I’ve always carried a heavy heart in my chest – all my life I was told I am “too sensitive” and emotional; my dad always said to me, “You’re bringing me down, Chrissy”, I remember this from such a young age. I learned that how I felt, and how others perceived it, was a reflection that I was bad somehow. Feeling “too much” was not seen as a blessing to my character – it was never how God made me but rather a flaw that would never serve me. I learned to keep my mouth closed and bottle up, shut tight, everything I felt so strongly. I would lie awake in bed at night, 8 years old, and weep silently, and I even thought about how my parents might be better off had I not survived my premature birth. It was confusing for me to experience myself – the intense love I had to give, the affection I wanted so much to share with the world – when it felt like I was just a burden to those around me.

All I’ve ever wanted was to feel safe in my skin, to feel safe being my true self and share that with the world, but I don’t think I ever learned how. I wanted my mom to pay attention and nurture me, I wanted my dad to slow down and realize the beauty in his daughter instead of criticizing me for the parts of me he didn’t like. I spent a lot of my childhood choosing to be alone because I didn’t want to constantly upset everyone with my stupid “emotions”; I was lonely and convinced nobody really loved me because I just wasn’t worth the effort. I steeled myself, though it killed me every day – I just wanted to love, to feel, to care for others, and be seen… Instead, my overly-emotional heart was abandoned, something that hurt me deeply, to my core, because since I can remember “my self”, I just wanted to be loved.

My parents divorced when I was 11 and it was a mere couple months before my mom married the reason for her leaving – my two older brothers were ripped away to live with my dad, and my younger two siblings and I were to live with my mother. Not only was that impossibly devastating, but my new stepdad came with his own two sons and eventually his long-lost daughter… Life was turned completely upside down, and I was never given pause to appreciate this dramatic shift in our reality – no counseling, no more explanations, “this is just the way it is now” is the best we got. It would not be until years later that I realized how much that period shaped the future for each of my parent’s five children. My mom was infatuated with having “her life”, she was delusional to think we would all just deal with this choice she made to leave our dad and start over at 29 years old. My dad was broken, and spent a good few years lost to his new “single” life. Both of my parents checked out, right when we needed their guidance and love the most.

My entire childhood and adolescence I felt left alone. I felt in silence, fearful to share it, ashamed about who I was. I cried with wild and swelling emotions unsure how to handle it but nobody noticed; I reached out to make sense of it but found no comfort. Going into High School I felt like my only redemption came from cute boys, so naturally I began pursuing their affections – but even experiencing that was a let-down, trauma in itself, because nobody wanted to be my boyfriend, they just wanted my body, and it reinforced the notion that I am unlovable, truly and completely. The only thing that mattered about me was my body. A place-holder for the night, until they found someone better, still much too young at 16 to realize the damage I was willingly causing myself, and not a single person in my life even understood the hell I was in. Navigating it alone, in shame, in constant battle with my deeper self, thinking I must be worth more than this, but then shown time and again that I was not. Even now it makes me cry – because I remember how much I just wanted to feel real love.

God – seriously writing this is hard through blurry tears – made more difficult by the intensity of feelings these words are stirring up. “I just wanted to feel real love”. But, I couldn’t. It would make me wrong, make me bad, make me weak, to show someone my heart – to show someone how deeply I felt the world. So, I gave what I could: Flesh and a weary fake smile. I craved more but could not understand how to have it. I felt like, perhaps, I just didn’t even deserve it. On the outside I appeared like any other teenager I knew, but deep inside, I wanted what I still believed was possible though I had no examples of it in my life at all.

Enter a new dawn, my first chance to be seen for who I truly was – I was 19. He opened my heart, and I let him inside. He asked questions, and I gave honest answers. He accepted my love, nurtured it, and promised with hope in his heart that we would be together forever. I believed him.

… I can’t. I just cannot write this the way I feel it now. So hard… To tell this story as I sit here crying (“too emotional”).

Everyone whom knows me now or read anything I’ve written about this particular chapter of my story, knows or has deduced what happened – why his promise wasn’t kept. It is incredibly painful even today to write it, when I let myself feel it still so deeply, because how can I explain how much he impacted my emotional growth when how it ended kind of proves the point that I am ultimately made to be discarded? I was not worthy of protection, I was not worthy of even the sacred bond between a mother and her daughter – in a moment it all came crashing down and it confirmed what I was always taught: I am not worthy of love.

For two years, from 19 to 21, I was given true love, and my heart learned to feel without fear. In a cruel and insane twist of fate, that very same relationship became my life’s greatest pain. One moment in time, just a few minutes of one day, changed my story – forever. I could never regret loving Tim, because he brought me to life and then with our end I found my strength to endure – something I had lost along the way, the will to fight through life’s hardships. He taught me that it was okay to feel, to give and express and show affection. He taught me that I could be sensitive, he called me his “silly sap” because of how sentimental I was. He held me late into the night in our little house and I felt safe, seen, and loved – for the first time in my life. As much as I love words, I could never express well enough how deeply I still care for that man for the role he played in my story. Even the hurt has a purpose, because that allowed me to fully feel, and I’ve remained open to feeling since that experience – more so than before it that is for sure.

I have this song playing on repeat right now – I tend to do that with music I find that I love – in this case it is a love story about the feelings he has even after the ending. I relate to it fully, because losing that love broke me wide open, “The Love you Left Behind” by Michael Schulte; I can feel it hit my soul. I know why that experience had to go the way it did, why he loved me so much, and why it ended.

He was sent to wake me up, he was sent to show me what it really feels like to be truly broken by love, so that I could see the contrast between feeling and not. So that I could understand I am safe to feel, safe to hurt, safe to cry – that living this way, intensely ‘feeling’ is not a bad thing, but a gift. He was the first person to appreciate the depth of my emotion, and the first person to give me his heart tenderly and truthfully…

I had to walk through hell to understand. It had to end so that I could learn the lessons, however much it broke me.

After everything I experienced as a child, after my teenaged years searching for love and never finding it even in myself, one day changed everything. One face, one name, one heart – and I am forever grateful.

Now, it is 14 years since my mom died, 14 years since I last knew Tim, 14 years of a whole hell of a lot of life: I’ve become a mother 4 times, put a couple “failed relationships” on my resume, and then I met a great man who is now my husband.

Life worked out, it balanced eventually… I found love again – but even in that, I’ve never been the same since that first time.

I still have these days. These days when the residual tapes still play, loudly, and I feel just … Broken. I hear my dad’s voice yelling at me, beating me down with stifling anger and showing me proof that all I was to him was a mistake, a drain, an “accident”. I see my mom, dying slowly, unable to look at me in the eyes after having just destroyed my life, abandoning me completely to a tragic death without so much as uttering “I am sorry, you don’t deserve this” before she left us. I still know the names of all of the boys that wouldn’t date me but used me to throw me away, and I still remember how it felt to be discarded like trash knowing deep inside this wasn’t right. I still remember wandering around alone as a child, seeking warmth, seeking acceptance, seeking someone to help me make sense of the big emotions I just seemed to be born with. I still remember the day they sat us down and ripped apart our family and it affects me so much even now that it brings tears back to my eyes. I still see her face in that hospital room, and I still remember what it felt like to be me in those surreal moments when her relationship with me was severed forever, and it had nothing to do with anything I did or didn’t do, but rather everything to do with her inability to accept her own worth; she left that parting gift to me.

I want to open up but I feel blocked right now. Sometimes it is just too much, to be who I am, and I want a reprieve from ‘feeling’ – so I shut down. I learned this as a child, and it has stuck with me through all of these experiences. That when I feel too much, I just need to shut it off.

It would be so much easier if I could stop writing and sit her to cry. To really feel all of this – it has been trying to come out throughout these paragraphs, and I think I need to just allow it to move through me, but it feels like grief, and I am not handling it well.

The reason I did the MDMA therapy MAPS protocol, the reason I did Ayahuasca, the reason I write and share so much of myself through these words – I have been seeking the insight that I am not wrong: I am so tired of feeling wrong for feeling, I am seeking the insight into my “self” because I want to get to the heart of the child inside of me, and tell her she is okay. I want to hold that space, for myself, and allow her the freedom to express herself. She is still afraid – to cry – to express fully, and to love. I’ve been trying to heal the wounds that are so deep, unseen, and finally accept myself as I am. You would think after almost 36 years of this, I would be close, but I still have so much work to do – these scars are still bleeding sometimes, and it hurts me to be in this skin.

I miss Tim. I miss the acceptance he offered me, when I learned not to be afraid. I miss who I was beside him when I blossomed, explored my heart with someone else, and I learned how to accept myself and be at-ease in love I could believe in. I miss the innocence of that, in believing it saved me – most of all, I miss that I trusted without fear. It was the first, and in a lot of ways the last, I ever gave my heart like that, and I am ashamed that I’ve never felt the same for someone else the way I felt for him.

John is the most steadfast, strong, and sensitive man I’ve ever met. He is capable of handling my emotions, most of the time, and he has worked hard to ensure I feel safe beside him by being tender with my heart. I am fortunate to have met him, to experience his efforts to pull me from inside my walls into his arms, and he is more patient with me than I deserve most of the time. I love him, dearly – and I wish he got the best of me. I wish he got the part that believed without fear, but I still sometimes worry quite simply that he will leave me for someone better. Someone who can step outside of herself and meet his needs more than I can. I sometimes worry he knows, deep down, that he deserves better than me, but when I can manage to step back and survey his actions, I know he wants to love me. He wants to be my person, my rock, my love – I just cannot always allow him that, because I close myself off. It hurts me to even say it, and I hope he knows that I appreciate his willingness to endure when nobody else ever could.

I guess what all of this is pointing to is that I am still just trying. To accept myself, to fully embrace my emotional states, my history, my pain, and believe that I am still worthy of love. I have so much experience, so many dark, deep, and difficult emotions, and I just want to believe that I am still a good person if I honor that fully.

Today, it is very hard, and I just want to run from this. I want to shut down and shrug it off, pretend to at least, and go about my day without all of these feelings – but I will do myself a disservice if I even try to behave as if it doesn’t hurt now.

I want so much to go back, to undo it, to relive these stories and choose better but I know I was meant for this heavy heart. When I was born, 48 hours after, my tiny body was cut open and I had surgery on my heart – I was literally born with a broken heart, and I find the symbolism of that to be beautifully tragic, because I think it set the stage for me. That my hardship in life would not be material, it would be internal – my greatest strength is also my greatest weakness: I have the capacity to love beautifully, deeply, powerfully, but I also possess the fear that keeps me locked out of this entirely.

I’ve nothing else to say, and I am not sure how to even end this.

… If I can stop writing and just cry for a while, I think that will help – wish me luck that I can accept and let these feelings flow through me. Fuck.

3 thoughts on “This Burning Heart

  1. Okay, I took a break and read this. I don’t think you’re a maudlin. I think you have a passion and understanding of life. Your emotions give you beauty and a gift of words. I kind of understand this. I’ve had to be medicated due to the disharmony of my thoughts from years of abuse. I wasn’t valued growing up because of my family and being in special education. I’ve eventually centered my life around people who care about me and my cats. I was very angry when I hit 22 because all the lies became clear. I’ve learned to let the past rest and not torture me by my own summoning. Sounds like you’re letting to, too, and asking if it’s okay to let go. I’m glad you have a good husband and a support system. I’m sorry you’ve suffered so much.

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