign concept to me. The feeling of never being safe is actually my normal. I am constantly on guard watching for danger everywhere. I use to think that it was because of my PTSD because of the last 6 years of my life. But then I realized that this went back a lot longer than I remembered. That this goes back to my earliest memories.
I remember always walking on eggshells my entire childhood because of my parents that believed I was a failure from birth. I would walk in from elementary school and brace to see what kind of mood my mom was in and what I would be told I had done wrong that day, I was never sure when I walked through the door if I was going to have the mother that tolerated me and could even seem loving at times or if it would be the mother that hated my very existence and would make me for that day regret that I was born. There was never any consistency with which mother I would get. She could be pleasant when I woke up and by the time I got home she would be her other side. My dad was not as bad but he took many cues from my mom. If I had slighted her in some way during the day I dreaded my dad coming home because she made him do the majority of the physical “disciplining” while she did the mental torture. Some may think I am over dramatizing by using the word torture. But to me that is what it felt like. One second I would have a mom that tolerated me and “loved” me, then with the tiniest screw up all that was yanked away from me. No longer did I have a mom that tolerated and “loved” me, her other side that hated me took over. She was not content to just display her hate for me and take away her love with cold shouldering me and ignoring my very existence. She needed to know I was physically punished for not achieving her standards of perfection.
I remember I felt such a lack of love and safety growing up that at night I would comfort myself by going to bed playing scenarios in my head. I would imagine different scenarios where I would be in danger and someone would come to my rescue, make me feel safe, and comfort me. Sleeping was my favorite thing to do as a kid. It was the only time I knew I could not screw anything up, That I was safe. That someone would be there to save me, love me, comfort me even if it was only in my mind. Something was better than nothing.
Eventually I realized this was never going to change in my life. I was never going to be safe in my own home so I ran away. To be on the streets and maybe unsafe was better than the guarantee of knowing I would never be safe if I stayed. I could not handle knowing that I was such a screw up that was not even deserving of love. So I set out in my journey to find love and safety at the age of 14. Yet what I sought was not to be found. Bad people could spot me a mile away. Because I was trained that I must be perfect to achieve love I became a ridiculous people pleaser. I was a narcissist dream girl. I dealt with abusive relationship after abusive relationship trying to prove my worth by people pleasing trying to earn the love and safety I had never known. They were not all romantic relationships. Some where friendships and even work relationships. Always trying to be perfect trying to earn what everyone else seemed to have but I could never achieve. And when I realized in each situation that I was not going to get the love and safety I tried to earn by being perfect I would run from each of them. This is a cycle I have repeated over and over again for my last almost 39 years.
Each time my efforts blew up in my face it reinforced everything that my mother had taught me. That I was not worthy of unconditional love or safety. That because I was not perfect enough no matter how hard I tried I was never going to be worthy. This caused me to do two things. It caused me to love others in an unconditional way that was not healthy and made it that I accepted things I should have never accepted. And it caused me to try harder and harder because I was going to prove my mother wrong and show her I was worthy of “love” no matter what it cost me.
That drive for safety and love ended up costing me everything I have ever worked for in my life. It almost cost me my life on multiple occasions. I was going to prove I was worthy of what I never had. Every time I was hit I blamed myself. I had not done enough to earn the safety and love of not being hit so instead of walking away like a normal person I tried harder. Every time I was cheated on I blamed myself. I had not done enough to prove I was worthy of the safety and love of a truly committed relationship. So instead of leaving I tried harder. I always try in everything I do until I am sure that I have tried everything in my power to earn the love and safety I had never known, Once I was sure there was nothing more I could do then I would run away. Each time I left I was more broken then when I started. I had failed at my objective to finally achieve the safety that I so desperately sought. Each time I left it just proved my mother right. I was not worthy of safety and love.
A year ago this month I found out that my soon to be ex husband was abusing my children behind my back when I was not home. I was his target when I was home. The kids were his target when I was not there to take his abuse. This time I did not try harder. I also did not run. I stood up to him. My kids were never going to feel like I felt growing up. Once he was gone I found out I was too late for my 13 year old daughter. When it came to her dad and the world she felt the same way I did when I was her age. Thankfully she knew I loved her truly loved her with everything in me and I would stop at nothing to keep her and her siblings safe. I lost literally everything but my children in a bid to keep them safe from him. Even now he is fighting very hard to take them from me because he has to have control. His own children’s happiness and safety mean nothing to him.
I constantly live in fear of losing the children, That the courts will not think I have done enough to prove I am a good mom and that it is in the kids best interest to stay with me. I live in constant fear. in my own personal life I also live in constant fear. I go above and beyond in everything still trying to prove my worth. Always waiting for any love and or acceptance I have achieved to be yanked away from me the second I do not achieve enough perfection to keep it. I fear upsetting people. I fear rejection. It is so bad that I have been talked into buying things I didn’t need or could not afford by sales people because I did not want them to get angry with me. Trust me I know how insane that sounds but that was my reality. Just to have the approval of a sales person I’d never see again was easier than upsetting them and facing that I had failed to be the perfect customer. Only in my strive for perfection could I have any sense of safety.
After i kicked my soon to be ex husband out for hurting my kids everything fell apart. In my eyes I had failed to keep my kids safe even though I did not know what was going on at the time. I had failed to recognize the signs, Because he refused to pay any child support I depleted my savings taking care of the kids by myself then I could not find a job that would work with raising 4 kids alone with no help. I had failed to provide for them. By the time I finally got a job we were in such a bad place financially that I am going to have to file bankruptcy. Though I have achieved keeping my kids safe I have failed at almost everything else. Yet now my kids are the happiest they have ever been and we are closer than we have ever been. They still loved me no matter how much blew up in our faces. It was in them that I found the love and safety that I had always fought to earn. It was in them that I realized that I had always been enough to have the love and safety of my parents and others in my life. It was in their love and the safety that their love would never be yanked away from me that I found my healing.
I am not fully healed yet. Outside of my kids I still feel like that lost little girl hoping to be enough to earn the safety I have sought my entire life. I still go to bed imagining scenarios where someone comes to rescue me and makes me feel safe, loved, and comforts me. Again something is better than nothing. But I also now do not fight to prove myself. I still try my best in everything right from the jump. I don’t know how to be any other way. But now when it is not appreciated I stop instead of trying harder. I know I give my best immediately and if its not enough then at least I know I tried. I don’t know if I will achieve the sense of safety I need outside of my children. But I know that I will keep looking for it not because I must have it to prove my mother wrong. But because everyone should feel safe at least once in their life and have the place to cling to when times are rough just like my therapist said. This time I am looking for it in safe ways. I am no longer trying to earn it. I just looking for it. I don’t know what the future holds for me but I do know someday I will find my way out of this rabbit hole of never feeling safe.