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     My mother hated me before I was born. She cried at the idea of a little girl. “What am I supposed to do with a girl after two boys?” She laughed at the idea as she told me and for the first time, at five years old, my heart broke.

     I was emotionally neglected as a child by both my parents. I was mentally abused and gaslighted by my mother before I even knew what it meant to have a mother that resented you. I received no physical touch, no affirmation, no love. Mom became an alcoholic after my brother died and Dad became suicidal. He would rarely come home. When he did, I would tell him of all the things my mom said to me. She would call me a liar and demand an apology for sticking up for myself. I always thought I was the problem because they would break down into tears when they saw me, knowing there should be another child there. Because of the heavy grief they bore, they never exemplified what love looked like in a relationship to me. I saw distance, cold words, and blank stares. 

     I was sexually exploited by a neighbor when I was seven. My mom watched it happen from afar, questioned me about it, and looked at me with eyes of disdain; eyes that asked, “Why did I have you at all?” I learned that day that I was disgusting and that my body was to be ashamed of. I was the one who did something wrong, not my neighbor who was twice my age.

     As I started dating, I looked for those qualities in a partner; I was taught that love was silent and bitter. This absent love led abusers to adore me. They would provide me with just enough normal looking love with the abuse and neglect that I was comfortable with. I would put up with it because it was my normal. My hurt heart eagerly enveloped their nasty words and took them on as truth. 

     When I was raped in college all of these previous ideas of my body being revolting, that I don’t deserve to have unquestioned love, and that I am always the problem spurt out at once and made me spiral into trying to commit suicide multiple times. My mother told me it was my fault. I believed her because it had always been my fault. I ruined their marriage, I asked for the neighbor’s hands on me, I chose to go to my rapist’s house. I was always the common denominator. 

     After my rape, I started dating men that used me. I started to sell my body because that’s the only way I could see any worth in myself. I believed I was reclaiming my body when in reality I was searching for someone to take it in and cherish it the way it was meant to be. These abusive men saw the struggle in my eyes, they knew I was consistently seeking the affirmation I never received. They took advantage of me. They discarded me once they no longer found me useful, pretty, pure. I am terrified of intimacy because I have this nauseating fear that the person I could love will be revolted by me, what I’ve done. How could anyone love me if my parents never did? How can anyone respect me when the only hands that have been laid on me were those of lust and greed? To this day, warmth makes me uneasy. People who are kind to me, who want to hold my hand and my heart carefully, petrify me because I have this twisted idea that everyone has an agenda of destroying my soul. 

 

Every day is like walking on eggshells. 

No.

Landmines.

 

     As survivors, we consistently look for danger. However, we also run straight to it because feeling panic and hardship is all we know. It’s important for people who are like me to remember that there is safety. Though sometimes we have to look extra hard for it, there is safety in ourselves as well as millions of other people who will hold our heavy hearts with care. Through all we have been through we have survived as we will soon flourish once we notice that the world is beautiful. People can be beautiful. We can be beautiful.

     Therapy has helped with thoughts of unworthiness. I talk through new relationships and how I can not sabotage them immediately. Kim, my therapist, has me go through how a person makes me feel and if I like them because I simply like them or if I like them because they like me. I check in with myself and I am setting boundaries each day. Kim tells me each time that my body does not need to be given up for me to receive love. The people who love me, truly, are patient and honor me even when I don’t honor myself. Despite all the horrors I have met in my life, I know there are good people. I know I am one of them.

Cale Burnham

Baylor '22

Cale is a Baylor student studying psychology. She loves writing, volunteering, and being an advocate for those in need. In her free time, she likes to hike and play with her dog and cat. She prepares to pursue a graduate degree in clinical psychology.
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