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Walking Through Fire

Life is tough sometimes. It’s tough for everyone. Nobody has it really easy. I know people like to pretend that they have the best, most perfect and positive life, but we know that usually isn’t the case. We all have struggles and they are as varied and vast as individuals themselves. That isn’t to say that some don’t have it easier than others. Some of our friends and family post these fantastic life stories on social media that would make any one a little jealous. The reality is most people aren’t posting their pain, their shame, and their embarrassments. Who wants to expose those vulnerabilities? Me, that’s who. I have found strength in sharing my weaknesses and troubles with others that have had similar experiences. So many of us are struggling with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues but we’ve been shamed as a society to admit it.

https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/mental-health-services/mental-health-get-help.html

I struggle with anxiety. Sometimes it’s easier to deal with than others. When I was younger I felt more powerless against it. As I’ve aged I’ve learned how to cope and how to recognize the signs that I’m indulging in the insecurities that come with being anxious. A couple of different times in my life I have “gone off the deep end.” My mental resiliency has been tested on numerous occasions. I feel like I failed some of these life tests, mainly because I’m so hard on myself and have such high expectations of not only me, but everyone around me. My first serious test came after reporting my maternal grandfather for sexually abusing me when I was a child. The subsequent court cases that followed demanded a strength I didn’t know I had; to face the man that wounded me so deeply and irrevocably for the rest of my life. Even though he was found guilty, sent to prison, and lost an appeal, I always felt like there was something wrong with me. Somehow it was my fault. Even though I was just a kid, I couldn’t help but blame myself for not having the courage to stop it sooner. The ripple effect of that trial was losing contact with the maternal half of my family. We were ostracized by that part of the family for years, because my mother and father believed and supported me. My mother chose her daughter over her father, mother, siblings, and extended family. That’s the best mother anyone could ever ask for. It took me years to fully appreciate the loss she must have felt, and the sacrifice she made to support me. She is a remarkably strong woman that has probably never been properly acknowledged for her tenacity and unyielding love and support for her kids.

I staggered around in a shame-filled state for many years. I had a hard time dealing with the incredibly overpowering mental anguish I was suffering from. Despite being young and inexperienced at life, I could not allow myself any forgiveness for the serious character flaws that I thought I saw in myself during my youth. Now that I understand just how traumatic this event was, I am kinder to the memory my younger self. All the choices I made in the years after the abuse were normal, and typical of those that have been so seriously victimized. I’ve forgiven myself for the mistakes that I’ve made, but more importantly, I have learned not to give any thought to those that refuse to see how I’ve grown or acknowledge the changes that I’ve made throughout the course of my life. I wasted far too much time in my life worrying about what people thought of me. In my head I was already rejected before I could give anyone a proper chance to get to know me. I just assumed people weren’t going to like me. I was loud, hyper, outspoken, boisterous, adventurous, and tough. Very tough. I come from a predominantly religious family, I felt like I was most likely viewed as something akin to the devil himself. The long and short of it is; life is way to short to worry about what people think. There will always be people that don’t like you, for whatever reason. That’s ok. We are survivors. We always have each other.

My life has not been the easiest of journeys. Some things were thrown at me over which I had no control. My children’s serious health issues tested my resiliency. As is typical of me, I kept things together during the crisis, and then fell apart after the threat was gone. The latest and greatest test of my will and strength as a women, was when my developmentally challenged aunt died of brain cancer. I sat with her in the hospital every day, until the moment she took her last breath. The lessons she taught me about enjoying the simple things in life are still with me.

I have made colossal mistakes throughout my life. I was challenged by low self-esteem, and a lack of pride in the skills and talents that I had. I didn’t see myself as having any talents. Getting an education and having the support of my family and friends have contributed to me having a greater sense of self. I have pride in my accomplishments. Like a lot of parents, I feel my two greatest accomplishments were raising well-adjusted kids, despite my struggles being a young mother. I was a thrill-seeking hothead for most of my life. I had no fear. I lived for daring adventure and brought my kids along with me on that ride. There was never a dull moment. If I were a parent of young children now, my common sense as a middle-aged person would have surely kicked in. Instead, I raised two young kids when I was in my early 20’s. As is typical of the youthful mind, I thought nothing would ever happen to me. It would happen to somebody else. I felt invincible. It was this fearlessness that enabled me to let my kids follow me jumping off a local bridge into the river below. It took us swimming through rapids so strong that it would suck you down, twirl you around, and spit you back out again metres away. It led us to jumping a fence to pet a bear caged behind a steel fence. Crazy things to do, but I, nor my now fully grown children, have any regrets.

I have walked though the fire, but I did not come out the other side unscathed. Some scars never fully heal. Somehow I managed to raise university educated kids. My son has full custody of his young daughter. A girl born into a family of strong, dominant, confidant women. My daughter, a PhD candidate, is a scientist, blazing a trail for girls coming behind her from our small community in rural New Brunswick.

Life is tough sometimes, but like Dolly Parton said so eloquently, “if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”

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