Written by Shawna

I'm reading the book "A Return to Love" by Marianne Williamson, in a bookclub with a couple of other women. We meet once a week and go over one chapter at a time. The book itself has a lot of good stuff in it, but the time spent with these women I think has had a profound effect on me.

My childhood was messy. My Mom was a single mother, and an alcoholic and drug addict. It was chaotic and unstable. I don't have a lot of memories from my early childhood involving my Mom, but I do remember being alone and how I felt. I would hardly ever go to school, so I would be left alone when my Mom did work, or left alone when she was sleeping off whatever binge she had been on. I got so comfortable being alone, that even when I was actually sick and couldn't go to school I wouldn't want my Mom to send me to my grandmother's house. 

I remember laying in bed and my mind would be racing. I couldn't control it. I couldn't tell you how I felt then, other than I was physically exhausted all the time and always had stomach problems. As an adult, I now know that it was fear and anxiety. It was neglect. I built up walls in those early years, to protect myself from the emotional unavailability from Mom and the rest of my family (also all alcoholics). I was alone. I remember feeling out of control on the inside, probably because I had no example of how to manage the emotions of growing up in that type of environment. I would draw, and sleep. Draw and sleep. Draw and sleep. 

I used to lie for my Mom all the time, to protect her. And she loved me for it. So I learned to be alone, that I couldn't rely on anyone, and that enabling people meant love. I've carried that belief with me my whole life. That I'm strong. I don't need anyone. Nobody can hurt me. Everybody will let me down. Put a smile on a carry on. That's another thing, I was always smiling - everybody says how "happy" I was a child. I was completely disconnected from my feelings, as a way to protect myself, and learned early on it's better to just smile and act as if everything is fine.

I'm still doing that today. At the beginning of this year, I left my husband, and I felt broken beyond repair. I told myself I wanted to be more connected to myself - more authentic. I give a lot of love and support to the people around me, but I burned myself out. I felt numb and miserable. I have been searching ever since; self help books, talks with my Dad, millions of hours of lying in bed thinking and analyzing, drawing, and then the bookclub. 

It's the end of they year now. I'm still too much in my head, and not enough in my soul. I'm still searching for answers on how to be happy. I had this thought today though, that I'm holding myself back from happiness by thinking I can do any of this alone. Watching the women in my bookclub be so raw and honest finally gave me an example of how to be real. Instead of being "strong", I need to be more soft. I don't want to do it all alone all the time. That's where my strength is right now, in accepting that to move forward and be more whole, I will have to be real. And the real me, under all the chaos that has happened, is a sensitive, curious, intelligent, loving soul that wants to be seen and accepted. I need to start with myself, accept myself for who I am. Not hide myself from the world. What saved me as a child is only hurting me as an adult.