Updated: Aug 21, 2021
Learning who we are...
It doesn't come easy and the answers are not always straightforward.
You would think that in our technological era with knowledge at our finger tips that we would have become better at figuring ourselves out?
Many people I've encountered over the years have told me "you have personal awareness"
Or more simplified versions of the same thing.
Those of course are the more thoughtful, open minded observations from educated professionals or well rounded people who I've connected with enough for that level of depth to be expressed.
My chaotic life isn't that well rounded though. For as many that have made these well rounded observations there are 30 or 40 times more opinions and perspectives that scream loudly;
"The enemy" or my personal favourite to laugh at "your fathers child"
"Story mixer" "screw around" "abusive"
"Living in my own fantasy world"
"Living in the past"
Another personal favourite "liar"
In a world that has engulfed me with negative and destructive labels, it has become a defense mechanism to dissect my "self", understand the person I am, what is at my core, my beliefs, my morals, my emotions, my thoughts, and how they all connect to define me as a person. In that detailed dissection and introspection, you will see the "control freak" in me!
It began as a child, I had little control over my life, never felt I fully fitted in anywhere. Always felt like the outsider, even before I moved in with the biological father and endured 4 years of abuse. I was quiet, being around people has always been hard work, and I never felt like I was worthy of anyone's attention. The last 4 years of my childhood seen any little control I felt I had over my life diminish. My thoughts were defined for me, my terrifying future was laid out by my abuser, my education and career choice carefully moulded, the words I spoke or wrote scrutinised and vetted.
By the time I reached 18 years old and had escaped my abuser, the only thing I knew about myself was rooted in the positive connections I had managed to scavenge from my last two years at school and my time at college.
I had a burning desire to find deep meaningful connections. The type of connections that transcended the meaningless pain of the abyss that threatened my sanity.
The only thing my experiences had taught me thus far about my "self" was everything I didn't want to be.
It was my only starting point.
My education and career choice were abandoned, despite being areas that genuinely interested me, they were a part of the control I had lost. I didn't own them as my own.
I quickly had to learn about love and relationships, the emotional trauma of my first marriage left me truly desolate. The abyss was ready to engulf me. His attitude and words drowned the tiny spark that had given me the strength to understand that marriage was not the deep meaningful connections I was searching for and allowed me to close my proverbial door on him.
But my family I had returned to in Scotland had already begun to seep out the true toxicity that hid lurking inside the box labelled "family stick together".
I truly felt alone! If I hadn't met my husband when I did, my time in Scotland may not have lasted as long as it has. During the turmoil of my previous marriage before it finally ended I had run away to London desperate for the connections I had made and friendships that were forged. I have no doubt I would have found myself there again had I not met my husband.
I had one desire that was mine. To find love and have a family, even if it meant making it myself.
That was the person my husband met!
He too a fellow survivor, his sense of displacement in the world mirrored my own. Not fitting into the "family stick together" box reflected in his life too. He understood that engulfing abyss, the list of things we knew we did not want to be, the burning desire to change the person others had attempted to mould us into, it was revealed in each other the very first day we met.
We fell in love. I had a purpose, my experiences had a purpose!
I became his strength and he mine.
Through our troubles and the mountain's we had to climb I slowly learnt who I was.
But before I understood who I was, I became a fiancee and a mum.
The love I felt was intense. All-encompassing. I learnt the meaning of true love, of real nitty-gritty connections and fighting every single day to make it work.
Every emotion existed in me with intensity, when I was happy it was giddying, I felt indestructible. When I was sad or hurting, the tears fell like a never-ending river and my heart felt like it was breaking for every heartache all over again.
When he was happy I felt his bliss when he was sad I felt his despair.
My world was full of intense raw emotions.
I quickly learnt that my emotions and their intensity were something I could not explain or communicate. Nor something most people could understand.
I learnt that I was acutely in tune with his emotions and I had to learn to deal with the frustration that he kept his emotions unspoken. On the rare occasion he spoke about them, he said it once and that was it.
Communication became a tool to explore my thoughts and our problems but for him, communication took its toll, PTSD is like that.
We had so much in common and so much understanding for each other, but how we communicate and how we dealt with our problems were polar opposite.
For the first five or so years of my adult life, I lived in relative isolation. Made no attempt to socialize or meet new people. Living in a bubble of safety and security. New things, new people and new place petrified me, immobilised me. The only exposure to society I had consisted of my "family", my husband and his "family". The only friends I had were those that my "mother" insisted I catch up with from school and how I felt about that was irrelevant! She had maintained contact with one particular friend during the 4 years I had "left her" and insisted I should get in touch.
These connections caused no end of stress and anxiety. There were times I questioned my sanity and in defence, I started keeping a diary to solidify my memories and my own thoughts.
I suppose keeping a diary was my first step towards self-discovery. Later it became a source of sanity, a coping mechanism and finally the resources used to speak my truths.
I slowly built up an online presence as I taught myself about using computers and the internet. As I did, I reconnected with old friends in London and made new connections with fellow abuse survivors.
Helping others led to my own healing. Healing led to a better understanding of myself.
As I fumbled through parenting, desperate to be everything my parents were not, I learnt to understand and evaluate emotions which allowed me to do the same with my "self".
At this point in my life, our children attending school exposed me to more of Society. Made my first real friendships in Scotland by my mid-'20s, but socializing was still very limited and private. A cuppa with a friend!
My healing path took a giant leap when I faced my abuser a second time in court as a woman with her own life and in full control of herself, it allowed me to have a defining moment in the courtroom, facing him once more, but in control not him. That progressed my healing and allowed me to develop as a survivor.
Further healing, spurred more self-discovery.
By my late 20's I finally knew some things about "me". I loved reading, swimming, walking, nature, helping others, expressing artistically whilst finding ways around my lack of "drawing" ability. Finally, I discovered a love in Photography that had been there all along and unused.
In learning about myself, from understanding my past and how it affects me, to understanding who I am: I came across many psychology terms and the Myers-Briggs personality types.
(The T is for turbulent whereas A would be for Assertive)
"INFP-T" - This is me. This made sense. Finally, explanations about who I am that had some kind of meaning in human psychology, validating me as a person and not just someone that didn't feel like she fits in anywhere!
I had started to actively engage in things that interested me, attending short courses in Children's behaviour, living life to the full and my first photography evening course.
Each excursion into the sea of other people and thier aura of emotions allowed me to learn slowly about interacting with people and creating healthy boundaries.
There were allot of mistakes, allot of connections and broken connections, not all had healthy boundaries. I was still dealing with the complex kaos for mine and my husband's family.
I had to figure out sometimes too slowly what healthy boundaries were.
I was in my late 20's when still within the confines of my marriage, I learnt about my sexuality, its complexities within the lgbt spectrum, though at this time the diverse adjectives we have now still did not exist, so I just sounded like a weird person trying to explain how I felt whilst being categorised by my heterosexual relationship. I was fortunate to have an accepting husband despite his generational inability to wrap his mind around my explanations.
I have a plaque;
My husband does not always understand the depths of my complexities but loves the person I am none the less.
We learn from each other.
Life was turned upside down and I cut contact with toxic family to protect my children.
I unlearnt 18 years of toxic learnt behaviours and socialized preconceptions!
Faced my mistakes and used the guilt that threatened to drown me as fuel to truly find my authentic self and my integrity.
I was in my late 30's before I finally explored education again.
A whole new experience. Opening my world to a beautiful abundance of new people with a drastic diversity of thoughts opinions and experiences.
Then I discovered the eye-opening experience of travelling abroad.
Bit by bit I learnt more.
Writing, blogging, visually expressing, hearing lifestories from a diversity of other authentic people traveling thier own visual learning journey.
Photography - not a job, not a hobby, but a lifestyle choice!
As I learnt more about the psychology of my toxic family, thier behavioural patterns and the extent of thier narcissim. I started to understand new concepts of gaslighting, projecting, playing the victim, mimicking emotions, disguising abuse as "joking" and "being brutally honest", covert and vulnerable narcissim. Books by professional psychologists and survivors.
I finally understood the depths of psychological trauma I needed to over come and started to work on another healing journey, mourning the idea and fisage of yet another parent!
Photography became my therapy, I used it to work through my trauma as well as working through other survivors trauma with them.
I learnt healthy boundaries! I learnt to walk away if those boundaries were crossed, I learnt self-care.
Not because I had self-esteem but because I understood the impact I could and did have on my loved ones if I did not keep on top of my mental health as I discovered and understood each flaw and trauma response.
It is a chose everyday, self care, self-healing, self-expression and authenticity.
It is an arduous and intense perpetual journey, with the confidence of being self-aware and even less understood as your only reward. However, it's a choice done for your own peace of mind, requiring dogged determination to maintain despite knowing that the closer you get to your authentic unique empathic self the less you will feel understanding from the general human population.
Highly sensitive, Empathic and intensely Authentic and introverted people who revel in the deepest serious intense meaning of life musings, who are truth and knowledge seekers are highly misunderstood, their intensity and authenticity scares the hell out of most people!
As knowledge and self-discovery are encouraged in this new age, we learn new adjectives that help make sense of ourselves, the world around us and how we'll and where we fit or belong. Some say there are too many labels, I say that abjective words are only labels if you treat them as such, without abjective words we lose the ability to describe ourselves, with the understanding of new adjectives comes a better understanding of who we are and what makes us us.
This is my authentic journey
I know who I am, I know the empathy and connection I feel, the understanding of emotions, mine and others, the ability to be open-minded about the processes that make a person who they are, mindful of others perceptions and lifestyle, I love diversity and uniqueness.
Motos like, do no harm, the truth will always come out, treat those the way you expect to be treated.
I no longer need the validation of others, I am learning to trust myself and overcome the psychological damage of years of telling me my reality is not real, Gaslighting is traumatic to experience, once you escape it, you become intensely stubborn about ever allowing anyone to put you back in that headspace.
I will fiercely defend my truth, all of it, I will not stand back and let someone act derogative towards me about my truth, but that does not mean I am not willing to learn and grow from my mistakes, that is my truth too.
I do not believe that defending yourself or those you love should come at the expense of someone else's well being and mental health, which works both ways.
The popular misunderstanding that I think I am always right are hugely mistaken, I know I am not right all the time, I however try to do the right thing all the time which includes admitting and addressing my own mistakes! Another misconception is that I am a control freak that controls other peoples lives, I have to laugh, other empaths will understand why, my own life and emotions are overwhelming enough as it is without trying to overpower others, that is not in me at all. I am a control freak when it comes to knowing who I am, seeking the truth about my life and myself, seeking knowledge and doing the right thing, these are the things I pursue doggedly and perpetually!
I no longer have the emotional energy to spend on people that do not see or trust my authentic self!
Choosing to walk away, to not deem something worth confronting and privately deal with the consequences a situation in the world has on me rather than aggressively addressing the world, it is not cowardice, it is not wrong, it is my choice, it takes courage to be introspective, to control your reactions to the world rather than rage at others actions, and teach the children the same.
Other peoples words, actions and attitudes towards my authenticity speaks more about them and their hypocrisy than it does about me.
I've lived my whole life with the toxicity of lies about who I am, it has become fairly hilarious when new people join this toxicity and think their words are my truth or that they think they know what they are talking about.
It takes great courage to stop judging others and take action on your own judgement of yourself!
The only thing in this life that anyone can control is ourselves, our own actions and reactions.
All situations and conflicts can be addressed in a non-toxic manner!
I am my authentic self and I take back control of the narrative of my truth